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On Madison, Trump And Other Presidents Who Burned The White House

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On Madison, Trump And Other Presidents Who Burned The White House


Reprinted with permission from Creators.

MADISON, Wis. — Greetings from a postcard state capital, named for one of our worst presidents ever, James Madison.

Don’t worry, Donald J. Trump is quickly catching up with every move he makes, every thought he tweets, every trip he takes to meet world leaders — the G-20 in Hamburg, Germany, is the next victim of Trump’s unlashed tongue. If there’s any room at the inn.

Sad to say about the American president, but you can’t take him anywhere. Trump needs a tete-a-tete with his best friend on the world stage, President Vladimir Putin, the spymaster who loved him. There’s a lot of stuff to talk about. It’s a secret no more that Russia influenced the 2016 election and attacked American democracy to help his victory.

Still, Trump is not the people’s president, given rock bottom approval ratings and his loss of the popular vote.

Try to remember that. Cold comfort in Wisconsin, usually a blue state. They say Hillary Clinton never came to campaign, not once after the primary. She took it for granted, and lost.

Over the holiday in dairyland, we were talking about the best and worst presidents. As my father said, it’s harder to pick out the worst than the best. There were so many dismal presidents, especially during the post-Civil War drought between 1865 and 1901. There was a long line of Union Army generals such as Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes, who gave middle initials a bad name.

Hayes, of Ohio, betrayed formerly enslaved people in 1876 by bargaining to end Reconstruction to get his place in history. At his behest, the government troops enforcing the settlement of the Civil War were withdrawn. Grant was a great general who should have quit while he was ahead; his administration was plagued with corruption.

Other rock bottom presidents on my list: George W. Bush for squandering the peace and prosperity Bill Clinton handed him; and Richard M. Nixon for his diabolical efforts to bring down his enemies. His long prosecution of the Vietnam War and cynical “Southern strategy,” of course, deepened divisions that persist to this day. A master of festering hatred, Trump built on what Nixon left behind.

Another who might be added is hapless James Buchanan, who handed over a cracked, raging nation to Abraham Lincoln, the best in many books.

And now, a few words to “Jemmy” Madison.

Sorry, but you were president in the summer of 1814, when the British army came marching in and burned down the White House and the Capitol. You, sir, fled on horseback across the river and left Washington undefended. The people of the city also ran for dear life, though the redcoat soldiers did not set fire to private property.

The flames of Washington burning were seen in the Baltimore sky. A huge blow to the early republic.

Sir, you’re the cerebral Constitution author and Thomas Jefferson’s intern, so let’s put it nicely: You were a wealthy Virginian planter who owned 100 enslaved people on your inherited land. Socially awkward, slight of height, you weren’t an inspiring figure to, well, set hearts and minds on fire.

Thanks to Princeton friend Aaron Burr’s graces, you finally made a match after 40. Senator Burr introduced you to a young Quaker widow, Dolley Todd, who became Dolley Madison. She created myths that made up for your inept leadership. Don’t we know the story of her leaving the dinner for 40 and “saving” the painting of George Washington better than the real burning of Washington?

To use Trump’s pet word, Madison’s presidency was a disaster. He was one of the “Virginia dynasty” of presidents and handed it on to James Monroe, the fifth president. So but for John Adams’ four years in office, the presidency was held by Virginians who lived, breathed and depended upon slavery, up until 1824. They laid its existence in our founding documents and social practices. Madison ensured that white male Southern slaveowners were overrepresented in national elections, and to this day the Electoral College is not a fair fight.

See how it all comes round again.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit creators.com.




  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 7, 2017

    Yes, there are so many flaws built into the fabric and frame of what we call America, that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the nation is unraveling, listing badly, has been rocked repeatedly by dissent and wars within, and so much blood spilled just to cater to the whims of the most dominant in society.

    Aside from the brilliant experiment called Democracy offered to the world, Jefferson and his peers failed to apprehend the Oneness of Humanity, deciding that it would be better and more convenient for the dominant group to d consider itself the favored group. The Spaniards and French who preceded Madison and George, already were primed mentally and by doctrines to consider themselves as the apex of God’s Creation, as a result of getting visually sidetracked by skin tones, facial features, height, technological advances over neighbors and groups of humans encountered in distant lands during The Age of Discovery. There were other points of divergence of humans as we evolved that set the planet on a track that has seen numerous fissures of divisiveness in societies open up.

