Presidents and Precedents
Teddy Bares Bully
When Teddy Roosevelt first proclaimed the Presidency the 'bully pulpit', the term 'bully' meant 'excellent' or 'first-rate'. Teddy was referring to the 'first-rate' opportunity to influence the direction of the country. And influence it he did. Roosevelt brought the Progressive Movement into power in the Republican Party. He was a conservationist, supported labor against big business, busted 40 corrupt trusts, helped pass pure food and drugs acts, and was the first President to issue a call for Universal Health Care.
Unfortunately, he was also 'bully' in the less admirable (at least to some of us) sense of the term. Cowboy and 'wild west' buffalo hunter, Roosevelt later became Secretary of the Navy, from which position he played a major role in advocating and leading the country into the Spanish American War - sometimes called 'the most pointless war in American history'. When the US issued Spain an ultimatum, Spain conceded to the terms. And the US declared war anyway. - The American Ambassador to England called it 'a splendid little war’; It was a 'bully' victory. Roosevelt was well on his way to becoming first Governor of New York, then President, and the country was well on its way to establishing the precedent that the best way to stoke the economy and achieve social goals was by starting a war somewhere else.
A thoroughly popular figure after the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt memorabilia filled shops, the most notable item being a small stuffed animal with glasses and a bandana - 'teddy bears' had been born. Ironically, Teddy Roosevelt later received the Noble Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War. If there is a single President we can point to as representing both sides of the American psyche, Teddy bears that mantle.
My point with the word plays (Teddy bears) is that somehow language arranges itself to express levels of the story of which we may be consciously unaware. My guides (I am now betraying the fact that this is no mere political opinion column) once told me that names are not who we are; they are who we desire or need to become. For instance, my own first name by birth is John - roughly 'joy in' or 'join in'. I entered this lifetime as a lone wolf; I've needed to learn to join in.
From which standpoint, let's look at Teddy, or Theodore. Breaking that down, we hear 'the o dore’ - O door, or 'open door'. The Open Door Policy in China was a direct result of the conquest of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War and American Expansion into the Pacific. We wanted to 'open the door' to commercial relations with China. But 'open doors' are open in both directions - and now the Chinese dump their merchandise here and own major parts of the American debt. And the 'Opium Wars' (War Against Drugs) are fought on American soil. Theodore: The Open Door. A President. A precedent.
Jumping forward from the first Roosevelt Presidency toward the second, here are some further snippets from the concept of 'Presidents as Precedents' (excerpted from The Angelish Dictionary).
Roosevelt - ‘Rues-wealth’ or ‘Rues-Evil’. Oligarch-turned-populist Roosevelt ameliorated the evils of the depression, then led the US into WW II against the Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
Truman - TRUE MAN. Continued the fight against Hitler (HIT LEAR-ning; a rabid anti-intellectualism which especially targeted Jews) and Hirohito (Hero-Hit-O; Hero Hits Zero). This True Man of the people, was not afraid to drop the ‘Big One’, or stand up to Stalin.
Eisenhower - Eisen Hauer (German for iron hewer; iron cutter). President Iron Hewer battles Stalin, the Man of Steel, across the Iron Curtain.
Kennedy - KENN EDDY, can eddy; knows the currents, swims both says. Political liberal at home, adventurist abroad, Kennedy ordered the assassination of foreign leaders, began a new war in Southeast Asia, and brought the country to the brink of nuclear war. His death is blamed on everybody from the Mafia to Fidel Castro to the CIA.
Johnson - JOHN’s SON. Lyndon, John’s son, inherits the Presidency from John Kennedy and inherits as well both the domestic policies and the foreign war. Johnson fails at both and is replaced by a political anti-Christ.
Nixon - NIX ON everything and everyone we hold dear. Tries to stop the flow of history with a WATER GATE. Nixon nearly destroys the Presidency, is impeached and replaced by a minor President.
Ford - FORD Ford fords the swollen rivers of rage over Nixon’s Presidency, striking a deal to pardon Nixon and defuse dissent.
Jimmy Carter - CARTER; carrier of burdens. Carter, somewhat like TRUe MAN, a Plains Man of the People, strives to jimmy open the hearts of Americans and persuade them to cart or carry the moral burdens of the world. Carter’s self-effacing attitude is ineffective, and he is replaced by a Hollywood star.
Ronald Reagun .- RAY GUN. President Ray Gun equips us to fight Star Wars against the Evil Empire, arguing that the more bombs we have, the fewer we need. For this he is called the Great Communicator. Sometimes confused historically with Ronald McDonald.
George Bush - BUSH. First of the Bush-League Presidents. Issued the first New World Order, but lost the next election when nobody obeyed.
Bill Clinton - BILL CLINTON. Tried to be all things to all men, claiming we could afford domestic prosperity and world domination without alienating anyone. Except, of course, Republicans. Often accused of out-sourcing the American economy to China. Many believe that the Chinese have not yet called in their chips on American debt, but when they do, the economy may collapse and we will have to bill Clinton.
George W. Bush - Double-U BUSH. Twice as many years. Twice as many wars. Twice as much incompetence. Twice as much venality.
Obama - O BA MA. The Mother Chose Him. From 'O', the One or Unity; BA - Egyptian soul; MA - the Mother. The chosen one to restore peace with our mother-planet. (Written before the Ohio-Texas primaries; otherwise it's either Bill HiLLARY for NAFTA, or JOHN MAKE CAINE with another hundred years in Iraq.)
As we move on toward the 2008 (and then, drums rolling, 2012) Presidential elections, we might well want to ask ourselves, what President (Precedent) are we setting for our future?