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Dr. James Hilty is the local expert – Who were the best and the worst presidents of the U.S.?
Chestnut Hill Local ^ | March 13, 2014 | Lou Mancinelli

Posted on 03/18/2014 12:04:23 PM PDT by Phillyred

Time and perspective. That is what it takes to judge the true value of a presidency, according to author, historian and former dean of Temple University Ambler, Dr. James Hilty. The best and worst presidents to serve the U.S. was the subject of a talk Hilty, a 74-year-old Blue Bell resident, was scheduled to deliver in Lower Gwynedd the week leading up to Presidents’ Day, but it has been rescheduled for next November due to the weather. While the talk was canceled, the Local did a telephone interview with Hilty. Celebrated this year on Feb. 17, the term Presidents’ Day began to appear widely by the mid-1980s, with a push from advertisers. “It was basically a way for advertisers to dress [someone] up as Washington or Lincoln and sell more cars,” said Hilty. A highly respected presidential historian with particular expertise on the Kennedy family, his publications include “Robert Kennedy: Brother Protector” (1998); “The Kennedy Administration” in Presidential Administration Profiles, (1999); “John Fitzgerald Kennedy” and “Robert Francis Kennedy,” Historic World Leaders (1994); and “John F. Kennedy: an Idealist without Illusions” (1975). He has also written widely about Harry S Truman and Bill Clinton and such topics as the JFK assassination, recent presidential elections, the Clinton impeachment and presidential leadership. He also serves as a consultant on American politics for national and local media. According to Hilty, James Buchanan, the 15th U.S. president (1857-1861), is commonly regarded as the worst president in our history. Buchanan, a bachelor from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was followed by Lincoln, generally considered the nation’s finest president. Lincoln inherited a nation in which seven states had already seceded when he took over as president in 1861, the same year the Civil War started. Washington guided a nation in transition from being ruled by the king’s authority to a republic on the heels of a revolution. FDR first entered office in 1933 amidst the heart of the Great Depression. Those at the bottom — James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and William Harding — all failed to act decisively when the country needed their leadership, or else their actions proved ineffective. Harding drank whiskey in the White House during Prohibition and left behind an administration doused in corruption. These examples are obvious. On the other hand, when Dwight Eisenhower left the office after two terms in 1961, his presidential rankings scored near the bottom. Now, though, according to Hilty, there has been a reassessment among many historians, and Eisenhower is commonly ranked among the top 10. The same applies to President Harry S. Truman, Hilty’s favorite. When he left office, it was with a 23 percent approval rating. But 15 years later, both Republicans and Democrats, according to Hilty, agreed that Truman had taken decisive and important effective action. He’s sometimes now considered in the top 10. He ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He demanded unconditional surrender from the Japanese and Germans. He decided America would help finance Europe’s reconstruction after the war. With the impact a presidency contributes to the consciousness of a nation, perhaps it is strange to reflect upon the commercial nature that walks hand in hand with the creation of Presidents’ Day. As far back as the 1860s, different states observed the birthdays of presidents for different reasons. Pennsylvania celebrated Washington’s birthday on Feb. 12 and Lincoln’s on Feb. 22. But Alabama never observed Lincoln’s birthday. Instead it honored Thomas Jefferson’s on April 13. A congressional delegation in 1879 first declared Washington’s birthday a holiday in Washington D.C. and expanded it into federal law in 1885. In 1971 President Nixon signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act setting most federal holidays on Mondays except New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July and Christmas. Congressional debates on the Uniform Monday Holiday Act stressed the commercial, retail importance of Monday holidays and their convenience for businesses and schools. “And so,” said Hilty, “for the last four decades we’ve all seen those many dreadful caricatures of Washington and Lincoln paraded before us as we’ve been urged to buy a Toyota, Ford … whatever, as part of our patriotic duty. Presidents’ Day sales start sometime after New Year’s Day and continue until Easter.” So while it may have been created with commercial interests, nevertheless Presidents’ Day can be the time to reflect about who has served the country and how. Hilty’s interest in the field grew out of his wanting to learn about how power worked. Historians have ranked presidents since Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. first organized a group of historians and political scientists to analyze the issue in 1948. For his role, Hilty studied history at Ohio State University after service in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962. He finished college on the Vietnam War GI Bill and received his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1973. He taught at Temple for 41 years, as well as other institutions. “You can’t be a great president just by simply exerting power,” said Hilty, a regular speaker on NPR and other programs. “The great presidents had the ability to persuade.” Other didn’t. Once time has passed and George W. Bush’s presidency can be analyzed with perspective, how will it be considered? His approval ratings sank to 25 percent, according to a Gallup Poll in November, 2008, at the end of his second term. But years earlier, his ratings soared to their peak at 90 percent in late September, 2001, after the World Trade Center attacks. For Hilty, and other historians, that represents a time in history when Bush had the opportunity to unify the country. Instead, by the time he departed, Bush left behind a divided legislature and a divided voter base. In that sense, Bush now ranks around number 38 of 43, according to Hilty. The consensus now is that he failed. Regarding Barack Obama, he adopted the War on Terror and is still carrying on the nation’s longest war in Afghanistan. He also inherited The Great Recession, the nation’s largest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The stage is set, therefore for Obama to be a president with the possibility of rising to greatness. “The question is,” said Hilty, “will anyone give him credit?” Hilty and his wife, Kathleen Griffin-Hilty, were married in 1979. They have three children and six grandchildren. Hilty can be reached at jhilty@temple.edu.