    All of which, and more, have been blended together to define a nation with great potential, yet having serious deficiencies exposed which need to be resolved quickly.

    Trump, Bannon, the GOP, Thomas Jefferson, and others, are some prime examples of what has gone wrong in America.

  2. Independent1 July 7, 2017

    Sorry Jamie, but in the long list of bad presidents, you failed to include the absolute worst president ever – Ronald Reagan. Yes, the presidents you listed may have been the absolute disasters of their time, but for the most part, the disasters they created for America faded soon after they departed the Oval Office. Unfortunately, that did not happen with Reagan – America is still paying dearly and will most likely be paying for decades to come because of how Reagan corrupted a political party and the minds of the millions of Americans with his lies and fantasies.

    Not only Reagan’s generation was hoodwinked by Reagan’s lies but also at least a couple generations after them have continued to believe and vote based on the lies Reagan brainwashed them with: that trickle-down economics is real and that the wealthy are really benevolent care takers of the poor. Which is why today, there is such an enormous income inequality in America thanks to Reagan.

    Which one of the worst presidents you named can take credit for turning the vast majority in America into the equivalent of peons like Reagan can – an influence that has gone on for at least 3 decades?

    And which of the worst presidents you listed was so underhanded that he knowingly pushed to cut America’s max tax rate almost in half, knowing the U.S, couldn’t afford it, but he wanted to ensure that he and his wealthy buddies would be able to pocket more of their hard earned money (which didn’t hurt in helping Reagan to be the only president in modern times who was able to increase his self worth by $10,000,000 dollars while in the Oval Office). He knew the U.S, couldn’t afford those tax cuts, which is why he was the 1st president to turn America into a debtor nation by tripling its debt in 8 years; and having to raise taxes 11 times mostly on the middle class which even helped create the income inequality I defined above which has only gotten worse by the decades since he left office THANKS TO RONALD REAGAN!

    And millions of misguided Americans continue to believe that ” Our government is really the problem with everything bad that happens in their lives” because of Reagan’s braniwashing. Which is one of the reasons that so many Americans continue to vote Republicans into office who are enemies of unions and the working people; which is a big reason that the GOP has manipulated our politics such that wealthy are essentially running America at the expense of he masses – once again, thanks to Reagan. Can anyone of those worst presidents you mentioned lay claim to having assisted in turning America into a Plutocracy for decades to come? A nation of the rich with unions disappearing resulting in rising poverty?

    And what other president amassed the corruption of the Reagan Administration where more than 100 members of their administrations were indicted for crimes with a number of them going to prison? Or which ones committed quasi treason by underhandedly dealing with terrorists from other nations like those running Iran at the time, Nicaragua and others such as some underhanded dealings with Saudi Arabia which ended up with 241 U.S. Marines dying in their sleep in Lebanon?

    1. BrownDog July 8, 2017

      Let me guess: You don’t like Reagan. I nominate LB Johnson, who started the Great Society, as a candidate for not a good President. He started that program primarily to get votes for the Demonut party. It and all the subsequent spinoffs have not reduced poverty, provided basic medical care or created job growth in the private sector jobs for the downtrodden. It has done quite the opposite by creating a sizable portion of the population that thinks the government is supposed to support them, regardless.

      1. Independent1 July 9, 2017

        LBJ not a good president, really?

        Even though under LBJ the economy and jobs grew at the fastest rate since the Great Depression except for under FDR???

        And even though LBJ presided over the enactment of both the Civil Rights Act and Medicare? Two pieces of legislation that have helped more Americans than all the legislation enacted under all the GOP presidents ever in office?

        And even though LBJ is one of the 3 presidents who served their entire terms in office without allowing an economy killing recession to take place? All three of those presidents being Democrats that never allowed a recession to start: LBJ, Clinton and Obama.

        Like I told Jamie, you’re no different in rating presidents – totally clueless. LBJ’s presidency has affected more American’s lives positively over the last 5 decades than any Republican president ever in office. And Lincoln was not a Republican president in the scheme of things today – what was the Republican party in Lincoln’s day is the Democrat party today.

        1. BrownDog July 9, 2017

          A President is judged by his legacy on society and to say that LBJs programs had a big impact is an understatement. Whether or not the impact was the best for the country is debatable. All I see is high unemployment/under employment, lack of private sector jobs, and a large, permanent welfare class that will forever be leaches on the tax payers. But this a group that always votes for the Democrats. So, it one sense, LBJ was highly successful. I also see a country bogged down in rules, laws, mandates, orders which mainly lead to increased government intrusion in a citizens life and the business community. A higher quality of life and true equality of opportunity have been slipping away for decades, regardless of which political party is in power.

