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Published:September 7th, 2008 21:20 EST
History Cafe - Episode 8: The US Presidential Elections Alphabet (Part I)

History Cafe - Episode 8: The US Presidential Elections Alphabet (Part I)

By Krzys Wasilewski

*Audio coming soon!

A like Adams (John Quincy). The son of America`s second president, John Quincy Adams was destined to follow his father`s steps. But in 1824, the presidential election turned out extremely tight as Andrew Jackson, the son of the West, appeared an unexpected favorite. After all votes were counted, neither of the candidates had clear majority and the president had to be chosen by the House of Representatives. To the surprise of everyone, Adams won the voting that spurred his opponents to dub the election "Corrupt Bargain."


B like Bush (George W.). In the last two decades, the Bushes were out of the White House for only eight years. What his father failed to accomplish - win the second term - his son did with a surprising easiness, defeating Democratic candidate John Kerry in 2004. Four years earlier, George W. Bush became the first president to assume his office after the ruling of the US Supreme Court, which halted the voting impasse in Florida and declared the former governor of Texas the winner.


C like Checkers Speech. When Dwight D. Eisenhower tapped Richard Nixon as his running mate, the liberal media launched a vociferous campaign against the controversial senator from California. Accused of illegal financial backing, Nixon decided to defend himself in a TV address. According to many media experts, it was one of the best speeches in the history of American politics. It was nicknamed the Checkers Speech " after Nixon`s cocker spaniel puppy - Checkers - whom the senator praised in his address. Checkers lived through both of Nixon`s terms as vice president and died in 1964.


D like Democratic National Convention. Far from the contemporary spectaculars with thousands of banners and perfectly crafted speeches, Democratic conventions used to be dull enterprises. In 1952, Democrats held their meeting in Chicago, Illinois, simply to keep appearances as the candidate had been decided on much earlier - not in caucuses or primaries, but in the Oval Office. Incumbent President Harry Truman wanted Adlai Stevenson as his successor and the party followed his order, regardless of the states` primaries.


E like Electoral College. Comprised of 538 representatives, the Electoral College elects the president. Even though people vote for their candidates in direct elections, the highest office in the country is, in fact, elected by a handful of electors. No other nation has decided to follow the American model and in most other cases, presidents are chosen either in direct elections or in parliamentary voting.


F like Fillmore (Millard). Dubbed the Accidental President, Fillmore assumed the highest office after the death of President Zachary Taylor in 1850. He served for only three years and - to the joy of millions of his countrymen - failed to win his party`s nomination for the next election. Nevertheless, the ambitious politician from New York ran again in 1856, this time as the candidate of the American Party. The party hoped that Fillmore would stop the Catholic invasion and save the country from papists. The election, however, was won by James Buchanan, now considered one of the worst presidents in history.


G like Grant (Ulysses S.). As the Republican nominee, Grant won the presidential election in 1869. He succeeded very unpopular Democrat Andrew Jackson who lacked the charisma and skills of Abraham Lincoln. Although Grant is now regarded as a rather mediocre president, he was the first to keep the White House for two full terms in 40 years. After failing to win his party`s support for the third term, Grant embarked on a financial career which ended in bankruptcy for his entire family. He spent the last years of his life working on memoirs to secure his children`s futures. To this day, Grant`s Memoirs are considered "the most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries by Julius Caesar."


H like Harrison (William Henry). President Harrison reigns as having the record of the longest inaugural address. As the speech was delivered outdoors, Harrison and thousands of spectators stayed for hours in the pouring rain and chilly wind. Unsurprisingly, the president caught a cold that quickly turned into pneumonia. Doctors from all over the country attended to Harrison - to no avail, however, as the president died only one month after his inaugural address.


I like Internet. With a history stretching to the early 1990s, the Internet was discovered by politicians only recently. The first innocent flirting began during the 2000 US Presidential Campaign, but it wasn`t until four years later that the candidates discovered the potential of the World Wide Web. Among them, Democrat Howard Dean deserves the title of a pioneer in this field as he first engaged millions of online users through his website. His candidacy eventually fell through, but now it is hard to imagine any political success without the support among so-called grassroots.


J like JFK. Despite his numerous faults, John F. Kennedy is still loved by tens of millions of Americans. Hardly any other politician of past and present could rouse all generations to action; hardly any other politician had more charm than this wunderkind of American politics. His tragic death only sealed the legend associated with his name and family. It still remains a mystery that none of his brothers has ever repeated John`s success.


K like Kissinger (Henry). If President Nixon could read the future, he might have chosen someone else for his national security adviser. In a very short time, Kissinger reached the status of celebrity in an administration that praised secrecy. Loved by the media for his huge glasses and strong German accent, Kissinger soon outshone the president, and any breakthrough in foreign policy was reported as his personal success. Doubtlessly, Kissinger would have run for the presidency himself, if the US Constitution permitted it. But as a foreign-born, he had to satisfy himself with a behind-the-curtains status.



That`s all for this week`s edition of History Cafe! If you liked our Political Alphabet, be sure to visit us next week for the second part. Also, don`t forget to share with us your comments and suggestions!


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