Why The White House Matters
By Robert Bluestein
A profound change is taking place in America, a schism of huge proportions. In six months we will be electing a new president and never before have we been given such a choice. We are so divided and polarized to such a degree that disunion is inevitable.
And - ConsiderThe White House is a sacred place to Americans and well it should be. And because no strong, vital, appealing story opposes them - almost overnight we have become a cynical and mocking culture.
It is apparent in every non-stop news agency in the world. In our beginnings, the possibilities of democracy seized the imagination and desires of idealists everywhere. It seemed as if our own success would spawn nations everywhere to attempt the same courageous steps towards a freedom unknown in the world. The free-press made such a moment possible for the world we live in today.
In less than six months we will decide who will be the President of the United States. The person who wins will be faced with an uncertain world and a deeply divided congress. Never before have we faced so many obstacles and so much internal turmoil.
For instance, we are facing a very real threat in an emerging nuclear power in North Korea and Iran. Venezuela is falling apart at the seams. Even the threat of being hit by nuclear weapons and the destabilization of world economies fail to unite Americans.
Americans aren't really given much of a choice in 2016. Our nation is so very special, and our politicians are not taking care of the country. They seem so well informed over the past 24-hours and so uninformed about the past 240 years.
Of all the nations in the world, the United States was built in nobody's image. Nothing like it had existed before, and nothing like it exists today. When a passionate population of independently-minded peoples comes together, the result is a nation united, not divided.
Consider this: America was founded as the land of the unexpected, of unbounded hope, of ideals, of quest for an unknown and philosophical perfection. It is all the more unfitting that we should offer ourselves in images. And all the more fitting that the images which we make wittingly or unwittingly to sell America to the world should come back to haunt and curse us.
Throughout our history, we have proven that disagreement produces debate but dissent produces dissension. People who disagree have an argument, but people who dissent have hatred and a quarrel. People may disagree and both may count themselves in the majority. But a person who dissents is by definition in a minority. And we are witnessing how a minority can make rules for the majority.
American society thrives on disagreement but is killed by dissension. Disagreement is the life blood of democracy, dissension is its cancer. And compromise is the cure.
Our own history is replete with examples of where we came together and solved our differences. The Civil War happened because of a failure to do what Americans do best - compromise. We are on the verge of fighting another Civil War, but with dollars instead of cannons.
The extreme Right and the extreme Left have pulled a nation apart. Instead of a North and South, of slavery or freedom, of States Rights or Federal Oversight, we are divided along hard-core party lines. The Middle of the country has been left out.
TRUMP or CLINTON (Does Anyone Really Win?)
It looks like an election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It is hardly a choice for Americans. With Clinton, you get a known and most certainly corrupt entity. This is the most powerful family in the United States and she has pandered to the voters from the moment she made her Senate run. With Clinton, Americans get someone who has a documented history of lies and deception, while with Trump we get someone who is in love with his own image that he simply cannot play well with others.
And yet, here we are - the most pivotable point of our history is upon us. The GOP claims it will 'Repeal and Replace' Obamacare - but don't bet on it. Too many Republicans have won their places by pandering to the moderate left. This Gordian Knot of one healthcare bill after another forming the Obamacare package takes political courage to unravel. My prediction is that it simply will not happen despite the fact that the GOP is on the verge of taking all three branches of government. We are simply too polarized.
The White House was further tarnished under the Obama administration. A president simply cannot tell Americans '''If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor''' and know full well that this is not going to be the case. Other presidents have lied, but none so blatantly as Barak Obama.
What does a Hillary Clinton White House look like? Her husband, the former President Bill Clinton, took $500k from Russia to give a speech. Hillary Clinton has ties to the Ukraine and her Clinton Foundation has taken huge amounts of money from the Russian economic nobility.
But one wonders what a Donald Trump White House would look like. This is a man who is very used to getting his way. A polarized nation is all but pulled further apart by the hard-driving personality of Donald Trump.