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 03/18/2014 12:04:23 PM PDT by Phillyred
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To: Phillyred

Sorry for the word wall!


2 posted on 03/18/2014 12:05:04 PM PDT by Phillyred
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To: Phillyred
Time and perspective.

That is what it takes to judge the true value of a presidency, according to author, historian and former dean of Temple University Ambler, Dr. James Hilty.

The best and worst presidents to serve the U.S. was the subject of a talk Hilty, a 74-year-old Blue Bell resident, was scheduled to deliver in Lower Gwynedd the week leading up to Presidents’ Day, but it has been rescheduled for next November due to the weather. While the talk was canceled, the Local did a telephone interview with Hilty. Celebrated this year on Feb. 17, the term Presidents’ Day began to appear widely by the mid-1980s, with a push from advertisers. “It was basically a way for advertisers to dress [someone] up as Washington or Lincoln and sell more cars,” said Hilty.

A highly respected presidential historian with particular expertise on the Kennedy family, his publications include “Robert Kennedy: Brother Protector” (1998); “The Kennedy Administration” in Presidential Administration Profiles, (1999); “John Fitzgerald Kennedy” and “Robert Francis Kennedy,” Historic World Leaders (1994); and “John F. Kennedy: an Idealist without Illusions” (1975). He has also written widely about Harry S Truman and Bill Clinton and such topics as the JFK assassination, recent presidential elections, the Clinton impeachment and presidential leadership. He also serves as a consultant on American politics for national and local media.

According to Hilty, James Buchanan, the 15th U.S. president (1857-1861), is commonly regarded as the worst president in our history. Buchanan, a bachelor from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was followed by Lincoln, generally considered the nation’s finest president. Lincoln inherited a nation in which seven states had already seceded when he took over as president in 1861, the same year the Civil War started.

Washington guided a nation in transition from being ruled by the king’s authority to a republic on the heels of a revolution.

FDR first entered office in 1933 amidst the heart of the Great Depression.

Those at the bottom — James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and William Harding — all failed to act decisively when the country needed their leadership, or else their actions proved ineffective. Harding drank whiskey in the White House during Prohibition and left behind an administration doused in corruption.

These examples are obvious. On the other hand, when Dwight Eisenhower left the office after two terms in 1961, his presidential rankings scored near the bottom. Now, though, according to Hilty, there has been a reassessment among many historians, and Eisenhower is commonly ranked among the top 10.

