Exits and transitions could be sleek, or they are often messy, or they will fall someplace in between. Once they contain presidents, it may be a a lot larger deal than, say, my exit from a retail institution after a considerably strained alternate with a clerk. I merely vote with my toes and go to a competitor. (Fortunately, that’s a uncommon prevalence throughout these covid-confining days.)
We’re in a liminal interval and will probably be for the subsequent a number of weeks when exits and entrances will fall into the big-deal class earlier than the inaugural on January 20. And presidents haven’t at all times executed this dance effectively. The present man is doing it horribly, after all, however you possibly can go all the way in which again to our second chief govt, John Adams, who, together with his spouse, Abigail, deserted the White Home simply earlier than his successor, Thomas Jefferson, took the oath. Each had been the primary presidents of various political events and large rancor arose between these once-chummy Founding Fathers. Fortunately, they reconciled, progressively and out of workplace, with each dying on, of all days, July 4, 1826, inquiring to the top concerning the different’s well being, a real presidential topic and predicate.
Adams’s son, John Quincy, and Andrew Jackson misplaced no love for one another throughout two bitter elections, the primary determined for Adams within the Home and engineered by Henry Clay in what has turn out to be generally known as the “corrupt discount.” Jackson’s handpicked successor, Martin Van Buren, then was defeated by William Henry Harrison. Throughout an inaugural stemwinder delivered in a gradual downpour, Harrison received so soaked that he died of pneumonia 9 weeks later, permitting his operating mate, the John Tyler of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too, to occupy the White Home.
James Buchanan, scorned by many historians as our most inept president (so far no less than, however he’s being challenged for bottom-rung rating by the present sulking, sullen occupant), dithered mightily within the 4 months earlier than Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861 (ceremonies had been held in March then), permitting extra time for southern states to organize for secession. Lincoln thus was greeted by the worst state of affairs possible on Day 1. Nevertheless, Lincoln’s assassination allowed Andrew Johnson, his polar reverse in temperament, expertise, and imaginative and prescient, to turn out to be chief govt for a stormy time period threatened by impeachment.
In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes misplaced the favored tally to Samuel Tilden however caught a break in Congress, which awarded him contested electoral votes in alternate for a promise to finish the occupation of the South. Throughout his time period in workplace, he was addressed as “His Fraudulency.” Quick ahead to 1888 with Caldwell’s native son, Grover Cleveland, wining the favored vote for re-election however dropping within the electoral faculty to Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland bided his time and bounced again 4 years later, successfully successful three phrases however serving solely two as our solely non-consecutive president. In 1901, William McKinley’s assassination thrust Teddy Roosevelt into the chief workplace, however a decade later, TR determined that his personal protégé, William Howard Taft, had botched his time period on the high. Thus Roosevelt entered the 1912 race to make it a quadrilateral between himself (Bull Moose), Taft (Republican), Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), and Eugene V. Debs (socialist), splitting the turnout and gifting Wilson with victory. TR and Taft didn’t communicate after that, however the rotund Ohioan snagged an exquisite comfort prize, being named chief justice of the Supreme Courtroom, the job he mentioned he wished within the first place.
Once more, just about of a lull till 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt trounced Herbert Hoover in the course of the depths of the Nice Melancholy. Hoover invited Roosevelt to tea and lectured him on methods to treatment the nationwide malaise together with his owned failed prescriptions of Republican orthodoxy, balanced budgets, and volunteerism. FDR pointedly ignored the recommendation and, as the enduring images present, the 2 males rode top-hatted collectively in glacial silence to the inaugural with Hoover staring grimly within the distance.
President Harry Truman, as soon as an ardent admirer of Common Dwight Eisenhower, didn’t communicate a lot to Ike on inauguration day. Matter of reality, Ike wouldn’t even enter the Truman White Home for pre-ceremony espresso after the 2 fell out over Korea coverage, with Truman accusing the president-elect of grandstanding by promising to go to the battlefront. When JFK eked out a win over Richard Nixon with questionable Chicago precincts padding his vote whole in 1960, Nixon shortly, and quite graciously, conceded. His later Watergate handoff to Gerald Ford went seamlessly and calmly, contemplating the fraught environment of occasions. And even Gore v. Bush in 2000, with hanging chads and Supreme Courtroom justices, resulted in Al Gore accepting the ultimate rulings and outcomes.
Though the historical past of presidential elections and transitions has been risky, the present White Home occupant has gone to unseemly and appalling lengths to try to subvert your complete course of with a scorched-earth coverage. However this could come as no shock since his complete being and essence (to make use of the time period loosely) has been formed by two grasp tutors in the dead of night arts: His father, Fred Trump. a racist, contractor-stiffing, tenant-stifling developer of barely sufficient residences in New York Metropolis; and Roy Cohn, senator Joe McCarthy’s character-smearing hatchet man who went on to turn out to be Gotham’s go-to man if a sleazy deal wanted to be executed. Each taught their disciple to double down in a parallel universe the place reality, ethics, morality, charity, and decency are alien ideas … and so they taught him all too effectively.
One disciple of this faculty who mercifully will depart the White Home on January 20 is Stephen Miller, formally a counselor to the president however in actuality the satan behind each indecent immigration and asylum initiative of the final time period. I wrote about Miller for this publication two years in the past, citing his crafty capability to seek out loopholes in legal guidelines and laws to maintain DACA Dreamers in limbo, separate immigrant kids from their households, ban Muslims wholesale, and run the harshest detention services possible. Miller maintains a low profile, however when he has spoken, it’s been with the strident rhetoric of probably the most excessive nativism ever heard on this nation. He helps implement the three Ds with relish: detain, dehumanize, and deport, and I’m certain he’s by no means met a wall he hasn’t preferred.
Miller is only one of many unhealthy actors and outright hacks staffing the White Home and cupboard. However he continues to grate on me greater than others. He’s Jewish and but acts completely un-Jewish when it comes to ethics, values, and compassion, a lot in order that his former West Coast rabbi referred to as him out from the pulpit. A descendant of Jap European immigrants on his mom’s facet, Miller views new arrivals because the gravest menace to America. He represents the entire flipside to chesed, tzedakah, and tikkun olam.
Roy Cohn additionally was Jewish. Throughout the Eighties he teamed up in a ruthless symbiosis with a sure younger New York actual property developer to get offers executed by vicious threats and lawsuits. Senator Joe McCarthy had skilled him effectively, or vice versa. Cohn imparted all his worst character traits to the long run president earlier than he died on the top of the AIDS epidemic.
Wanna guess the man with the orange complexion and blonde combover pulls a John Adams on Joe Biden’s inauguration day?
Jonathan E. Lazarus of West Orange is a former editor on the Star-Ledger and a proofreader for the Jewish Customary.