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.)

President Biden Addresses “Battle For The Soul Of Nation”

It was a national address from a President of the United States that the citizenry needed not only to hear but to heed.  While the three main networks did not air the speech the gravitas of the message from Philadelphia was one that echoed from the Founding Fathers about political passions that are not tempered with reason and dangerous autocratic behavior not bridled by citizens.

President Biden spoke from Independence Hall Thursday evening to give a stern warning to the nation about our national democratic values being flagrantly assaulted and undermined by forces of extremism who kneel to Donald Trump. Biden did not mix words when he stated the issue that we face.  This is, he told us, a “battle for the soul of this nation.”

The message is one that the majority of this nation has been aware of since the years when Trump sat in the Oval Office and especially since the end of Election Day in November 2020.  We watched with dread and revulsion as the seditious actions played out at our nation’s Capital on January 6th and since then as Trump deliberately and aggressively has poked and stoked his followers who are easily led to the point they will even aid in the undermining of our nation.   Those followers are willing to add their voices as election deniers and some even have lowered themselves to the point they now call for violence to be unleashed in this country.

So it is readily understood with the facts we have seen play out that Biden was correct when stating Thursday that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.”

The others in the nation who have embraced reading and understanding our national story could connect and agree with the historical truth when Biden talked about the “extraordinary experiment of self-government” represented by the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, saying that “history tells us a blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.” The Federalist Papers which were taught in high school, and more deeply studied in college alerted many Americans to the dangers the Founders urged us to avoid.

I have advocated for years our nation required a president to undertake the role, though some might think it old-fashioned, of a leader who will stand on the stage and preach the values of democracy.  The efforts of reducing and outright removing liberal democracy around the world have been underway for decades. Autocrats prattle about how democracy is not the way for nations to grow and prosper. Actions from Hungary to Brazil have left many worldwide rightly concerned about the condition of democracy. China has challenged democratic tendencies in places like Hong Kong, while we know all too well that Russia will do anything for wistful memories of an empire.  That battle for democracy is also taking place in the United States.  Right in front of eyes.  The seriousness of the matter makes headlines daily as democracy versus dictatorship, freedom versus authoritarianism plays and we must be engaged as citizens to defend the core ideals handed to us by the Founders.

Our Founding Fathers envisioned several examples of possible dangerous behavior to democracy and placed solutions to them within the Constitution. But they simply could not have fathomed the degree of partisanship and even outright sedition and treason currently running through some parts of the Republican Party. Partisanship is so deep and corrosive that it would harm the nation itself.

It is truly concerning for the politics of our time, and for the very nature of democracy itself, that a rather staggering number of Trump’s most vociferous, foul, and unbalanced followers are proving to be violent and hostile. Conservatives have willingly traded away their credibility by allowing the Republican Party to be hijacked by Trump. Today, no actual conservative party policy idea can surface as the saturation of crazy has dominated every aspect of the GOP. There is no oxygen in the room to talk about ideas as there is a past election outcome to excoriate.

So, it was most appropriate, in fact necessary, that Biden called out last evening the vilest of the Trump base who have seized hold of one of America’s two great political parties.  That element celebrates the violent mob that stormed the Capitol in hopes of overturning an election.  That is what the weak-minded in the nation have opted to do with the ideals and hopes of our Founding Fathers.   As I watched the 24-minute speech it dawned on me how remarkable this moment in our history is, as first, a president has never needed to call out the opposing party for their desire to strangle democracy. But secondly, there has never been a time in the 45 years (since age 15) of my reading American history where that was required. Biden stated it precisely as our nation needed to hear it. “You can’t love your country only when you win”.

President Biden Keeps Promise About Student Loan Forgiveness

Finally, after years and years of pressing the issue in election after election, action has now been taken on student loan forgiveness. College and university loans now account for more than 40% of outstanding consumer debt in the U.S., outpacing the amounts owed on motor vehicle loans, for example, by more than $477 billion. Ponder that fact for a moment.

