Channelling George Washington: Democrats in Revolt
Mr. Fleming is a former president of the Society of American Historians. This is the latest in a series of articles, "Channelling George Washington."
“I think this is a waste of time!”
“Nonsense. The fellow was born a Democrat, wasn’t he?”
“An Irish-American Democrat from New Jersey. They took a hate to me because I turned reformer on them!”
I was awakened by a cacophony of voices. One was familiar – a resonant baritone that I immediately identified from boyhood radio days as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The other was rather shrill—somewhat like President Thomas Jefferson’s voice.
“Gentlemen – can I help you?” I said.
“We’re the spokesmen for The Committee of Grievously Wronged Presidents—the CGWP for short,” FDR said. “Mr. Wilson seems to think because you’re an Irish-American from New Jersey you won’t give us a fair hearing.”
“He couldn’t be more wrong, Mr. Roosevelt.”
“Harry Truman told us what you said when he asked you if you’d always been a Democrat.”
“No one in the family has ever voted anything but the straight ticket?”
“That was indeed the admirable sentiment Harry recalled.”
“What can I do for you gentlemen?”
“We’re here to object to the outrageous comments by the so-called father of our country about our performances as presidents—and his negative view of the great founder of our political party, Thomas Jefferson.
“Did Mr. Jefferson suggest this visit?”
“Of course not. We’ve petitioned the Ancient One, who provides for our comforts here in Elysium. We asked why there was only one channel controlled, not to say monopolized, by President Washington. He rather abruptly told us there was a limit to our privileges. Too many channels could lead to vast confusion among the Almost Chosen People, as he likes to call the Americans.”
“I don’t see what I can do about this, Mr. Roosevelt.”
“I told you he wouldn’t do anything. He’s an Irish-American!” Mr. Wilson all but wailed.
“What’s going on here?” rumbled an irritated voice. It was President Washington. “Is this more trouble from the CGWP?”
“That seems to be the case, Mr. President,” I said.
“These fellows don’t seem to understand that in Elysium, as in Washington D.C., there can only be one presiding officer. That means only one channel!”
“What we don’t understand, General, is why the presiding officer always has to be you,” FDR said. “Why can’t there be some sort of rotation?”
“That would give lightweights like Marty Van Buren and Benny Harrison a chance to be heard. Not to mention Willie McKinley and Jimmy Garfield and Warren Harding. Listening to them could mess up God knows how many American heads about the need for a strong president.”
“We favor a strong president as much as you,” Mr. Wilson said.“But does that mean we have to put up with so much defamation?”
“Grow up, Woody. Didn’t I give you high marks for your congressional government book? And your first term?”
“Then you made me sound like the world’s biggest idiot in my second term.”
“You may not have been the world’s biggest, but you were certainly an idiot. Frank here was your assistant secretary of the navy. He thought so, didn’t you, Frank?”
“I wouldn’t go that far. I never once used the term idiot.”
“But you used a lot of—what do you call them—synonyms in all those leaks. Didn’t the secretary of the navy call you on the carpet and threaten to hang you out to dry?”
“I believe that was George Creel, the head of the Committee on Public Information,” I said. “He warned Mr. Roosevelt if there was one more leak he was going to tell President Wilson.”
“But the leaks weren’t against you, Woody. They were against that birdbrain you’d made Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. I wanted his job. My mother told me I deserved it. Eleanor agreed with her for once.”
“And it’s taken me almost a century to find out about this? That doesn’t give you high marks for candor, Franklin, and it doesn’t rate you very high for honesty, either. Daniels was a loyal friend to me. When you were stabbing him in the back, you were also stabbing me!”
“I begin to think Mr. Washington may be right, Woodrow. It’s time you started growing up. Maybe your problem has something to do with having two women swooning over you all the time.”
“At least the two women are both my legal wives. You’ve got three—counting Lucy Mercer—though I think only your mother does any real swooning. Eleanor can barely stand the sight of you.”
“Don’t pull the puritan act on me, Woody. I remember the story everyone in Washington told about the night you finally asked Edith Galt to marry you. She was so surprised she fell out of bed.”
“Now you can see why the Ancient One thinks one channel controlled by yours truly is the only way to go. We can’t expose ordinary people to this sort of acrimony in high places.”
“But it’s all right for you to beat up on us and Tom Jefferson? I think we’ve got a double standard here, General. I consider Thomas Jefferson the man who created and inspired the Democratic Party. I expended huge amounts of time and money to revive his reputation.”
“I know all about it, Frank. Every man who risks getting into the arena is entitled to a few mistakes. But he shouldn’t brag about them.”
“Gentleman. What should we do about CGWF? Is it going to go the way of the NRA?”
“That’s a rather snide remark for a man who claims to be a Democrat! If I’d gotten Congress to give me the right to appoint five or six more justices to the Supreme Court, nothing with New Deal on it would ever have been declared unconstitutional!”
“I warned you not to trust an Irish-American!”
“I’m not a Democrat anymore, Mr. Roosevelt. I’m an historian. That makes me a sort of umpire in the judgment game.”
“An umpire who’s blind as a bat, if your book about me is any example of your objectivity!”
“Woody, can’t you shut up for once? We’re trying to get him on our side in this thing!”
“You don’t seem any better at it than I am. Maybe this was a bad idea from the start. I told you Mr. Jefferson it was a waste of time because the fellow’s—”
That’s enough bickering! This channel is hereby shut down! This young man deserves to get a night’s sleep.”
Silence for several minutes. Then came Mr. Washington’s voice, calmer, quieter but just as determined.
“Let me apologize for this disturbance. From now on, I’m going to make sure Alex Hamilton or someone equally reliable guards this channel while I’m resting. How can Woody say that about the Irish? Without them, we wouldn’t have won the Revolution! At Valley Forge at least half my army was Irish!”
“He doesn’t seem to understand how totally he alienated Irish voters. In the 1920 presidential election, when the Democrats ran on Mr. Wilson’s record, the Irish stayed home by the millions. The party didn’t even carry New York City!”
“I remember that! I was in a good mood for a couple of months. Until the Republicans inaugurated that nitwit, Warren Harding.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t take politics so seriously.”
“What would we do for entertainment? Try to get some sleep”
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Jonathan Dresner - 2/21/2011
It's bad enough Mr. Fleming's hearing voices. Now he thinks these voices have divine authority? And that God wants us to have strong presidents at the expense of civil liberties and humane foreign policy?
This is disturbing.
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