Queen Elizabeth II Dies At 96: Met U.S. Presidents Since Harry Truman

It still came as shock, even though it was often talked about over the past years. Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96 and there is now a new monarch in Britain. Only earlier this week the Queen had continued her constitutional duty and invited Liz Truss to form a new government. Even with health problems and aging concerns, there was always Queen Elizabeth who kept the long line of history very much intact on the British throne, acting with quiet resolve for decades.

I have thought about how to best reflect her life as seen through the eyes of this American home, and have settled on a series of photos of her interactions with our top leaders. (The Queen never met President Lyndon Johnson.) President Harry Truman was her first president to meet even though Elizabeth was not yet queen when, at the age of 25, she filled in for her very ailing father.  

President Harry S. Truman and Britain’s Princess Elizabeth are shown as their motorcade got underway following the reception ceremony at Washington National Airport on October 31, 1951.
 Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
20th October 1957: Queen Elizabeth II, US president Dwight D Eisenhower (1890 – 1969) with his wife Mamie (1896 – 1979) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at a White House State banquet.
 Keystone/Getty Images
Buckingham Palace during a banquet held in his honor, American President John F. Kennedy and his wife, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, pose with Queen Elizabeth II London, United Kingdom, June 15, 1961.
 PhotoQuest/Getty Images
From BBC
President Gerald Ford dances with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during a White House State Dinner honoring the Queen US Bicentennial visit, Washington DC, July 7, 1976. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/Getty Images)
6/8/1982 President Reagan riding horses with Queen Elizabeth II during visit to Windsor Castle, Daily Mail
Express UK
People magazine
Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo: Jack Hill – WPA Pool/Getty Images
(Wow….just wow.)

WIN: Whip Inflation Now

Here is another reason to pay heed to how books are aligned in your home library. Moving them about will perhaps give you an idea for a blog post. (I simply could not allow this space to be taken over today by the slap heard around the globe. Not giving an inch of this blog to drama queens and angry man-boys.)

Putting my White House Press Secretary books in a new order meant I had to move Ron Nesson’s book, It Sure Looks Different From The Inside, and of course, thumbing through it again was warranted. President Gerald Ford, like President Joe Biden today, was dealing with high inflation across the nation.

Ford had a plan to deal with inflation. Whip it.

On page 75 Nesson writes that Ford was earnest bout the WIN program, based on the home-spun notion that the average citizen, in little ways, could help whip inflation.

As I searched for a few photos about WIN on the internet I came across attempts to enlist people at planting a local garden to stave off high food prices. Given the small size of the seed packets, it seemed like terrace gardens were in mind. Back home in Hancock during this time period, like the years before and after, we had a massive garden with at least 40 potato plants each summer, rows of corn, tomato plants galore, and everything else that could grow in soil.

The reason to write this post, other than a trip down memory lane, is to alert us to the road we have traveled many times before, and the fact we made it through. We always do. High gas prices are not a new feature of life, nor the grousing about them.

The pandemic was most unsettling and for far too many deadly. The undermining of our economy from COVID remains staggering. But if we are smart we can traverse around new variants rather than needing to bluntly marshall the populace through them. Vaccines are still the best route to a robust economy.

Thankfully, in the United States, Africa, China, South America, and most of Europe, it can be said that we can be counted as among the fortunate ones. We can all say our homes are not being shelled by Russian invaders.

All of a sudden inflation is not so pressing.

And so it goes.

Ronald Reagan’s Patriotism No Longer Part Of Republican Party

As we approach the first anniversary of the insurrection and rioting at the United States Capitol, which was fomented by Donald Trump and his strategists and carried out by his thuggish supporters, I thought about another political event from the Republican Party.

Though it occurred in 1980 and was vastly different from the January 6, 2021 events of death, bloodshed, and attacks on law enforcement shown on national television, it does lend itself to better understanding the gravity of the situation today. Our democracy is under attack.

I recall the excitement from July 1980 when CBS’ Walter Cronkite interviewed former President Gerald Ford. There was an electrifying buzz that reached from the convention hall to the home in Hancock where I was thrilled by the unfolding political drama. It was broadly speculated that Ronald Reagan had selected Ford as his vice-presidential running mate. The constitutional questions were talked about among correspondents and guests concerning Ford reportedly wanting more authority than any other vice president had ever been given.

