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View Diary: In 2008 we elected a smart president, but in 2012 we elected a MUCH SMARTER president. (155 comments)

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  •  Also, I don't believe that Jefferson belongs (2+ / 0-)
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    StellaRay, boriquasi

    in that pantheon, and not just because I despise the man (whose best days were in the 1770's), an unreconstructed racist to his dying day. I just don't think he was a very good president. He severely hurt the US economy with his drastic spending cutbacks, hurt our relations with our biggest trading partners with the Embargo Act, put us on a course for a disasterous war we had no place fighting, all the more so because he nearly destroyed our military, and on more than one occasion violated the constitution he claimed to revere (aside from reservations about it giving the federal government too much power--yes, he really was the Ron Paul of his day, including the racism and economic lunacy), such as sending the US Navy to fight Barbary pirates without congressional approval, and, of course, purchasing the Louisiana territory also without congressional approval.

    And as for the Louisiana purchase, most people view it as his greatest presidential accomplishment, which it was from a US imperialist manifest destiny point of view (and one of history's great bargains). But aside from being unconstitutional, it also led to the massacre, dislocation and oppression of millions of native peoples, an appetite for land acquisition by any means necessary that led to the Mexican War, and, ultimately, the horrific Civil War, a direct consequence of the divisive issue of the expansion of slavery that it brought about.

    So even after just under one term as president, with all the caveats about drones, wireless wiretaps, detention, states secrets, no public option, the 2010 elections, and so on, I'd easily rank Obama above Jefferson. Merely by getting elected I think that Obama outshined Jefferson (who just barely won the presidency and then only through his arch-enemy Hamilton's reluctant intervention) as president--and proved him wrong about race (as if that needed proving).

    Btw, the Tea Party birther racists who never accepted Obama as president and likely never will? All small government (for other people) Jeffersonian hypocrites.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 08:32:19 AM PST

    •  Very interesting post. (1+ / 0-)
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      kovie

      I admit to not knowing as much about Jefferson as I should, and you put out a lot of food for thought.  You certainly know your Jefferson history.   Thanks for adding in.

      "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

      by StellaRay on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:24:54 AM PST

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      •  There's an interesting op-ed in today's NYT (1+ / 0-)
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        StellaRay

        called The Monster of Monticello that's worth a read. Also, check out his book Notes on the State of Virginia, which includes passages such as this:

        They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites. They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep of course. Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:47:17 AM PST

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        •  Wow. Thanks Kovie. (1+ / 0-)
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          kovie

          Of course I was aware that Jefferson's black mark was his ownership of slaves.  But to hear him opine in this way shows a stunning lack of intelligence and empathy.

          I will follow up your link, the NYT article sounds very intriguing, thanks for offering it up.

          "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

          by StellaRay on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:58:08 AM PST

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          •  I didn't know about this myself (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            StellaRay

            until fairly recently. I'd always assumed that like most if not all southern founders he owned slaves, and while obviously horrible, it didn't necessarily make him any worse than them. I didn't realize that he was also an out and out racist, in theory in favor of eventual emancipation but believing that freed slaves could never be integrated into white society (let alone intermarry with whites) and thus would need to be sent back to Africa (which is where the idea for Liberia came from). Washington, on the other hand, came to realize the evil of slavery and freed all of his slaves upon his and Martha's death.

            Sorry to belabor the point because it is a sidetrack from your excellent diary about Obama and contemporary politics, but given that Obama is the first African-American president and himself the child of a marriage that Jefferson viewed as unnatural and a stain on "white blood", I couldn't help but think of this less known and appealing side of Jefferson. Oh, and while I'm on it, I should also add that Jefferson was effectively one of the ideological founders of the sort of extreme (and often racist) libertarianism that has in part taken over the GOP, via the Tea Party, and tried to do to Washington and Hamilton what today's GOP is trying to do to Obama and Dems, in trying to derail their progressive policies through nasty hardball politics and vicious yellow journalism. Not many people know about this dark side of Jefferson or the early political history of the US.

            A MUCH longer read, but I highly recommend Ron Chernow excellent biography of Alexander Hamilton. It goes into extensive detail about this era.

            Anyway, good chatting with you.

            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

            by kovie on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 04:20:48 PM PST

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            •  And so good chatting with you. (1+ / 0-)
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              kovie

              I consider myself smarter for it.  And I don't feel "side tracked" at all.  You put forth your argument, concisely, and with some good evidence, which humbled me as to how much more there is to know, no matter how much you read and try to keep up with it all.

              Every time I have written a diary, there have been those who disagree with something I said.  I expect that.  You and I have disagreed in the past too, but I always find your comments interesting.   Some deal with the disagreement better than others.  I appreciate the way you dealt with it here.

              And really, I just kind of rattled off Jefferson without much thought.  You have changed the way I think about this, regardless of whether I have the time to read all your suggestions.  Although I WILL read the NYT article you linked, it's just been a kind of busy day all around, in addition to trying to be a good host to my diary.

              It is great to experience consensus, but also great to be challenged.  Thank you for challenging me.

              "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

              by StellaRay on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 04:47:04 PM PST

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              •  That Jefferson was one of the "greats" (1+ / 0-)
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                StellaRay

                has been drummed into us since childhood, so obviously most people are going to accept that on faith, as I too did until a few years ago, so no need to explain or apologize whatsoever. And certainly he was a great man. But he also had a nasty and less appealing side that we need to know about, and although many will disagree with me, I don't think he was one of the great presidents, at least in terms of his policies and governance. He was surely one of the great political leaders in US history, having created the first true political party that eventually became our own (after shedding its southern slaveowning and anti-progressive legacy), and initiating what is still the longest continuous era of one-party rule (although if SCOTUS hadn't stolen the election from Gore and he'd have won reelection, Obama would have been the tail end of a second such era--in fact with Obama's reelection we've just had only the second time in US history with three back to back two term presidents, since Jefferson-Madison-Monroe).

                Here's hoping that Obama follows in the footsteps of the greats.

                "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                by kovie on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 05:00:17 PM PST

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