I have argued since (what year is this?) that our economy is hampered by the millions of people redirecting income towards student loan payments rather than doing what works best in a consumer-driven economy. The fact is if someone is struggling to pay off their student loans, they are not buying things that workers are making in factories or assembly lines. The tax revenue from such transactions is lost.

We know education is a great investment for the future of the nation, and it should be viewed as a most valued commodity. I very much disagreed with shackling the ones who have the ability to learn and then turn their knowledge into ideas for the betterment of society, with lifetime financial burdens.

So I very much applaud President Biden for directing the Education Department to forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt for nearly all U.S. borrowers, an unprecedented decision that will affect millions of borrowers with immediate financial relief. This action will now forgive $10,000 for every federal student loan borrower who earns less than $125,000 annually. The administration is also canceling up to $20,000 for those student borrowers who received Pell Grants, applying the same income cap.

Here’s what the plan includes.

$10,000 in debt forgiveness for all federal borrowers…Federal borrowers who earn less than $125,000 and did not receive a Pell Grant will be eligible to have $10,000 of their student loan balances forgiven. This will likely eliminate the balances of at least 15 million borrowers.

$20,000 debt reduction for Pell Grant recipients…Millions of borrowers who received Pell Grants during college and meet the administration’s income requirements will see 20,000 removed from their balances. Data shows around 7 million students receive Pell Grants each year.

Extends pandemic-related pause on student loan payments…The administration is also extending the federal moratorium on student loan payments for a sixth and final time. Payments will resume in January 2023, concluding the pause which has spanned more than two years and two administrations.

While I advocated for the move taken by the Biden White House for a portion of loans to be canceled, I still hold very much to the realization that incentivizing education by having students pay a share of the burden makes sense. When personal effort is required to gain an education a more strict adherence to the books results.

When some voters feel a resume is to be snickered at and expertise is not something to be valued we need to be reminded of what took Americans to the moon. It was not just rocket thrust, but the science and technology that allowed our flag to be placed on the moon. That effort was made possible by students first sitting in a classroom and learning.

In late 2021 a shocking amount of money was spent on our national defense. The House passed an authorization bill costing $768 billion. Certainly then, a person in middle America should feel the federal government can lessen the student loan burden by $10,000. It can be correctly argued that a keen mind and skills learned are as valuable to a democracy as a missile.

Thanks go to President Biden and his administration for this outcome today.

President Biden Correct About Flag Issue In East Jerusalem

The Middle East trip by President Biden has included a conversation about a wide range of hot-button issues from the threat posed by Iran, global economic pressures from oil production quotas, and the need for movement among the different parties in the quest for Palestinian rights and security safeguards in a volatile area of the world.

It is a good week for the United States when our president can present the issues as the topic of the day, rather than being the topic of the day. It is good to have gravitas not only in the Oval Office and also when presented on the world stage.

Not only do the weighty conversations matter on such trips, or the policy moves and offers of assistance but so do the smaller messages and actions a president takes. The leader of the free world is not a trite phrase that no longer has meaning. The American president matters. That is why a serious person needs to always hold the office.

It was most appropriate, therefore, for the presidential motorcade, when entering East Jerusalem, to no longer bear the Israeli flags. Israeli sovereignty in the entirety of the city will need to be addressed if any meaningful and long-lasting peace accord is ever to be finalized between the two sides. While Israel has long enjoyed the land it seizes, does not mean the military conquests and occupations are geopolitically the best outcome for all the people in the region.

That Israel is not a fair player in the region has long been noted on this blog. The Biden administration has sought from the first days of the administration a reopening of the US consulate to the Palestinians. That office was previously located in western Jerusalem, but as is so typical of Isreal they have utterly refused to authorize the reopening. Diplomatic moves and creating structures for dialogue would further demand accountability from Israel, and that would be so much harder than just shooting and killing a journalist and continually undermining the dignity of the Palestinian people.

