Monday, March 30, 2020

Ancient History, 1

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the First President of the United States under the terms of the newly ratified Constitution. This was just a month short of exactly 231 years ago. For the sake of discussion, let's assume nothing changes in the next 31 days.

In that time, 44 men have held the presidency (Grover Cleveland is counted twice because his two terms were non-consecutive, which is why the 44th man to be President, Donald Trump, is the 45th President). This averages out to a new President every five and one quarter years.

There have been stretches of time in which we have had a lot of presidents, and other stretches when we had very few. Between March 4, 1801 and March 4, 1825, a stretch of 24 years, only Thomas Jefferson (1801-09), James Madison (1809-17), and James Monroe (1817-25) occupied the presidency.

During a similar stretch of 24 years -- March 4, 1837 to March 4, 1861 -- there were eight: Martin Van Buren (1837-41), William H. Harrison (1841), John Tyler (1841-45), James Polk (1845-49), Zachary Taylor (1849-50), Millard Fillmore (1850-53), Franklin Pierce (1853-57), and James Buchanan (1857-61). Of those eight, not one was elected to a second term; two, Harrison and Taylor, died in office; Tyler and Fillmore, respectively, succeeded them but were never elected President in their own right.

Bonus fact: Van Buren was the first President of the United States not named Adams to be denied re-election.

Obviously the Van Buren-Buchanan period was exceptional; the combination of two presidents dying in office, and six others being consistently rejected for re-election, is a juxtaposition of circumstance no one ever hopes to see again.

The Jefferson-Monroe period, however, is less so. The occurrence of a 24-year span in which there were only three presidents, while rare, is not unique. The unprecedented case of Franklin Roosevelt being elected four times in succession led to a three-president (Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower) stretch lasting from March 4, 1933 to January 20, 1961 -- almost 28 years (the 20th Amendment ratified in 1933 changed the date on which presidential terms begin and end).

More recently, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama headlined a similar three-president stretch, running from January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2017.

But there has never been a case where four consecutive presidents have each served a full eight years in office. If Donald Trump does win re-election as I expect, and serves the entirety of his second term, he will cap an unprecedented era in American history.

Considering that the Van Buren-Buchanan period of eight presidents culminated in the secession crisis and Civil War, the tendency now to keep re-electing presidents seems to belie the depiction of America as irredeemably polarized.

But, time will tell, I suppose.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

All Kidding Aside

I've had fun with the idea of the Democrats trap-dooring Biden out of the nomination at the last minute, but in the cold light of day I'm confident he will be the nominee. The train wreck will go forward as pre-ordained.

Nor will he put Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama on the ticket as his running mate. The worst-case scenario of Trump winning re-election is bad enough without giving him a landslide (or a bigger one than he would already get), and neither former First Lady is going to want to be blamed for a defeat of those proportions.

The longshot odds of a Dem victory won't keep the party from leaning on Biden to choose somebody youthful and promising, just in case -- somebody they'll convince themselves (wrongly of course) is better than a Dan Quayle or a Sarah Palin. Stacey Abrams might fit the bill, now that Andrew Gillum is off the table, or they might find a far-left Latina who isn't disqualified by age (like AOC) or by being even more scatterbrained than Biden (also like AOC).

So no, there is no Black Swan Event looming on the blue horizon. Trump will defeat Biden in November and that's that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Joe Biden Interviews Prospective Running Mates, 5

Biden: "Hey-hey! Fredo, my man! Good to see you! Come on in, take a load off! How ya doing?"

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: "The name is Andrew, Joe."

Biden: "Right, right. I guess you know why I've asked you here. This Wu Tang Flu thing may be just the opportunity we Democrats need to pry Trump out of the Oval Office."

Cuomo: "I couldn't agree more."

Biden: "And your performance in dealing with the crisis in New Jersey -- "

Cuomo: "New York."

Biden: "Right, right. Well, your performance in dealing with the Bat Soup Virus has really inspired confidence all over the place. I know I'm impressed, and I'm really, really easy to impress!"

Cuomo: "That's what I've been hearing."

Biden: "So I'm thinking you and I need to team up for this fall's campaign. You and me, Biden and Corleone -- "

Cuomo: "Cuomo."

