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.)

Writings From President Harry Truman On New Year’s Day

There are some interesting letters and events from January 1st pertaining to our former presidents and their moments in history. Today on Caffeinated Politics I feature three of them that intrigue me, including George H. W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln.

Here is a diary entry from Truman, in his own writing, from New Year’s Day 1952.


Humphrey History Video: Bipartisanship!

It seems quaint to write of political opposites seeing their role on the national stage being about the higher requirements of the country. But history shows that was the case.

CPAC Was Tragic Comedy, Missed Call From History

If you watched, listened, or read any of the remarks coming from the stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend it was clear that the majority of us reside within reality while the speakers and their followers in that audience live (as I point up and out) waaaay ‘out there’. The weekend speakers were part comedy show and part tragedy. Too often, both.

As timid and spineless politicians kneeled and groveled so to be in the good graces of the cult leader I watched and wondered what Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg would say if able to give one more speech.

For partisan purposes, the most determined attempt continued this weekend to besmirch the electoral process. To also sully President Biden, who is an honorable man, and in a time not so long ago in this land would be recognized as such by both sides of the aisle. This brings me to Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg, and why the outlandish words from this weekend do not echo with what history tells us is a far better road to travel in Washington.

President Franklin Roosevelt had played tough political ball during the creation of the needed New Deal. Some Republicans felt that upon his death, and his replacement being the novice Harry Truman, that it might be political payback time. But Vandenburg saw things differently.

Vandenberg wrote to Democratic President Truman saying “Good luck and God bless you. Let me help you whenever I can. America marches on.”

The two men, both vocal and determined from opposite ends of the political spectrum, bonded and shaped the international policy of the nation following World War II.

It seems quaint to write of political opposites seeing their role on the national stage being about the higher requirements of the nation. Upon the death of Vandenburg the former president described him as “a patriot who always subordinated partisan advantage and personal interest to the welfare of the Nation.” Can there be a better tribute for a senator?

Will there be a single senator who spoke at the conference who can even dream of such an outcome at the time final words are said about their political life?

Historians will write voluminous accounts of the past five years but to hear the speakers this weekend none of what average Americans are dealing with is anything worthy of talking about in front of the red-meat crowd. Charlie Sykes summed it up concisely.

“There was no introspection down in Orlando; no sense that conservatives needed to look an the mirror and ask themselves hard questions about violence, sedition, white supremacy, or cults of personality.”

“Less than two months after the insurrection at the Capitol, the event was scarcely mentioned. Even after the deaths of a half million Americans during the pandemic, there was no sense that the GOP needed to re-think its values.”

“In fact, there was remarkably little focus on policy at all — it was all culture war all the time. And, of course, Trump.”

This weekend the Sunday morning shows were dissecting the ruins of the once Grand Old Party. There was, without doubt, the most emotional and well-worded response to the dangers of racism within that party coming from Rahm Emanuel. The remarks aired on ABC’s This Week.

Rahm Emanuel: Wait a second. I said, listen, you are a house divided, your party. And he has legitimized the ugliest parts of anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. And the Ronald Reagan party, when David Duke and others came in, in that party, rejected and spoke out.

And nobody in the party has the leadership or the character to attack that anti...

I apologize. I’m not going to take a lecture on anti-Semitism from Chris. (Christie) And I love Chris, but I’m not going to do that.

Chris, you have a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Illinois, her and her husband, he’s a state rep, who talked about Nazi ideology and legitimacy. You had people on the south — on the lawn of the House of Representatives who said six million is not enough, Camp Auschwitz, and it did not come to the condemnation of the Republican Party, because they are still of the view that the Antifa and others were part of that protest.

I am sorry. The party needs to reject anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia, if it’s going to be a majority party anywhere in a country that respects human rights.

I view politics with the long lens of history, and as such, it needs stating that there are no more serious intellectual conservatives—as evidenced by this weekend. There was a time such conservatism existed and knew the mission was to impart, down through the generations, what might be termed a high duty to engrain humanizing beliefs and habits. What precisely were the speakers imparting to the eager young faces looking up the stage this weekend?

Racism, xenophobia, and culture wars galore.

28 Years Ago Tonight, Halloween, Presidential Whistle-Stop Campaign In Stevens Point

It was a Saturday, Halloween, and the last weekend of a presidential campaign. But not 2020, but rather 1992.