His relations with Russia are also a question - especially if you are considering sanctions against them for their actions in Crimea. Frankly, I do not expect a great deal of stability with a Trump presidency, but I do not expect a great deal of integrity with a Clinton presidency.
In this political arena, the mudslinging is demeaning to the office in which they are running for. All too often, speaking ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves. And no one does that better than the two leading candidates for the presidency that we see before us. Our sacred White House is bound to become a house of horrors.
Behavior and respect for the Office of the White House has all but gone now. It hasn't always been the Clintons and the Obama's that tarnished this institution. Richard Nixon spoiled the office of the White House, only to be salvaged by Ronald Reagan.
Both Bushes brought class to the White House, and no one ever thought George W. Bush was conducting himself in the same way Bill Clinton did. But the younger Bush would never be confused with a Thomas Jefferson in terms of intelligence. (But I tend to believe he was vastly under-rated in certain areas too)
I recall learning about the War of 1812. The British were able to sail directly up the Potomac. Why was this? The answer lies in the manner in which Thomas Jefferson dealt with the issue of a standing military. Jefferson was very fearful of Naval vessels and the US had a small number of them mainly given to us by France in the years of the American revolution.
Jefferson didn't want a standing Navy because he felt it could only be turned against the citizens. So, he sold all but one of the warships to other nations. He thought that having a Coast Guard made up of small one and two person gunboats would be enough to defend ourselves without giving the perception of a standing and idle military.
It was easy to see why Jefferson had this flawed logic and despite how ludicrous it sounds to us today, remember that back in the day the Government wanted the citizens to be able to defend themselves against a repressive government. The American experiment wasn't far enough along that Jefferson could trust it. A part of him still felt that a tyranny was possible.
But it left America vulnerable and the British hardly needed provocation. After the British ''impressed'' several American diplomats on their merchant ships, we faced the second war in 30 years with Britain. (actually termed as World War II at the time-funny how perspectives change over time)
The British sailed directly to Washington DC, easily sailing past the small gun boats in the water.......They bombed the White House in an effort to assassinate President James Madison, considered to be one of the 'evil authors of the revolt'' and they would have stopped at nothing to get him.
He was in Virginia, but his wife Dolly was there. She was insistent on doing whatever it took to support her husband. 80% of the city of Washington was completely engulfed by fire. But---- for America, this was a most humiliating moment. The morale of the American people took quite a blow. And yet, here was this very special lady who seemed so selfless and appreciative of the American legacy. Dolly Madison had done so much, and even acted as the official White House Hostess in the absence of Thomas Jefferson's widow.
While British bombs rained down on the White House, Dolly began to gather items of a fragile nature. There was a vase that belonged to George Washington that was a gift for him from John Adams. But as fire consumed the White House, Dolly Madison pulled the only live portrait of George Washington from Gilbert Stuart off the wall while the ceiling caved in around her.
She loaded it in the carriage and the horses split the scene.
After the war was decided and it was clear the British were not going to win, the White House begins to get rebuilt.
Dolly Madison had a hand in its rebuilding.
What did Dolly Madison do that was so special? The answer is that she had a real sense of history. The country was barely 29 years old and we were still stumbling through the discovery of how unique we really were. But Dolly Madison understood the importance of preserving history. She was an incredible patriot.
With limited space in the carriage, she had some tough choices to make. She left nearly all of her personal belongings and exotic clothing in order to preserve our American story.
Most historical accounts reveal that the British took pleasure in setting fire to the structure that represented a former colony and upstart nation. Although Dolley Madison fled the White House only hours earlier, taking with her state papers, important pieces of silver and the ultimate symbol of the country, the full length portrait of George Washington, she had expected to serve dinner to 40 military and cabinet officers accompanied by her husband.
Instead, the British troops consumed the meal. They looted the house and then set fire to it. The house that had been the site of so many happy occasions was in ruins. Most importantly, the destruction of the White House was physical, emotional, and symbolic. We had lost a little of the shine and gleam that our nation had polished so well.
The care and concern expressed by the forefathers of our nation for the White House gave the building a sense of historical purpose. President Rutherford Hayes wouldn't allow alcohol for any reason to be in the White House. President Grover Cleveland got married inside the White House.