That episode remains the most exciting convention moment of my life, which also underscores the diminishing role such gatherings play in the presidential nomination process.

That memory, however, also serves as a reminder of what the Republican Party once was, the timber of the people center stage who wished to serve and be elected. No one doubted the patriotic mindset of Reagan, the moderate and process-minded character of Ford. So much since then has changed in the Republican Party that it now can be reported with a vivid image of what that party now represents.

This is how The Economist framed the issue.

The Republican Party has been consumed by grievance politics–recall how conservatives once used that term on liberals and swore to be above such behavior? The modern GOP also has proven to have a stunning degree of swallowing capacity for conspiracy theories.

True to form they have continued to attack Jews, be it George Soros or an outlandish notion of space lasers used by Jews to start forest fires. In the process, the party has catered to a base of voters not concerned with institutional norms, and let’s be frank, not the ones completing the reading assignments in civics or history classes.

The issue at hand, the survival of our democracy, should not be a partisan contest. Tax policy, education funding, and transportation infrastructure can and should create partisan coalitions. But the procedure for counting Electoral College votes, the availability of places to cast a ballot without undue burdens, the need for an end to gerrymandered political districts, and not placing in statutes undemocratic restrictions to fundamental rights should all be broadly accepted.

But, as we sadly are all too aware, they are not.

The Big Lie about a ‘stolen election’ that Trump spawned and continues to repeat has found a wide range of converts within the GOP. The threat of more violence in the years ahead from those who might lose an election is a very plausible possibility. Especially, if the laws and penalties for taking such actions, like that occurring almost a year ago, are not put into effect.

There was plenty of room to argue with Reagan in the 1980s over policy moves regarding unions, tax cuts, and massive defense spending. But no one doubted for a nanosecond that Reagan was not immersed in the love of country and abiding faith in democracy. When was the first time anyone accused Trump of being like-minded?

Today, the Republican Party has reversed course on many philosophical underpinnings that were at their core (free trade and international alliances), and instead openly and deeply embraces an autocrat who shuns morals and openly cheats and lies. How far removed the Republican Party is from the days of Ronald Reagan.

Let us be honest, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford would find it hard to even be elected delegates to a national Republican convention today. Much less be national nominees.

And so it goes.

Biden’s Conversational Tone In National Address Reaches Out To Americans

Former President Gerald Ford came to mind Wednesday night as I watched President Joe Biden address a joint session of Congress. Following the tumultuous years of Watergate, and the continual stonewalling by President Richard Nixon, there was a sense in the nation that Ford was precisely the type of grounded adult who was best suited for the needs of the time.

After the self-created, and never-ceasing chaos of Donald Trump, there was also a need for change. The nation simply demanded reasoned and mature leadership be returned to the Oval Office. In a national address to a joint session of Congress Biden provided more evidence that he is delivering on his campaign promise to bring the nation back to a place where the shouting and bombast are replaced with listening and working.

There is no doubt that Biden has a full agenda ahead of him as he made clear in the televised speech. The $6.1 trillion worth of programming and investments that he is promoting is a most daunting task. But when the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan, and the American Family Plan are examined two things clearly emerge. First, they are, as polling demonstrates, what the nation supports. Secondly, the issues outlined in the plans reflect the needs that have too long existed but never found a resolution.

The nation knows that power grids are failing too often, bridges are crumbling, schools need updating, and the lives of ordinary Americans need to be lifted up and made better. From tackling pre-school kindergarten to get our youth better prepared to learn, provide an infusion of cash for Pell Grants which would allow two free years of technical school, bolster Black colleges, and provide a national paid family and medical leave program there is an energetic agenda waiting for action.

As Biden reminded voters, time and again during the campaign, the role of governing is about getting things done for the people.

None of these programs are wild-eyed or out of step in this nation, but rather building upon the foundations that have already been established. As with medical leave or repairing bridges the topics are not new, but only need a determined Congress to act on them.

Troubling for Republicans is the fact much of what has been proposed, be it the programs or the means to pay for them, has strong support from the nation. Placing a higher taxing requirement for the wealthy in the nation so to support society’s needs is not out of the mainstream. In fact, that sentiment is smack dab in the middle of the mindset of the voters.