The same applies to President Harry S. Truman, Hilty’s favorite. When he left office, it was with a 23 percent approval rating. But 15 years later, both Republicans and Democrats, according to Hilty, agreed that Truman had taken decisive and important effective action. He’s sometimes now considered in the top 10. He ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He demanded unconditional surrender from the Japanese and Germans. He decided America would help finance Europe’s reconstruction after the war.

With the impact a presidency contributes to the consciousness of a nation, perhaps it is strange to reflect upon the commercial nature that walks hand in hand with the creation of Presidents’ Day. As far back as the 1860s, different states observed the birthdays of presidents for different reasons. Pennsylvania celebrated Washington’s birthday on Feb. 12 and Lincoln’s on Feb. 22. But Alabama never observed Lincoln’s birthday. Instead it honored Thomas Jefferson’s on April 13.

A congressional delegation in 1879 first declared Washington’s birthday a holiday in Washington D.C. and expanded it into federal law in 1885. In 1971 President Nixon signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act setting most federal holidays on Mondays except New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July and Christmas. Congressional debates on the Uniform Monday Holiday Act stressed the commercial, retail importance of Monday holidays and their convenience for businesses and schools. “And so,” said Hilty, “for the last four decades we’ve all seen those many dreadful caricatures of Washington and Lincoln paraded before us as we’ve been urged to buy a Toyota, Ford … whatever, as part of our patriotic duty.

Presidents’ Day sales start sometime after New Year’s Day and continue until Easter.” So while it may have been created with commercial interests, nevertheless Presidents’ Day can be the time to reflect about who has served the country and how. Hilty’s interest in the field grew out of his wanting to learn about how power worked.

Historians have ranked presidents since Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. first organized a group of historians and political scientists to analyze the issue in 1948.

For his role, Hilty studied history at Ohio State University after service in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962. He finished college on the Vietnam War GI Bill and received his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1973. He taught at Temple for 41 years, as well as other institutions. “You can’t be a great president just by simply exerting power,” said Hilty, a regular speaker on NPR and other programs. “The great presidents had the ability to persuade.”

Other didn’t. Once time has passed and George W. Bush’s presidency can be analyzed with perspective, how will it be considered? His approval ratings sank to 25 percent, according to a Gallup Poll in November, 2008, at the end of his second term. But years earlier, his ratings soared to their peak at 90 percent in late September, 2001, after the World Trade Center attacks. For Hilty, and other historians, that represents a time in history when Bush had the opportunity to unify the country. Instead, by the time he departed, Bush left behind a divided legislature and a divided voter base. In that sense, Bush now ranks around number 38 of 43, according to Hilty. The consensus now is that he failed. Regarding

Barack Obama, he adopted the War on Terror and is still carrying on the nation’s longest war in Afghanistan. He also inherited The Great Recession, the nation’s largest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The stage is set, therefore for Obama to be a president with the possibility of rising to greatness. “The question is,” said Hilty, “will anyone give him credit?”

Hilty and his wife, Kathleen Griffin-Hilty, were married in 1979. They have three children and six grandchildren. Hilty can be reached at jhilty@temple.edu.

3 posted on 03/18/2014 12:09:14 PM PDT by Steely Tom (How do you feel about robbing Peter's robot?)
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To: Phillyred
Sorry for the word wall!

Apology accepted. Your penance will be to clean out my in-box. ;o)

4 posted on 03/18/2014 12:09:31 PM PDT by Tenacious 1 (My whimsical litany of satyric prose and avarice pontification of wisdom demonstrates my concinnity.)
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To: Phillyred

“...The stage is set, therefore for Obama to be a president with the possibility of rising to greatness. “The question is,” said Hilty, “will anyone give him credit?”...”
*******************************************************************

Oh gag me with a spoon. Putin & Islamists world-wide will certainly give Obama whatever credit the good professor and Obama would want.


5 posted on 03/18/2014 12:09:51 PM PDT by House Atreides
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To: Phillyred

Obama take the grand prize.