Abraham Lincoln conducted much of his War correspondence form inside the White House. Theodore Roosevelt built a gymnasium and Eleanor Roosevelt designated a special place for the daughters of the American Revolution. There is The Rose Garden, the West Wing, and the huge colonnade in the front.
But most of all, the White House was meant to show the world that we put a high price on the Presidency.
In reality, No One, not one person, soiled the home of the Presidency until JFK came along, and even then, it wasn't publicized as it would be today. Lyndon Johnson was a classless human being with a disgusting side that was well known to the press and documented all too well in Ronald Kessler’s book. Nixon of course, allowed his paranoia to overtake him, and in of all places, the safety of his own house. Richard Nixon would pay the price for his paranoia because at the time, the office of the Presidency still meant something.
The great seal of the Presidency has a visual significance to us. In combination with the White House, these are symbols of what makes America unique and beautiful.
The motto E Pluribus Unum alludes to this union. the several states joined into one solid compact, supporting the chief (top section of the shield) which unites the whole and represents Congress. The stripes are kept closely united by the chief and the chief depends upon that union and the strength resulting from it.
The motto E Pluribus Unum alludes to this union. (Into the Many, One)
The shield is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own virtue.
The olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace and war which is exclusively vested in Congress.
The constellation of thirteen stars denotes a new state taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.
The pyramid signifies strength and duration.
The Eye over it and the motto Annuit Coeptis allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favor of the American cause.
The date 1776 underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence and the words Novus Ordo Seclorum under it signify the beginning of the new American Era, which commences from that date.
The capitol building itself - which once housed men who actually wanted what was best for the country and not what was best for themselves, also had just as much importance. Yet both have fallen in the esteem of our own eyes.
Children used to want and aspire to be the President. This is not the case anymore. The non-stop drama and distaste for one another in the political arena makes for a terrible impression.
And now we are faced with the very real possibility that Hillary Clinton could follow Obama in the White House is turning the honor of the White House into a cesspool. The History of the twentieth century has taken personal reputation and integrity and gradually thrown the ideas of the founding fathers into the trash.
When one hears stories of the Clintons and the things they both did while Bill Clinton was President has really tarnished the reputation of the very idea that once made us special. As it applies to leadership, integrity and class are a 'must have' in order to be President. But it hasn't been the case.
And don't think there is a price to be paid for infidelity. The Northern Alliance Army had Osama Bin Laden in their scope and were merely waiting for Clinton to give the orders to shoot him. But that very same day --- the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke wide open and Bill Clinton felt he couldn't take out Bin Laden at that exact time. (Courtesy of General Hugh Shelton's Book)
2,499 Americans would perish on that terrible fall day in 2001. One wonders how all of this would have changed had the office of the Presidency been upheld with the dignity and discipline that our founding fathers intended it to be.
And now, we have had eight years of a President who has repudiated everything the Founding Fathers were willing to die for. He has taken control of the government in the very manner in which Thomas Jefferson feared. He has used every means possible to bypass the congress and even supreme court. And the sell-outs in the capitol building have simply let it happen. Their surroundings have ceased to amaze them and they have taken for granted the structure and symbolism of the White House.
One day, it is my hope that we get back to the ideas that our Founding Fathers were willing to die for. It is my hope that we will not sell out to corporate interests any more. It is my hope that the establishment that appears to be in control will cease to the will of the people instead of to big money.
Finally --- It is my hope that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will one day be upheld as the greatest and most flexible document in the history of civilization.
But for now we are deeply engaged in political corruption and the implications are profound. Scandal after scandal that would have taken down presidents of the past are now over saturating the news in such a manner that we have become immune to the disgusting nature of big money.
Despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson made an error in his judgment regarding the defense of the nation, the intent was clear and true. The very thing Jefferson feared has begun to happen and we are unraveling by the day.
And there are precious few Dolly Madison's left in the world that are willing to sacrifice everything to preserve our history. ###