I’m a president watcher. I think the most powerful man in the free world needs to be watched, some more closely than others. It’s pretty obvious why this is so.
I wasn’t always a president watcher. It began during Watergate and all the sneaky stuff that went on there. All those people being subpoenaed to testify before Congress, Bob Woodworth’s reports on Deep Throat. Nixon claiming, with his jowls quaking vigorously, “I’m not a crook!” No, but he was a liar. Anyway, after that I became interested in watching presidents. There have been some who bore a lot of watching and there were those who didn’t, but mostly there were more of the former.
I think a president’s philosophy of governance has a lot to with how close an eye needs to be kept on them. Ronald Reagan, except for letting Ollie North get him into trouble over that Iran-Contra business, played the job pretty straight, and the only ones that worried about him were the Democrats, who were up against it with concern over how bad he was going to make them look. Ronaldus Magmus, a laissez-faire kind of guy, famously said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s a fair-to-middlin’ philosophy. Other presidents should have tried it, but most couldn’t keep their hands off things.
For example, John Kennedy once said, “If there ain’t too much wrong with her, give her my phone number. If you’re not sure about her, give her Bobby’s number.” I’m told it was a philosophy apropos to the Kennedy boys.
Eisenhower had an interesting philosophy, one that may have worked well for most of the presidents. As you know, there were few pastimes Ike enjoyed more than a round of golf (just like most presidents). He said, “If it works all right, score it par; if it’s broke, leave a note on my golf bag, I’ll get back to you.” Consequently, the years of the Eisenhower presidency were really good years. Happy times.
LBJ had a more aggressive outlook on the political landscape. LBJ said, “If he’s breathin’, ship him to Viet Nam; if he gets killed, don’t tell anybody. (There was quite a lot of combat-figure fudging during the war. Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. military forces in Viet Nam, frequently under-reported casualties at the conclusion of a battle.)
Which brings us to Richard “Tricky Dicky” Nixon, whose exploits first coaxed me into becoming a president watcher. Watergate was the first political event that prompted my interest in watching the news in the evening. I couldn’t get enough of the corruption. It was wonderful stuff. Anyway, back to Tricky Dick’s presidential philosophy. Tricky Dick said, his declaration accompanied by his characteristic hunched-up shoulders, head shaking, I’m-really-an-honest-man look in his eyes, “Let me say this about that! I solemnly assure you that if it’s broke, this administration had no prior knowledge of it. I’M NOT A CROOK! I’M NOT A CROOK!” He wasn’t a very good liar either.
I can’t say whether Gerald Ford had a philosophy. If so, I don’t know what it would have been.
Jimmy Carter did though. Jimmy did a lot of foolish meddling, which nearly put the country under. Some of you will remember the Misery Index, an economic indicator arrived at by adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate. When Carter left office in 1981, the M.I. was just under 20, the highest of any post-WWII president This is, of course, where it stood when Ronald Reagan took over. When he left in 1989, the M.I. stood at just less than ten. Under Carter, inflation was high, unemployment was high, taxes were high, gasoline was scarce – and expensive. Everything the man touched was bad for the rest of us. His philosophy? “If it ain’t broke, tax it. I need the money. If it is broke, tax it. I need the money. Hell, just send the money! I got to get back to the peanut farm where I belong.”
George 41 may not have had a philosophy when he first went to the White House, but I’ll wager he came up with one before he left. Remember, “Read my lips, no new taxes?” Then he raised our taxes. And was voted out of office in the next election. I would bet that whatever words were used to voice George 41’s philosophy, it had something in it about not lying about raising taxes. Wouldn’t you think?
Then there was Slick Willy Clinton – and he’s still hanging around out there, hoping his gal pal can con her way into the White House. Willy’s philosophy is predictable: “Remember the mantra, y’all, ‘I did not have sex with that woman.’” And, “It depends on what “is” is.” The philosophy? It is what it is. But what is it? He better hope the next female thing he plays “is” with doesn’t turn him in.
W was under fire about his insistence there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or Syria or some other place. Liberals have always claimed there were no WMDs; W simply needed a reason to go to Iraq to nail Saddam Hussein, they claimed. I’ll go to my grave believing I heard a news report in the early days of Desert Storm that stated American troops found the WMDs in Syria. I heard the report only once, never again. I hadn’t had anything to drink that evening either, and I know what I heard. Somebody was lying about there not being any such weapons. W’s philosophy? Never believe anything you hear, especially if its reported on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN or MSNBC. Period.
And then there’s BO. First, allow me a digression:
For several years I worked for Combined Life Insurance Company, a door-to-door sales company. Its founder was W. Clement Stone. You may have heard of him.The story was he borrowed $100 from his mother in 1919 and started the insurance company. They sold accident insurance; the premium was a dollar eve3ry six months. He died several years ago a multimillionaire. Stone was the creator of the approach, presentation and closing techniques that are still being taught to new agents by many direct sales companies today. What works works. One of the many axioms attributed to him was, Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. It sounds pretty basic, maybe a little corny, but it’s a sound principle to incorporate into your way of doing things. If more people put it into practice there would be a lot less dishonesty in the world.
BO could borrow something from Stone to form his own philosophy. It might go something like: “The right thing? – I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about.”