Israel, with its military might, has forgotten a truism about global affairs. Without a legitimate political process, there will be no peace. The simple, but meaningful act by President Biden of removing the Israeli flag when entering East Jerusalem underscores that fact.

Inflation Is A Problem, But Not Caused By White House

Anytime there are economic pains felt across the nation the attempt to pin the blame on the occupant of the White House is the first action taken by the party out of power. Politically, I totally understand that phenomenon. Except in a few cases, however, that is not a logical way to view the factors that move the economy.

One instance of cause and effect between a president being reckless and the economic downturn which followed was in the 19th century. In 1832, Andrew Jackson ordered the withdrawal of federal government funds from the Bank of the United States, an institution he railed about and carped on endlessly. His actions are noted for what resulted during the Panic of 1837.

The consequences of the international implosion of so many aspects of numerous economies due to the pandemic were always going to be followed by some degree of inflation. Just based on the struggle to align all the parts of the supply and demand sectors would doubtless prove problematic. Regardless of who ruled in China, Germany, or Washington.

In the newspaper today a few solid paragraphs written by Josh Boak of Associated Press put some logic to the larger issue of inflation angst.

Consumers account for most U.S. economic activity, meaning they steer much of what happens with their collective choices. Their role tends to get overlooked in political speeches, which generally reduce the economy to talk about jobs, factories and other forms of production. Biden has gone so far as to say that his policies to promote port upgrades and domestic manufacturing will lower costs by improving production, a long-term fix to an immediate problem that can be reduced, simply, to demand exceeding supply.

“Fundamentally, the problem right now is the opposite of stagflation — it’s regular inflation driven by an economy operating at or even above its potential, with consumer demand outstripping the capacity of the economy,” Stevenson said. “I’m hoping that people stop digging into their savings and cut spending a little — not enough to slow the economy, but enough to slow the price increases.”

Stevenson also acknowledged that gas prices in particular might be driving the broader dissatisfaction, such that overall inflation could fall and do little to calm public anxieties so long as prices at the pump are high.

“Cars seem to be important to people’s sense of control and high gas prices for some might feel like losing your ability to just hop in your car and go where you want,” she said.

Despite the spike in prices, consumer spending increased faster than inflation during the first four months of this year. Whether consumers can maintain such robust spending will largely determine how the economy fares in the coming months.

I do not expect anything other than the continued political heat about inflation right through the midterm elections. Yes, if the GOP were in power the Democratic pols would be singing the tune the GOP now is using in races nationwide. None of that is shocking.

But it does underscore what I preach with frequency. Along with civics and history, our nation needs more time spent on economics education, too.

NATO Proves Why Intelligent Leadership In White House Matters

One of the driving reasons for my support of Joe Biden for president in 2020 was the requirement of our nation to again lead the world community. I was alarmed at the willful undermining of international alliances during the Donald Trump administration. Decades of work and cooperation that buttressed America’s needs and created working relationships for international order were at stake.

It has almost been a whiplash period between the narcissistic threat from Trump in 2018 about the United States withdrawing from NATO to the recent barbaric atrocities being committed by Russian President Putin in Ukraine. From Trump telling his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, to the news this past week that Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, is “highly likely” to join NATO.

Clearly, even Trump can now see the value and purpose of the military alliance. Even if it is being used with a high degree of success against the one person he can never say a cross word about.

It is hard not to smile about Russia’s disdain for having NATO members on its borders. If they thought they were being hemmed in prior to the genocide in Ukraine, they will really feel the squeeze should Finland and Sweden pursue the option of membership in the alliance.

Given the rash actions from Russia, and utter disregard for international law and norms there is every reason to consider that Sweden’s famous political neutrality could end up being, well, not so neutral. Today, neither Finland nor Sweden is considered to be in immediate military danger. But one does not make alliances for the present conditions, but rather bonds together and looks ahead to the potential dangers of the future.