6 posted on 03/18/2014 12:11:31 PM PDT by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: Phillyred
He also inherited The Great Recession,

The inheritence was one that he, himself help create. Did this "professor" put that into his calculus?

7 posted on 03/18/2014 12:12:53 PM PDT by rjsimmon (The Tree of Liberty Thirsts)
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To: Phillyred

He sounds liberal biased to me, but, I never heard of this person.


8 posted on 03/18/2014 12:13:55 PM PDT by TEARUNNER14 (While the U.S.A. burns to ashes, Obero eats grapes and play the violin in hiding.)
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To: Phillyred
Obama makes Carter look like Winston Churchill.

9 posted on 03/18/2014 12:15:23 PM PDT by dainbramaged (Don't tell me, I'll tell you.)
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To: Phillyred
Harding drank whiskey in the White House during Prohibition and left behind an administration doused in corruption.

Just change a few words ... an example:

Obama Harding remained a member of the choom gang drank whiskey in the White House during Prohibition Benghazi and left behind an administration doused in corruption.

10 posted on 03/18/2014 12:16:17 PM PDT by Qiviut (It's hard to be a donk if you're sane & it's hard to be a pubbie if you have any integrity.)
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To: Phillyred

“He demanded unconditional surrender from the Japanese and Germans.”

Oops! Except that he let the emperor remain! Unconditional my backside!


11 posted on 03/18/2014 12:16:21 PM PDT by spel_grammer_an_punct_polise (What we need is to sucker the fedthugs into a "Tiananmen Square"-like incident on the National Mall!)
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To: Phillyred
This the Editor speaking. Investigate paragraph usage in your Warriner's Handbook.

Harding inherited a lousy economy, and turned it around. OK, he was a bit of an idiot, liked girls, and drank. However, compared to The Mombasa MF, the man was an Einstein.

Obama drinks, dopes, likes boys, and has idiotically prolonged The Recession. How come he ain't on this twerp's list?

12 posted on 03/18/2014 12:16:48 PM PDT by Kenny Bunk ( The Republican Party is very sick . Hold all contributions until we see who picks up the patient..)
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To: Phillyred
Regarding Barack Obama, he adopted the War on Terror and is still carrying on the nation’s longest war in Afghanistan. He also inherited The Great Recession, the nation’s largest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The stage is set, therefore for Obama to be a president with the possibility of rising to greatness. “The question is,” said Hilty, “will anyone give him credit?”

The possibility of rising to greatness ???

This guy not only drank the Kool-Aid, he made it ...

13 posted on 03/18/2014 12:20:34 PM PDT by Lmo56 (If ya wanna run with the big dawgs - ya gotta learn to piss in the tall grass ...)
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To: Tenacious 1

Warren G. Harding, not William Harding


14 posted on 03/18/2014 12:46:35 PM PDT by armydawg505
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To: Phillyred

His politics shines through, Bush that far down, Obama possibly a great President, even in the face of impending disaster in Europe and the CF of Obamacare. The article is very poorly written and very hard to follow as well.


15 posted on 03/18/2014 12:50:23 PM PDT by armydawg505
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To: Phillyred

He got Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays turned around.


16 posted on 03/18/2014 1:08:27 PM PDT by o-n-money (ned)
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To: rjsimmon

The Great Recession did not become that until it was clear he was coming into office.


17 posted on 03/18/2014 1:28:23 PM PDT by steve8714
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To: armydawg505

While he might be a good man and a fine Christian, GWB was an unmitigated disaster as President. He “patriotically” got us into two wars that no one intended to win, and devoid of exit strategies.

He sat idly by while democrats in Congress set up the economic disaster the befell us in 2008. He sounded like a complete moron in half of the speeches he gave, which was my first inkling that he didn’t have the right stuff to be president in the first place, but was just the lesser of two evils, and he certainly was that.

I can’t stand the democrats blaming Bush for everything they’ve further messed up, but they’ve got a point.


