Loran Smith: On Politics

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Loran Smith: On Politics

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

While I am not a historian and certainly not a political historiographer,
I have a curious interest in presidential history and have visited all but three
of the Presidential libraries or home sites—except for the last four.
Included in my travels, I have read historical documents and biographies of all presidents except for Obama, Trump and Biden and have
several opinions about many of the men who have occupied the Oval
Office. There is time yet to get to the libraries of the above-named
Presidents. One, I may choose to boycott, the greatest narcissist ever to
fly Air Force One.

We have had many losers to reside in the White House, and several
who would not get high marks when it comes to morality which means that
they are not exclusive by any means. Fortunately, with a free press they
were thoroughly investigated and castigated.





That has been the way of the world, however. Those of the Christian faith are well aware that the Master was held in such contempt by his critics
that they were successful in having him crucified.

Then there is the parable about having a woman stoned because of
adultery. He said words to the effect, “He who is without sin, cast the first

How do we apply this logic with modern day politicians? If you have
skeletons in your closet, don’t run for office which is one of the reasons why
so many people shy away from politics. That can be unfortunate for our
society, however.





Mark Twin famously said, “Why waste your money looking up your
family tree? “Just go into politics, and your opponents will do it for you.”
When Vince Dooley made his initial foray into politics, considering a
run for the U. S. Senate in 1986, he met with Georgia alumnus Earl
Leonard who had insider connections in Washington.

When Earl asked him if he was prepared for the personal attacks that
would be made on him and his family, Vince told him that football recruiting
was about as nasty of an exercise as there was.

“Politics,” Earl said, “are worse. Your opponent will get up on the
stand and tell a bold face lie about you. You know it is a lie, and he knows
it is a lie. “Afterwards, he will slap you on the back and say, “No hard feelings.
Let’s go have a drink. That is how underhanded politics are.”

In this election year, Donald Trump, never the shrinking violet, is
trying to achieve what Grover Cleveland pulled off back in the late 1800’s.
Cleveland was a two term President but not consecutively.
He served as the 22 nd and 24 th President with Benjamin Harrison
occupying the White House in between as the 23 rd President.
Historians have been kind to Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, who
upon taking office in his first term, addressed the spoils system that had
been in effect historically. He said without hesitation that he would not fire
any Republican who was doing his job well and would not appoint anyone
solely on the basis of party service.

Further, he invoked his appointment powers to reduce the number of
federal employees.

Cleveland was never timid when he disapproved of legislation
approved by Congress. He was a prolific practitioner of the veto. In his
first term alone, he used the veto option 414 times. That was four times
more than any of his predecessors.

On his death bed, Cleveland, who lived to be 71, said, “I have tried so
hard to do right.”

Biographer Allan Nevins wrote about him, “In Grover Cleveland, the
greatness lies in typical rather than unusual qualities. He had no
endowments that thousands of men do not have. He possessed honesty,
courage, firmness, independence, and common sense. But he possessed
them to a degree other men do not.”

But Cleveland was not free from accusations of impropriety. A young
woman accused him of raping her and claimed he was the father of her
nine-year-old daughter. This was when he was a gubernatorial candidate
for the state of New York. Later on, Republicans seized on this rumor,
using this ditty to discredit Cleveland.
“Ma, Ma, where’s my pa,
“Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”

Cleveland’s opponent was James G. Blaine, one-time Speaker of the
House of Representatives and later a U. S. Senator. Republicans
countered the Democratic slur of Cleveland with, “Blaine, Blaine, James G.
Blaine, continental liar from the state of Maine.”

Some things never change, but it would be nice if presidential
candidates asked for forgiveness of their past faux pas and underscored
integrity. Unfortunately, that would be asking too much of them.





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