Russia has a history of addiction to conquest and savagery. The Ukraine invasion, however, has proved thus far, the limits concerning the whims of an autocrat. Putin has made a colossal mistake. Instead of weakening NATO, Putin has actually strengthened his foe.

Autocrats prattle about how democracy is not the way for nations to grow and prosper. Actions from Hungary to Brazil have left many worldwide rightly concerned about the condition of democracy. China has challenged democratic tendencies in places like Hong Kong, while we know all too well that Russia will do anything for wistful memories of an empire.

Meanwhile, many others in the world are finding a new resolve to adhere to alliances and the values of freedom. Those matters are not relics. The fact that only a few years ago some were even willing to let NATO drift and flounder is proof why having a delusional and populist-nationalist in the White House is not only bad for America, but also the world.

And so it goes.

President Biden Said What World Knows To Be True: Democracy Matters

President Biden addressed the 800-pond gorilla sitting in the international living room this weekend. While he was talking about Russian aggression against Ukraine, and spoke most candidly (and correctly) about the future of President Putin, it was his clarion call for democracy that rightly stirred people worldwide.

The last point is one I have persistently addressed over the years. The United States must reassert itself not only with our military and economic might, but also with our ideals.

(Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

We sometimes take for granted the role of a president, regardless of which party holds the office. It seems old-fashioned, perhaps, for younger generations to see our leader stand on the world stage and preach the values of democracy. But this weekend, on every television screen around the globe our President was seen speaking about the serious worldwide battle of democracy versus dictatorship, freedom versus authoritarianism, and human rights versus oppression.

(Somewhere Allen Drury is surely smiling.)

There was no way not to be pleased and reassured over the past days as Biden traveled to Europe and proved the value of again having a truly powerful and passionate champion of democracy speaking for the global community. It does feel good, even in these truly horrible weeks as Ukraine has been invaded, to see our nation in a leadership role.

Biden made the point learned from history.

….Ten years later, the Soviet Union collapsed and Poland and Central and Eastern Europe would soon be free. Nothing about that battle for freedom was simple or easy. It was a long, painful slog. Fought over not days and months but years and decades. But we emerged anew in the great battle for freedom. A battle between democracy and autocracy. Between liberty and repression. Between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force. In this battle, we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days or months either. We need to steel ourselves of a long fight ahead.

Autocrats prattle about how democracy is not the way for nations to grow and prosper. Actions from Hungary to Brazil have left many worldwide rightly concerned about the condition of democracy. China has challenged democratic tendencies in places like Hong Kong, while we know all too well that Russia will do anything for wistful memories of an empire.

Meanwhile, many others in the world are finding a new resolve to adhere to alliances and the values of freedom. So those matters are not relics, to be left gathering dust? Was it not only a few years ago some were even willing to let NATO drift and flounder?

The world looks at the bottom line and knows the value of free markets where the United States and Europe, combined, have $40 trillion of GDP as opposed to Russia eking out just over $1 trillion in GDP. The data shows the power of working democracies.

When watching Biden on Saturday, I will readily admit, to some goosebumps as his words struck historic themes and also again demonstrated the role I have so long wanted my country to take. I firmly believe in an internationalist mindset where we connect with other countries to foster united solutions. The firming up of our international institutions is imperative. And our resolve to demonstrate an ability to be the leader of the world is without question the first priority.

I have continually stated our nation can meet the test of democracy around the world if we meet the challenges with leadership and intellect.  We did that very thing this weekend.

In my own country, a former president named Abraham Lincoln voiced the opposing spirit to save our union in the midst of the Civil War. He said let us have faith that right makes might. Right makes might. Today, let us have that faith again. [Applause] Let us resolve to put the strength of democracies into action to thwart the designs of autocracy.