18 posted on 03/18/2014 1:56:12 PM PDT by Carl from Marietta
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To: Phillyred

POLL RATES BARACK OBAMA 6th BEST PRESIDENT IN OUR HISTORY

#1. George Washington came in first

#2. Ronald Reagan came in second

#3. Thomas Jefferson and nine others tied for third

#4. Thirty other presidents tied for fourth

#5. Jimmy Carter came in fifth

#6. Obama came in sixth

* Barack Obama is considered to be the 44th president
but only 43 different men have served as president.
Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms.


19 posted on 03/18/2014 2:05:33 PM PDT by Iron Munro (Albert Einstein: The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits)
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To: spel_grammer_an_punct_polise
“He demanded unconditional surrender from the Japanese and Germans.”
Oops! Except that he let the emperor remain! Unconditional my backside!
I found

The New Dealers' War:
FDR and the War Within World War II
by Thomas Fleming

to be a most interesting account of the FDR Administration. One point he made was that FDR and Churchill had a joint news conference after a meeting, and that was where FDR announced the “unconditional surrender demand on Germany.

After the result of the WWI, demand for unconditional surrender was understandably popular in America. But FDR hadn’t talked about that in his meeting with Churchill, and although he said nothing publicly Churchill was appalled. Knowing that it meant fanatical defense by the Germans. It was the best propaganda weapon the Nazis had internally.

You perhaps would have preferred the Japanese to defend their “divine” emperor to the last man? Doesn’t the fact that before the A-bombs dropped, the military had ordered enough purple heart medals that they lasted most of the way through Vietnam mean anything to you?

20 posted on 03/18/2014 2:37:42 PM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion ("Liberalism” is a conspiracy against the public by wire-service journalism.)
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To: Steely Tom

If “The great presidents had the ability to persuade,” Obama will rank dead last among presidents.


21 posted on 03/18/2014 2:43:13 PM PDT by Hootowl
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To: Phillyred

FDR is the worst President. Screwed ours and the world economy, and helped cause WW2. Funny that all the pictures of Hoovervilles were all taken in 1934-1936.

FDR was the one who took over radio, leading to the Dem takeover of TV (same companies), and gave the larger northern cities to the Dems. Chicago’s last Republican Mayor was in 1931.


22 posted on 03/18/2014 2:49:58 PM PDT by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: Hootowl
If “The great presidents had the ability to persuade,” Obama will rank dead last among presidents.

Whatdayamean? He's got a pen, and he's got a telephone.

23 posted on 03/18/2014 2:52:41 PM PDT by Steely Tom (How do you feel about robbing Peter's robot?)
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To: Biggirl

I concur,Obama makes Jimmy Carter look like Attila the Hun.


24 posted on 03/18/2014 2:55:21 PM PDT by managusta (If You Can't Solve A Problem, It's Because You're Playing By The Rules.)
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To: Steely Tom
Thanks to Obama's abysmal performance, we need a change to one of the many bald assertions:

James Buchanan, the 15th U.S. president (1857-1861), is used to be commonly regarded as the worst president in our history.

25 posted on 03/18/2014 3:29:04 PM PDT by Pollster1 ("Shall not be infringed" is unambiguous.)
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To: TEARUNNER14
He sounds liberal biased to me, but, I never heard of this person.

Not much doubt.

A highly respected presidential historian with particular expertise on the Kennedy family, his publications include “Robert Kennedy: Brother Protector” (1998); “The Kennedy Administration” in Presidential Administration Profiles, (1999); “John Fitzgerald Kennedy” and “Robert Francis Kennedy,” Historic World Leaders (1994); and “John F. Kennedy: an Idealist without Illusions” (1975).

"Idealist without illusions"?

26 posted on 03/18/2014 3:40:14 PM PDT by x
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion

“You perhaps would have preferred the Japanese to defend their “divine” emperor to the last man? Doesn’t the fact that before the A-bombs dropped, the military had ordered enough purple heart medals that they lasted most of the way through Vietnam mean anything to you?”