Biden: " -- taking back the country from all that malarkey Trump's been shoveling. What do you say?"

Cuomo: "Joe, I'm gonna level with you. I think you're right that I need to be a part of this fall's campaign to beat Trump."

Biden: "All right!! Up high, Fredo! Come on, slap me some skin! Hey, don't leave me hanging..."

Cuomo: "It's you I'm not sure about, Joe. You're losing your grip and it shows. Nobody respects a guy that can't keep it together."

Biden: "Wh-- wha...?"

Cuomo: "I'm sorry, Joe. It's nothing personal. Just business. You understand."

Biden: "Who are those guys, Fredo? Gosh they're big..."

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Okay, Jokers

You can all stop rooting for the Apocalypse anytime now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Joe Biden Interviews Prospective Running Mates, 4

Biden: "My advisors tell me you could be a huge help in defeating Donald Trump in this election."

COVID-19:

Biden: "I don't mind telling you, I'm a little queasy about this idea. I mean, look how teeny tiny you are."

COVID-19:

Biden: "But I hear you can do amazing things to anyone that crosses you, and I wouldn't mind seeing that happen to Trump and Pence."

COVID-19:

Biden: "Thing is though, if you become Vice President, and if anything happened to me, that would make you President. I need to know if you're up to the job."

COVID-19: "I would lay waste the population and bring civilization to its knees."

Biden:

COVID-19:

Biden: "Hillary, take off that damn costume right this minute!"

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Joe Biden Interviews Prospective Running Mates, 3

Biden: "I'm glad you agreed to meet. I really think you could be just the breath of fresh air this ticket needs."

Senator Ted Cruz: "You do realize I'm not a Democrat, don't you?"

Biden: "Oh, don't worry about that. We worked together so well in the Senate I'm sure we'll get along great."

Cruz: "You were already vice-president by the time I was elected."

Biden: "I gotta tell you, it'll be a blast having the Motor City Madman as my running mate."

Cruz: "No, I -- "

Biden: "And I've been a huge fan of yours since 'Cheers.'"

Cruz:

Biden: "And frankly, anybody who can make it to high office after getting away with all those Zodiac murders has got to be pretty damn badass, you know?"

Cruz:

Cruz: "Okay, that one's a fair cop..."

Friday, March 6, 2020

Joe Biden Interviews Prospective Running Mates, 2

Biden: "So, why do you think you'd be a good fit in my organization?"

Stacey Abrams: "A good fit? Just what is that supposed to mean?"

Biden: "I just need to know that we'll be able to work together well, you know, help each other achieve our goals. But I also want to be sure that you'll have plenty of room to, to grow."

Stacey Abrams:

Biden:

Stacey Abrams: "If becoming president weren't my destiny, I would slap the smug right out of you."

Biden: [giggles] "You had me at 'slap'."

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Joe Biden Interviews Prospective Running Mates, 1

Biden: "Hey, good to see ya. God love ya. Have a seat. Tell me a little about yourself."

Michael Bloomberg: "I could buy and sell you 14 times with just what I have in my pockets right now."

Biden: "Great, great! Do you have any experience building and running an organization?"

Bloomberg: "Have you ever heard of Bloomberg Media?"

Biden: "Is that one of those influencer web thingers, like on Instachat?"

Bloomberg:

Biden:

Bloomberg:

Biden: "Is it true your big fat wallet doubles as a booster seat?"

Bloomberg:

Biden: "Can I sniff your hair?"

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Democrats Deprive Trump of Reaganesque Opportunity

In 1984, when 73-year-old Ronald Reagan was seeking a second term, he and his Democrat opponent, 56-year-old Walter Mondale of Minnesota, participated in what was at the time still a recent innovation in presidential campaigns: the televised debate.

The news media, among others, had been talking about Reagan's age -- he had been the oldest man ever elected president, and four years later was seeking to be the oldest man ever re-elected president -- and observers were curious whether he would address the question, and if so, how.


In 2020, with President Trump turning 74 in June and the Democrats now down to choosing between 77-year-old Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders who'll be 79 in September, there will obviously be no such opportunity for Trump to echo Reagan's punch line.

Ah, well. What might have been...