Category Archives: US Executive

How did Gerald Ford become the only unelected President in US History?

Trump

Trump won the Presidency despite trailing Hillary Clinton by 2.8 Million in the Popular Vote.

It is not unusual for a President to win the election whilst not winning the votes of the majority of Americans. Five times in US History a candidate has won the electoral college vote without winning the popular vote, the latest being in November 2016 when Donald Trump won the Presidency despite securing 2.8 million votes less than Hillary Clinton.

However, it is unusual for someone to become President without winning an election at all. However, this is exactly what happened on August 9th 1974 when Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States without having ever contested a Presidential Election.

Ford

On the 9th August 1974, Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United State despite never having contested a Presidential Election.

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Was last week the worst of Trump’s Presidency?

Fear
It has been an awful press week for Donald Trump. On Monday, a new book was published by Bob Woodward called Fear: Trump in the White House. This book claims to feature a number of sources close to the President outlining the chaos and disunity at the heart of Trump’s administration. Among other things it says:

  • Aides have hid government papers from the President to “protect the country”.
  • Trump’s Chief of Staff, John Kelly, described the President as “unhinged” and it said it was the worst job he had ever had.
  • Trump failed a practice interview with the US Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, and would have perjured himself if the interview were real.
These are startling revelations of the dysfunctionality of the Trump White House and the lack of faith that Trump’s staff, including his closest advisors, have in his leadership.
The usual defensive manoeuvre of Trump is to go immediately on the attack. His first salvo is usually to attack the credibility of the person commenting on or criticising him. True to form, he did this on Twitter:

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However, it is difficult to attack a journalist with the credentials that Bob Woodward has. Alongside Carl Bernstein it was Woodward who exposed the Watergate Affair in the 1970s, an event that would eventually see the downfall of President Nixon.
Importantly, Woodward has written books about numerous Presidents, both Republican and Democrat. Trump’s suggestion that Woodward is a Democratic operative does not stick when some of Woodward’s harshest criticisms have been directed towards Democratic Presidents, like Bill Clinton.

Woodward's books

Some of Woodward’s previous books that have been critical of both Democratic and Republican Presidents.

Trump has become used to criticism from the press. Every time he brandishes any form of criticism as “fake news”, the media form an ever more united front. Trump’s supporters rally against the media in response. This book from Woodward is different. Woodward is journalistic royalty. He does not tweet regularly, he does not do salacious gossip, his work is research based and he is broadly admired and respected as the epitome of what American journalism should be. Trump cannot win a war of credibility with Bob Woodward.

Things got even worse for Trump on Wednesday when an anonymous White House Senior Official wrote an op-ed for the New York Times. In the article it started by saying:
“ President Trump is facing a threat to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader. It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall. The dilemma – which he does not fully grasp – is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations”
Particular points made in the article are that:

  • The President acts in a “manner that is detrimental to the health of the republic”
  • The root of the problems are due to the President’s “amorality”
  • Trump’s “impulses are generally anti-democratic”
  • Members of the Cabinet have whispered about invoking they 25th Amendment, one of the few mechanisms through which a President can be removed from office.
The article is truly extraordinary. Of course, attention has turned to who could be behind the article. There are even suggestions that the author could be Vice-President, Mike Pence. This suggestion is due to the use of the unusual word “lodestar” in the article, a word that it is known that Pence uses frequently. In any normal circumstances it would be inconceivable that a Vice-President would write such an article about a sitting President. However, these are not normal circumstances. Donald Trump’s administration is unique.
The atmosphere in the West Wing is consistently described as toxic. Since becoming President, Donald Trump has lost 35 of his Senior Staff, as illustrated by this graphic:

White House

Correct at March 2018. Red = Departed. Black = Still in place. Credit to Bloomberg.com. Full Article – https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-white-house-staffing/

The pressure is already growing on Trump. If the Democrats can flip the House of Representatives in the November Mid-Terms, it will become worse.

Who are the most famous Third Party or Independent Candidates and how significant can they be?