Biden has a much better chance to prevail with large portions of his plans than his detractors realize due to the fact he finds himself in the Oval Office following his predecessor’s most bizarre term. A bombastic and ego-driven character has been replaced with a president who plans to govern. The citizenry is watching and wanting the trains to operate on time, for the congress to do more than just shout to their side of the aisle.

Biden’s personality and good reputation are why I thought of Ford while watching the address. Ford had a measured and folksy style when speaking and Biden used calm and conversational qualities as he spoke to the nation. We all gravitate towards men and women who are essentially good people who strive to do the work of government. As such Biden has more goodwill among the citizenry for action that is designed to benefit the nation as a whole. That is a major reason he will have a strong hand going forward with his agenda.

Stability and reason are again in control from the White House. That was well reflected as Biden addressed the nation. Those traits will serve him, and the nation well, as we move forward.

Hank Aaron And President Gerald Ford, When Sports Records And History Met

Henry “Hank” Aaron, the Hall of Fame slugger whose 755 career home runs long stood as baseball’s golden mark, has died. He was 86.

One of the sport’s great stars despite playing for the small-market Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves throughout a major league career that spanned from 1954 to 1976, Aaron still holds major league records for RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856) and extra-base hits (1,477). But it was Hammerin’ Hank’s home run swing for which he was best known.

And that brings all this to a post on Caffeinated Politics.

At the time Vice President Ford attended the game where Aaron tied Babe Ruth’s home run record on 4/4/74, calling it “one of the greatest thrills of my sports’ fan days!” Ford sent this congratulatory letter after Aaron hit his 715th homer later that week.

What a day it must have been for both Aaron and Ford when in 1976 they were together at the MLB All-Star Game in Philadelphia. A week later Aaron would hit his 755th and final home run of his career on 7/20/1976. Pictured are Hank Aaron, President Ford, and Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn at the All-Star Game, 7/13/1976.

Republican National Convention 2020: Featuring Gerald Ford


I have been a national convention watcher since a teenager in 1976.  For the past 44 years, and with untold hours of coverage, this politico has thoroughly enjoyed both the Republican and Democratic conventions.  Until tonight.

While I spent a lot of time watching and listening to the Democratic National  Convention last week I will have to follow up the morning after with the newspapers regarding the Republican National Convention.  It is one thing to hear the news on a daily basis from this White House, but it would be another thing to have the bombast, and fabrications embellished for a convention performance.  No one needs to endure that.

Today I wrote a note to relatives about the necessity of our leaders having a decent character.  When I hit the send button I knew precisely how I would cover the GOP convention for Caffeinated Politics this year.  Each night of the convention I will feature a Republican from the pages of history who acted in exactly the reverse of Donald Trump. 

Tonight President Gerald Ford is the man I showcase and the topic is character. His story is one that should resonate in every home regardless of the demographics of any kind.

In 1995 Robert Wilson edited a series of lectures from notables about various Presidents of the United States.  The book was titled Character Above All.  I bought it and also the series of live lectures which accompanied the text.   The lecture and chapter on Gerald Ford is the vaccine for the infection our nation faces from Trump.

Ford had a close relationship with his stepfather, despite learning at age 13 that he was not his biological father. When he was 17, Ford had a chance meeting with Leslie King in a Grand Rapids restaurant, his biological father who by then had money, a nice car, and fine clothes. King had learned his son was a starring high school football player, but knowing his entire life that King had beat and punched his mother, Gerald wanted nothing to do with him.  No money or nice clothes could move the teenager from his foundation of decency.

Here is that portion of the events from the book which will always be a part of my collection.




It is worth noting I grew up in the era of Gerald Ford–who was sworn into the Oval Office when I was still in grade school and who constantly exemplified candor, humor, graciousness, and yes, let me say it again decency–to the time now when a low-educated and buffoonish personality resides in the White House.

Gerald Ford is recalled for standing up to his lout of a father and turning away money for the honor of taking his stepdad’s name. Meanwhile, Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter and admits to sexual predatory ways.

Character matters.

(Tomorrow another reminder from the pages of history as the GOP Convention continues.)

Here is a photo of  Gerald and his wife Betty—they remained united in marriage to each other.  Another sign of character.