And finally, most urgently, we maintain absolute unity, we must, among the world’s democracies. It’s not enough to speak with rhetorical flourish of ennobling words of democracy, of freedom, of quality, and liberty. All of us, including here in Poland, must do the hard work of democracy each and every day — my country as well. That’s why [applause], that’s why I came to Europe again this week with a clear and determined message for NATO, for the G7, for the European Union, for all freedom-loving nations — we must commit now to be in this fight for the long haul. We must remain unified today and tomorrow and the day after. And for the years and decades to come. It will not be easy. There will be costs. But it is a price we have to pay because the darkness that drives autocracy is ultimately no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere.

And so it goes.

Biden Jumps Up In Poll With Rally-Around-The Ukrainian Flag Sentiment

There is good news to report. And two reasons we can find an uplift with the same evidence from the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

First, there is a foundation of resolve within the American public to stand with Ukraine, and take some of the blowbacks from economic pain that must be placed on Russia. Second, President Biden is showing leadership that resonates with the nation.

Last week, an hour after President Biden’s SOTU I wrote, Though the colors of the flag being rallied around are yellow and blue, Biden is surely hoping the effect will benefit his administration.

Polling data shows that to be the case.

Here’s a look at some of the Marist numbers:

  • Overall approval rating jumped to 47%up 8 points from the NPR poll last month. Presidents don’t generally see much, if any bounce, out of a State of the Union address. Since 1978, there had only been six times when a president saw an approval rating improve 4 points or more following State of the Union addresses. Three of those bounces were for former President Bill Clinton.
  • Ukraine handling is up 18 points to 52%.
  • Coronavirus pandemic handling is now 55%, up 8 points.
  • Economic handling up 8 points to 45%.

Now, as to why these numbers matter.

First, as a decades-long admirer and supporter of Joe Biden, I want to see him succeed in the Oval Office. While no presidency is easy, the array of issues and pitfalls that awaited Biden due to the previous four years of unmitigated disaster and chaos made for an all-uphill climb. No matter which Democratic candidate had entered office in January 2021 they would have been severely tested.

Biden’s desktop had myriad issues to deal with, all at once. From pressing for coherent and much-needed COVID policies, pushing forward with a national and-oh-so-vital infrastructure bill, removing our footprint in Afghanistan, while working to reassure alliances and international organizations that America is not becoming isolationist. (Recall Donald Trump continually demeaning and undermining NATO.)

Then two weeks ago came the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation. There is no nuanced way to view this war started by Russian President Putin. This is an international disaster. A true issue of up-and-down, black and white, good and evil.

And the polling data shows the American public understands the gravity of the matter. This is something I applaud but did not necessarily take for granted, due to the less than thoughtful way much of the public has handled policy issues since 2015.

I am very pleased that this poll, along with others shows the American public does understand we will need to do more to support Ukraine. A Quinnipiac poll last week found that 45% of Americans in the days following the barbaric invasion of Ukraine felt the U.S. was doing too little to help the besieged nation.

The Marist poll had data to show what must be continued among the electorate moving forward.

Data shows 83% of Americans support the economic sanctions imposed against Russia by the United States and its allies. The poll also underscores Americans are willing to make sacrifices in support of Ukraine. 69% of Americans, including 58% of Republicans, say they support economic sanctions against Russia even if it results in higher energy prices in the United States.

Last week I posted my analysis following President Biden’s SOTU. This is what I wrote.

Biden has not only the responsibility of leadership on his shoulders but also the opportunity for this moment to make the man. Biden is meeting his moment with history, and if history is a guide the public will respond. CBS polling before the speech showed Ukraine was the number one issue Americans wanted to hear Biden address. That topic was ahead of both inflation and COVID.

How and why Ukraine matters to the nation is what Biden excelled at in his national address. Not only energy prices and NATO are at stake, but also the values surrounding democracy.

The brutality from Putin, the military along with day-to-day living needs of Ukraine, and the testing of democratic institutions and governments are all matters that are vital for this moment and our future. President Biden is using the powers of his office to work with international players, foster ways to limit economic stresses at home, and defeat the dangerous madman who works to snuff out a democratic Ukraine.

The poll shows what leadership can accomplish abroad, and at home.

And so it goes.