Our attention was drawn last week to the presidential campaign of Lindsey Graham. The Scrapbook likes and admires Graham, the veteran Republican senator from South Carolina, but concedes that he is probably not the likely nominee. Graham’s specialty is foreign relations, which never plays a prominent role in primary politics, and he doesn’t have much of a campaign staff or fundraising apparatus.
He does have one particular distinction, however, shared by no other candidate in either party: Lindsey Graham is not married. Which is to say, if he were to be elected president next year, America would have no first lady after January 20, 2017. This singular status has attracted press attention and prompted one news organization to ask him (in apparent seriousness) how this social deficit would affect a Graham White House.
“Well, I’ve got a sister,” Graham gamely responded. “She could play that role if necessary. I’ve got a lot of friends. We’ll have a rotating first lady.”
The Scrapbook’s advice to Senator Graham is not to worry too much. Yes, most of our presidents have been married, and their wives, to varying degrees, successfully fulfilled the function of White House hostess. But as with most everything in the executive branch of government, the institution of “first lady”—which goes unmentioned in the Constitution—has grown to disproportionate, one might say gargantuan, size in modern times.
Very nearly an entire wing of the executive mansion is now the headquarters of the first lady, who comes equipped with voluminous staff, Secret Service protection, and access to a generous travel allowance.
All of which, in The Scrapbook’s judgment, is entirely superfluous and unimportant. We have had a few first ladies of political consequence—certainly Edith Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt, maybe Lady Bird Johnson, perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton—and other first ladies of achievement: Lucy Webb (Mrs. Rutherford B.) Hayes graduated from college (Ohio Wesleyan, 1850) at a time when few women anywhere in the world pursued higher education, and Lou Henry (Mrs. Herbert) Hoover, a pioneering graduate of Stanford (1898), was a Chinese linguist and geologist.
But presidents aren’t monarchs; and their families, while interesting at times, aren’t critical, or even necessary, to their presidencies. Indeed, we have had two bachelor presidents (James Buchanan, Grover Cleveland) and some of our most important chief executives (Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson) took office as widowers, and remained widowers throughout their tenure. To be sure, Cleveland got married in the White House, and some first ladies (Caroline Harrison, Ellen Wilson) died while their husbands were in office. But as Senator Graham suggests, there have always been capable substitutes at hand—sisters, nieces, daughters, friends—for the social requirements of the White House. The republic will endure.
Which brings us to a political footnote. Three times in the past four decades, the unmarried Gov. Jerry Brown (D) of California ran credible races for the presidency—and The Scrapbook has no recollection of any concern in the media about who would be Brown’s White House hostess. Similarly, the favorite for next year’s Democratic nomination is the aforementioned Hillary Clinton—whose husband would be (if Mrs. Clinton were elected) the first White House host in history.
Frankly, the prospect of Bill Clinton as America’s first gentleman strikes The Scrapbook as more worrisome than a lonely Lindsey Graham in the White House.
Fresh off its widely-mocked exclusive on the traffic citations given Marco and Jeannette Rubio – fewer than one per year, combined – the New York Times has an in-depth look at Scott Walker and the wealthy conservatives who backed him throughout his rise to national prominence. It’s a classic of the genre.
The media have no problem concocting scandals almost out of thin air when it comes to GOP candidates, so The Scrapbook continues to be agape at the journalistic treatment of this season’s Democratic field.
On May 14, I joined a tiny, highly exclusive group of Republicans, namely those who have decided not to seek our party’s presidential nomination. By contrast, the coach section of the party contains perhaps two dozen people who have announced (or soon will) their availability. Good luck to them all (well, maybe not all). Here’s the hard reality. If two dozen candidates actually declare, 23 of them will lose. I, on the other hand, will still be able to say I have never been defeated in a nomination contest.
Martin O'Malley's team is teasing supporters in the lead up to an announcement about whether he will run for president of the Untied States. The opening line of an afternoon email to supporters reads, "Is he in or is he out? Will he run or won’t he?"
"At a time when so many Americans are struggling to get by, Governor O'Malley is considering some bold plans for the future. But, while some tough decisions still need to be made, we can tell you one thing," the message reads.
A year after news broke of the waiting list scandal at the Veterans Affairs medical facility in Phoenix, Arizona, President Obama finally visited the facility in March. And while they didn't quite roll out the red carpet for the president, they did clean the floors -- and spent $5,000 to do it.
Miami Five days before he would take the biggest step of his young political career, Marco Rubio called Bernie Navarro, a Miami real estate investor, to ask for a favor. Rubio wanted to have a small, low-key gathering to thank friends and family before his official announcement the next day, and he needed someone to host it. Navarro, like Rubio the son of Cuban exiles, asked permission from his wife. Although she had denied his repeated requests to host a Super Bowl party, there was no hesitation in approving this one.
Look, this is happening. It's a thing. Remember the jokes that started in 1992 with "two Clintons for the price of one"? Remember the incredulity of people in 1999 when it was quietly suggested that the first lady of the United States might decamp to New York and place a Senate seat into her carpet bag? Remember when it was only the crazies who said, "Don't you get it? She's trying to run for president!"
Out on the Twitters, people have been generally down on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign logo. The New York Times’sNate Cohn said it looked like a hospital sign. Others suggested it looked like the Cuban flag. Or the Fed-Ex brand. Box CEO Aaron Levie said it looked like it was drawn with MS Paint. (Oooooo! Burn!) The self-righteous whiners at Wikileaks accused her of stealing their logo. The logo got its own Twitter account. (Which is 98 percent less funny than Obama’s Teleprompter.)
In winning Nigeria’s presidency on his fourth try, Muhammadu Buhari, former military dictator and proponent of sharia, may have answered the Nigerian question: Is the big West African country more than a geographical entity—does it have a sense of nationhood transcending sectional and religious differences?
Vice President Dick Cheney had harsh criticism for President Barack Obama in an interview last night with radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Hewitt asked the former vice president, "Is he naïve, Mr. Vice President? Or does he have a far-reaching vision that only he entertains of a realigned Middle East that somehow it all works out in the end?"
One of many startling statements in President's Obama interview with Tom Friedman is his assertion that he's seeking “to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.”
Today in Massachusetts, at a ceremony for the the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, Senator Elizabeth Warren borrowed President Obama's lectern for a bit. Behind the lectern, Warren looked almost presidential:
Many have called for Warren to enter the presidential race. This image, of her speaking behind the presidential lectern, may increase calls for her to challenge Hillary Clinton.