President Ford Slammed For Slip Of Tongue, While Donald Trump Lies Every Single Day And His Supporters Slobber It Up

Monday was one of those incredible news days.  Donald Trump was talking with some of the nation’s governors about the international pandemic, all of which was recorded.  It was during that series of conversations when Trump stated not hearing about testing in regards to COVID-19 “in weeks”.  The statement was shocking and simply surreal.  There is no way to turn to any television newscast, pick up any newspaper, or tune to any radio news and not become aware of the shortage of testing in our country for the coronavirus.

Monday several rural-state governors told Trump that they are struggling to obtain urgently needed medical supplies and testing equipment.  They expressed their warnings that despite the worsening coronavirus situation in New York and other urban areas, more sparsely populated parts of the country need help, too.   For Trump to be needed to be informed of that, given all that we have witnessed over the past weeks, is in and of itself, a very shocking reminder about how little Trump knows, or understands. Or, perhaps, is able to remember. 

In response to requests from the governors for more testing kits, Trump said, “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks.” 

I first heard this news as I was eating a late dinner at our home.  (James cooked a homemade fish and rice dish called Brodetto and it was heaven.)  The audacity of Trump to make such a statement, considering that as recently as March 19th he was asked, why famous people (such as basketball teams) get tested when so many regular Americans are left without the option.  Without empathy, he replied, ““Perhaps that’s been the story of life. That does happen on occasion, and I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly.”

Trump has been asked often about testing and reporters have been determined to find answers from him, and the assembled team he has around him for such appearances.

As I watched the news report during dinner, and then replayed the audio on my i-Pad, my mind raced backward in time.  The time machine landed in 1976, with President Gerald Ford making a misstep on national television during a presidential debate.



It was most obviously a blunder and made with a huge segment of the nation watching.  There have been many efforts over time to determine how much, if any, the lapse in his mouth working in time with his mind, actually mattered in the close election outcome.  But no matter how the matter lands with historical analysis it was a headline maker.  There was no way to assess it other than a strike against his candidacy.

Ford got taken to task for his words.

Decades later Trump can stand up in daily press conferences and outright lie to the nation about a host of issues.  Lately, the lies are about matters of life and death.  But the corrosive nature of such lies has a price tag in a democracy.  Once “misinformation” is initially encoded in a person’s mind, be it the idea that Iraq had nuclear stockpiles or regarding the ‘birther’ issue, it is very difficult to change perceptions through credible means of education.  In fact, attempted corrections, as we have seen from watching the Trump base, often only reinforces the initial misinformation.

I know I am headed into the tall weeds where Trump will never wander without his golf cart, nor his clueless base ever cares to head.  But when Trump lies with boldness, and does so repetitively, it flies in the face of what mankind realized as being vital starting during the Enlightenment.  Every day we deal with a world of objective facts.  They are provable.  Logic and reason follow.  Making up one’s own version of reality is not allowed when facts prove that something is either up, down, dark, or light. 

What we witnessed Monday was a complete example of why Trump is dangerous for the nation.  He is making a mockery of truth, while the lives of our fellow citizens are at stake.

Character Above All For Oval Office

In 1995 Robert Wilson edited a series of lectures from notables about various Presidents of the United States.  The book was titled Character Above All.  I bought it and also the series of live lectures which accompanied the text.   This morning, in light of the news from over the past 24 hours, I pulled it from the shelf over my shoulder in the den, and plan to read it once again.

On Sundays soon after the purchase, when traveling home to Hancock to be with the parents for the afternoon, I played the tapes in the car.  They span the years of FDR in the White House to those of George H. W Bush.  The story of how Gerald Ford as a teenager and football star stood up to his biological father and how that solid foundation was to be a part of his life as a politician has always resonated with me.  The stories are endless and the lessons important to our nation.  Over and over the presenters from the likes of Doris Kearns Goodwin to Tom Wicker underscore why character is a primary qualification for high public office.

I would strongly recommend this book as a grand example of what we need to know about those who served in the Oval Office and what we as a nation should demand going forward.

This morning I read online the best line from the many which fill my email box following the trashy Trump mess.  John Avlon stated it most plainly about character.

Character is what you do when nobody’s looking. And this video captures Trump in the middle of day, sober, a few months after being married, talking with a man he barely knows, bragging about sexual assault, while wearing a microphone.