[Buchanan Cartoon]


Can you imagine future generations having to remember, no less celebrate, President Trump’s birthday on a three-day weekend down the road?

Or President Jeb!, should he triumph over DJT in the debates which got them both so mad they were hitting each other with silver spoons?

Or Ted Cruz, the only Canadian-American president, who like George Washington could not tell a lie, whatever DJT said in the battle to become prevaricator-in-chief in 2016.

Or Marco the Robotic, who will never be forgotten for blaming Obama for everything, including not having enough three day weekends on the calendar to make life bearable.

There is already enough confusion about exactly whose birthday we are celebrating. I was reminded of that by my neighbor, a college –educated social worker, who I asked if she was excited about celebrating the president’s birthday

“Which one, ” she asked. “The one with the beard?”

Did she mean Rutherford B. Hayes? Or Grant? Garfield? Harrison? They also had beards.

She meant Lincoln, of course, the man whose birthday is now vaguely lumped together with Washington’s Birthday, which we all knew honored a white sale.

That sounds pretty bad. But in a recent test, the majority of students didn’t know which president was the one in a wheel chair (FDR).

To cheer myself up about the growth of the history-challenged— who needs to know history, when you can look it up on Google? – what I usually like to do on President’s Day Weekend is celebrate a president’s birthday too long ignored. This time I chose James Buchanan’s birthday (actually April 23).

There are those who say Buchanan, our 15th president (1857-1861) was the worse president in history.

How quickly they forget Bush 43!

Buchanan, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, may have been the worse. Certainly The Panic of 1857 occurred on his watch, trying to fix the usual, bank failures, businesses collapsing, high employment, baffling him. There was nobody to tell him it was the economy, stupid.

Given the social mores of the time, what I don’t understand is why Buchanan hasn’t been celebrated for being the first president to live openly in a gay marriage in the White House, no less!

His partner was the Secretary of State, William Rufus Devane King, who Andrew Jackson called “Aunt Fancy.” It proved even in those early days sex made strange bedfellows.

Not that there was anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld might have said.

That Buchanan was the first gay president is reason enough for a three-day weekend.

The other major achievement of his administration is that, as it is said, he may have caused the Civil War or prevented it, depending on your point of view.

Buchanan was what they called a “doughfaced Democrat,” a Northerner with Southern sympathies. He favored appeasement of the Southern states. Secession was illegal, he argued, but going to war was also illegal.

One wonders what might have happened if Buchanan had stuck to his guns and let the South go its way.

“We had the great misfortune to win the Civil War,” in the opinion of Inter-American Affairs scholar Lawrence Arnstein, a fellow at the Santa Monica School of Advanced Studies. If Buchanan had been firm in his resolution to not intervene, Arnstein’s theory goes, “the Confederacy would be comfortably running everything south of the Mason-Dixon line, and we wouldn’t be saddled with the results of the war today.

“The North would have become a nice European-style Socialist state, with medical care and other entitlements provided in return for high tax rates on the super rich. We’d be Norway, Sweden, or Denmark. And the Confederacy would be anything they wanted to be. The North probably never would have been involved with European wars, because we would have taken George Washington’s farewell address to heart. A nice peaceful tranquil state.”

Winning the Civil War was the worst thing that ever happened to us, explained Arnstein.

And by now President Trump could be fulfilling his promise to build a wall along the Mason-Dixon line to keep all those Southern rapists and criminals out.

I better stop these ruminations before I fire up all those folks with their flags and statues of Robert E. Lee who believe the South Will Rise Again.

May I be the first to wish you a Happy James Buchanan’s Birthday next April 23?

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Marvin Kitman
Feb. 15, 2015

Marvin Kitman is the author of “The Making of the Preƒident 1789.” “George Washington’s Expense Account” by Gen. George Washington and Marvin Kitman PFC (Ret.) was the best-selling expense account in publishing history.