          1. Independent1 July 9, 2017

            High unemployment?? At 4.4%. Go bury your head in a toilet somewhere – all you post is nothing but cow manure!! Get lost dirtbag!!

          2. BrownDog July 14, 2017

            Tsk, Tsk. Indy. You know as well as anyone, that the unemployment figure (U3) is based on people that actually report to the unemployment office. Those that no longer do so and the underemployed are left out (U6). The U6 number is closer to 22%, higher than historical averages which bobbled between 12 % and 15%. Around 2009, when Big O was President U6 shot up to over 20% and has stayed there. It’s a bit early to tell, but figure appears to be decreasing.
            Stick with the facts not the spittle.

          3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 5, 2017

            Still just a brown dog.

      2. Independent1 July 9, 2017

        Oh! And here’s a jobs/GDP growth chart which shows that every Dem president in office between Coolidge and Obama, outperformed every Republican in office during that period. And that despite GOP lies, the economy under Reagan didn’t even perform as well as it did under Nixon.


        Note that jobs/the economy performed better under LBJ than under any worthless GOP president in the chart.

        1. BrownDog July 9, 2017

          The effects of the Great Society, as LBJ well knew, would not be felt until years after he created it. As for job creation periodic events, like a big war (WW2 ring any bells?), economic ups and downs, etc. influence job creation. The President does not create jobs. Anytime something goes up, it also comes down. The GOP got stuck with digging out of the messes left by predecessor Dems. Big O who is not on the chart for some reason, had to dig out after the 2007 debacle from Bush who was digging out from Clinton. Taint nothing black and white in politics.

          1. Independent1 July 9, 2017

            Sorry but you’re wrong. Presidents do create jobs by the policies they support. And that’s proven by history. Over the past 100 years, Democrat presidents on average have created twice as many jobs as Republicans. And that’s even true over the past 4 decades where under Carter, Clinton and Obama, twice as many jobs were created -47 million – as failures like Reagan and the 2 Bushes who only managed to preside over 24 million jobs being created.

            And a lot of that has to do with the propensity of Republicans’ failed governance which causes recession after recession – 17 of the 20 recessions and depressions since 1900.

    2. plc97477 August 6, 2017

      I have had people tell me that reagan was the last good republican. I do have to say they don’t tell me that twice.

      1. old_blu August 6, 2017

        He started this sh!t storm.

  3. Richard Prescott July 8, 2017

    People, people, please. The author stated “As my father said, it’s harder to pick out the worst than the best.”
    I have lived under a few. Trump is the worst for many more reasons than Nixon, Reagan, “W” and Johnson. Even JFK had his blind spots. Clinton, while very intelligent, still was not very bright.
    I fault the morphing of the GOP into a “me first” and leaving this country behind in their desire to have total control. And now showing they have no clue how to run this country for the betterment of this country and not the betterment of the few.
    And let us all face the sad reality. Politicians and politics are a dirty business. Every “clean” newbie I have seen come in with “great expectations” has been tarnished in a short period of time.
    We would be better served by soulless robots who could not be bribed by the rich or big business and running off algorithms than by the truly “soul devoid” GOP and whining Democrats.

    1. BrownDog July 14, 2017

      Whether Trump’s performance in in office will be dismal, mediocre or great has yet to be determined. What is distressing is that from day one news media has been flooded the channels with virtually nothing but negativism and innuendo about the President. We all get it: The press is liberal leaning and wanted Ms. Clinton for President. That didn’t happen. We all need to move on, support the office of the President and make sure Congress starts doing its job, which includes keeping check on the Executive branch.

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 5, 2017

        What is it that you fail to see about Trump that is in plain sight? Are you that easily bamboozled by Trump’s con artistry. The problem isn’t the liberal press—it is people like yourself and Trump who see the world in the start colors of black/white, and every decision is a binary one, with no nuance of deep thinking put forward.
        Trump deserves all the negativity he has gotten, and much more. But then again, maybe you would approve of Trump bragging about groping YOUR mother. Now, what does that say about your objectivity and sensitivities re: Trump’s racism, narcissism, and misogyny? Are these values your parents taught you to admire?


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