October 31, 1992, was a cold and blustery day across Wisconsin.  Light snow flurries swirled through the air as many thousands stood for hours at the old train depot in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.   The presidential campaign that year was winding down, and even though President Bush was campaigning with David McCullough’s latest book Truman in his hand while reminding voters that he too could win the election as Harry did in 1948, the polls were all indicating the opposite.  In later news accounts and books, all would discover that it was that frigid day in Wisconsin when President Bush was told of his fate by his internal pollsters. In spite of that, there were still campaign stops to be made, as Bush was traveling Wisconsin by train while working over-time at trying to making his Truman moment come true. 

A Republican friend of mine at the Capitol had secured tickets for my mom and dad along with most of my immediate family, including nieces and nephews who wished to attend what turned out to be the most incredible campaign rally I have ever witnessed.  We had arrived very early which allowed us to stand in the very front near the podium allowing the young ones in my family to have a moment they will never forget.  I have been lucky to be up front at many of these election moments over the years, but nothing compares to the sights and sounds of President H. W. Bush arriving on the train to greet the people.  Being a lover of history this was a moment that made time seem to move backward as the loud engine and sharp whistle brought a President to that little depot.  I had at times wondered if my folks thought my involvement in politics was worth the time and energy which I had put into it.  But that day as I watched their  faces I had my answer.  This had impressed them!  

At about 5:00 P.M. off in the distance, the lonesome sound of the train was heard and the crowd exploded with cheers.  As the big locomotive brought the long line of train cars into the depot the President and his family were waving and ready to embrace the folks who were friendly in spite of the national mood.  The crowd was highly partisan, as it should be, for such an occasion.  I was mesmerized by the historical and grand moment that this old-fashioned campaign rally had generated.  Nothing will ever surpass that event.

While my nephew Troy and I had actually shaken hands with both President Bush and Barbara in Waukesha that summer at another rally at the rope line up front (where Bush was also talking of winning like Truman) we were not so lucky in Plover.  But it did not matter as we all walked away after that wonderful afternoon to find a small restaurant to eat and un-thaw at for a while.  We had all witnessed something that is left to the history books, and nostalgic memories of those who lived the 1948 campaign and saw trains used in national campaigns.

Humphrey’s History Videos: Two Presidents, One National Radio Address

Why did President Harry Truman and former President Herbert Hoover team up for a national broadcast?

Three Hundredth Press Conference

I happened to be reading today about the final months of President Harry Truman’s time in the White House and stumbled on the fact he gave his 300th press conference in April 1952.

It also just so happened I posted my desire earlier today for Hillary Clinton to allow journalists covering her to have just one press conference this year prior to the election.  (And I am a supporter of hers for the White House!)

I always say history needs to be our guide.

But obviously not everyone agrees.

Trivia: Harry Truman’s Erectile Dysfunction

From President Kennedy’s White House tapes, that the general public will now be able to hear, comes this tidbit.

I can hear–as I type this post–my Mom asking (as she often did when I read some odd yet interesting article from history, and then shared it) “do we really need to know that”?  She was not talking about me personally sharing what I had just read or heard, but had a larger view that historians came to learn too much about “everything”.  She just thought some things should remain private about our leaders.

Even as a young person I was curious to know more–as much as the historians could uncover and analyze.

These Kennedy tapes are going to be fascinating to hear.  Many of them have been used for years by scholars and historians.  Now the general public will have their turn.

The tapes reveal that Kennedy talked several times with his predecessors about pressing issues of the day, including with Dwight D. Eisenhower about the Cuban missile crisis. But one conversation with Harry S. Truman veered in a surprisingly personal direction as they wrapped up a call in July 1963.       

“Well, you sound in good shape,” Kennedy said.       

“All right,” Truman replied. “The only trouble with me is that, the main difficulty I have, is keeping the wife satisfied.” Both men laughed.       

“Well, that’s all right,” Kennedy said.       

“Well, you know how that is,” Truman went on. “She’s very much afraid I’m going to hurt myself. Even though I’m not. She’s a tough bird.”       

Mr. Widmer, the historian, said he believed that Truman was talking about erectile dysfunction. “I wanted the book to have human moments,” he said.