America is a firmly entrenched two-party system. Arguably, the closest it has become in the post Civil-War period to becoming a Three-Party system was with the rise of the Populist Party (officially the ‘People’s Party) between 1892 and 1896. The Party had 9 elected Governors, 6 Senators and multiple Congressmen. However, its party was subsumed by the Democrats and their success was short-lived.

However, Third-Party and Independent candidates can still have a major influence in the US political system

So, who are the most significant Third-Party and Independent candidates of the twentieth century?

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What did Alexander Hamilton call the ‘Benign Prerogative’?

The first Secretary of the Treasury, and Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton famously called Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution the ‘benign prerogative’. This is what the article says:

“he [the President] shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”.

Yet there have been times in US History where the prerogative has been anything but benign. The number of pardons issued by different Presidents varies greatly. The highest number was issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt who pardoned 3,687 individuals, many of whom had fought in the Second World War. Contrarily, Presidents William Harrison and James Garfield both issued a grand total of zero pardons.

Pardons and Commutatins

What are the most famous Presidential Pardons?

  1. President Gerald Ford Pardons President Richard Nixon – September 8th 1974

In 1974 President Nixon became the only US President in History to resign. Nixon was facing impeachment by the US Senate in a what would almost certainly have seen him removed from office. Upon Nixon’s resignation, Gerald Ford ascended to the Presidency. On September 8th 1974, just one month after becoming President, Ford issued Proclamation 4311 which gave Richard Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for crimes committed against the United States. This saved Nixon from a criminal prosecution which may have seen him imprisoned.

Nixon

Nixon resigned on August 9th 1974, he left the White House in Marine One, striking this pose.

Ford was immediately criticised for his actions and some people said that it was a conspiracy, with Nixon promising to resign in return for a pardon from Nixon. Indeed, many historians have pointed to the pardon as a key reason why Ford lost the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.

Ford

President Ford appeared in front of the House Judiciary Committee to defend his actions in pardoning Richard Nixon

History, however, has judged the pardon much more kindly. Historians have recognized the political courage that it took to issue what would inevitably be such a controversial pardon. They have noted that the pardon allowed America to move on from the Watergate Affair, which had damaged the American Presidency more than any other scandal in History.

2. Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning (who then identified as Bradley Manning) was a US Soldier who leaked classified documents to the wikileaks. These documents were extremely embarrassing the US Government. For example, a video showed US Helicopters firing on unarmed Iraqis. Also leaked were diplomatic messages sent between the United States and other countries, some of which undermined America’s relationships around the world. By leaking these documents, she was found to have breached the Espionage Act and was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. The sentence was extremely controversial. For many liberals, Manning had done little more than expose the negative actions of the US Government and Armed Forces.

Manning

While Manning was convicted as a traitor, to many she was a hero.

On January 17th 2017 Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence meaning she would be released after only 7 years. This is slightly different to a pardon, as a pardon excuses the crime that has been committed. Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth on May 17th 2017 – much to the ire of current President Donald Trump:

Trumpy

3. Roger Clinton

In January 2001, just days before leaving the Presidency, Bill Clinton issued a controversial pardon to his younger brother, Roger. In 1985 Roger Clinton was convicted of possession of cocaine and drug-trafficking. He had served time in Federal Prison. By issuing his pardon, President Clinton ensured that his brother’s conviction would no longer appear on his criminal record.

 

 

 

 

 

Fire and Fury and the 25th Amendment

This week an explosive new book called Fire and Fury: Inside the White House was published. The book was written by journalist Michael Wolff who claimed to have ‘fly on the wall’ access to the White House and its staff.

Fire and Fury

Wolff’s book has caused a storm across Washington

Among the key claims in the book are:

  • Members of Trump’s campaign team were certain he would not win. It is claimed that Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, was already job-hunting before Election Day.
  • Trump eats so much fast-food because he is worried about being poisoned.
  • That the First Lady, Melania Trump, was disappointed by Trump’s election victory.
  • Staff in Trump’s White House describe him as ‘Child-Like’.

The book featured ‘on the record’ interviews with former Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon. Among the claims about the Trump administration by Bannon were:
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