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This reminds me of the tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, who without Vietnam would be unquestionably one of our greatest presidents, in the same class with Lincoln and FDR. It just makes me weep when I think of it. Of course I hated him at the time, but that was all about Vietnam, which overshadowed everything. You younger people probably can't even imagine how Vietnam distorted and disfigured everything about our civic life as it crept into the crannies of our souls. You couldn't even fuck without Vietnam obtruding into the crevices of your pleasures. I look back on LBJ's presidency now and can only see what midgets his successors have been compared to him.
I suspect most people don't have direct recall of the 1824 U.S. Presidential Election, but it was (so far) a unique clusterfuck, never yet repeated ... but it *could* be. Whether they know it or not, many people today are discussing the 12th Amendment, which was ratified on Jun 15, 1804. The 12th Amendment is our current system of electing Presidents, and each President since 1804 has been elected using it. The full text of the 12th Amendment is included at the bottom of this post, and the key provision as applied to the 1824 election is the first sentence of the third paragraph. In the election of 1824 - to determine our 6th President - there were four serious candidates: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay. At the end of the election, none of the four had a majority of electoral votes - thus, the election was turned over to the House of Representatives. It bears repeating that there is nothing stopping this from happening again today, in the 21st century. Although Andrew Jackson received a plurality of both electoral and popular votes, he didn't receive a majority. Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House, openly hated Andrew Jackson, and threw his support behind John Quincy Adams (the Speaker of the House right now is Paul Ryan). It isn't difficult to see, given the scenario, that John Quincy Adams was elected President by the House of Representatives, and Andrew Jackson was, in a word, livid - he fully expected to be elected President given that he won a plurality of both the electoral and popular vote. Here's the *real* controversy: before the House voted on the President, accusations were made (even printed in a newspaper) that Clay sold his support to Adams in exchange for an under-the-table promise to be named Secretary of State (the Secretary of State right now is John Kerry). Not long after Adams won, he indeed offered Clay the position of Secretary of State, and Clay accepted the job - thus, one of the biggest scandals, if not *the* biggest scandal, in American Presidential Election history (see the term "Corrupt Bargain.") I repeat: There are no safeguards in place to prevent this from happening again. The time to fix your furnace is not during a snowstorm - if this ever happens again, people will be furious, but they have a chance to fix the problem - assuming there is a problem - right now. The 12th Amendment The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.[Note 1] The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
I mentioned in the "who ya drinkin' to" thread that I wanted to raise a glass to Abraham Lincoln on the 150th anniversary of his death, which is today. Which I have done, and which I do now: Here's to you, Mr. Lincoln. I also mentioned that Lincoln is the only U.S. president that I get emotional about. Which I do. He is the secular saint of our American history, the martyr who gave his life in service to the ideal of the American union and whose service ensured its survival. He is one of my very few heroes, maybe really my only one, besides Julia Child. Lincoln gave what I think was probably the greatest political speech ever given in English, on March 4, 1865, a few weeks before a traitor snuffed out his life and deprived us of the wisest soul we had to guide the nation through the aftermath of our greatest national trauma. Mr. Lincoln said this: Fellow-Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured. On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war"”seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came. One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.