You seem to think that I was/am against the dropping of the atomic bombs. That is not my point. If you want to know my opinion on that then here it is as follows: Atomic bombs should have continued to rain down upon Japan until there was nothing left to rain down upon. The administration held it out to the world that it was ‘unconditional surrender’ when it was not. Letting the emperor in power is not ‘unconditional surrender’.


27 posted on 03/18/2014 5:30:04 PM PDT by spel_grammer_an_punct_polise (What we need is to sucker the fedthugs into a "Tiananmen Square"-like incident on the National Mall!)
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To: Phillyred
"The stage is set, therefore for Obama to be a president with the possibility of rising to greatness. “The question is,” said Hilty, “will anyone give him credit?"

If no post-obama American remains, will it matter?
28 posted on 03/19/2014 5:56:55 AM PDT by clearcarbon
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To: spel_grammer_an_punct_polise
. . . and you know how many A-bombs we actually had after the first two, I suppose . . .

Or maybe you don’t - because the number was a close secret. I think I read many, many years after the war that that number was zero, and that when Truman threatened the use of nukes to forestall Stalin’s invading Iran, that was entirely a bluff.

If that number is correct or very close, the Truman Administration was bluffing Japan as it was - and you are bemoaning the fact that they didn’t push their bluff far enough to suit you.

Actually, the worst thing Truman might have done to Japan at that point might have been - nothing. Nothing except give Japan time to work itself up into an extreme, unsustainable state of alert - and then try to survive for a year with an utterly disrupted national economy. The damage would have at least been comparable to the two A-bombs - and Truman could have had more of them by that time.


29 posted on 03/19/2014 3:46:42 PM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion ("Liberalism” is a conspiracy against the public by wire-service journalism.)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion

“and you are bemoaning the fact that they didn’t push their bluff far enough to suit you.”

Yes, I knew that there were no more atomic bombs.

No, you still do not ‘get’ it. I am not bemoaning the fact that they didn’t push their bluff far enough. What I am saying is that Truman lied to the American people and the world. He said, ‘unconditional surrender’ and it was NOT. There was a ‘condition’ tied to the surrender. The ‘condition’?.....that the emperor stay in power. The emperor should have been arrested, imprisoned, tried, convicted and hung in Tokyo for all to see.


30 posted on 03/19/2014 6:34:46 PM PDT by spel_grammer_an_punct_polise (What we need is to sucker the fedthugs into a "Tiananmen Square"-like incident on the National Mall!)
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To: spel_grammer_an_punct_polise
What I am saying is that Truman lied to the American people and the world. He said, ‘unconditional surrender’ and it was NOT. There was a ‘condition’ tied to the surrender. The ‘condition’?.....that the emperor stay in power.
Everyone knew that the survival/position of the Emperor was in fact a condition - but, as the only condition, it left him as a figurehead only - and figureheads can be very useful. Think, King Herod under the Romans.
The emperor should have been arrested, imprisoned, tried, convicted and hung in Tokyo for all to see.
. . . which would either have required the US to break its word after the fact, or would - again - have meant the continuation of hostilities. We know that the Japanese military almost prevented the surrender even with the “condition” of the retention of the Emperor.
The point about “Unconditional Surrender” was the bitter reflection on what the US military - Pershing, I believe - said about the armistice that “ended” WWI. Namely, that the trouble with stopping the fighting at that point was that although the Germans were defeated, they did not know it and admit it. And that is why WWII came on two decades later, actually as an extension of WWI.

The difference at the end of WWII in Japan was that although they had retained their emperor as a figurehead useful to the US, and could cling to some modicum of self-respect on that account,the Japanese were under US occupation and they knew beyond peradventure that they had been beaten. So, as history shows, nothing close to a reprise of WWII was attempted by Japan. Not twenty years later, and no sign of it seventy years later. Killing the emperor might have been shadenfreude - but it would have been too expensive to attain, and also too expensive in its effects.


31 posted on 03/20/2014 1:42:03 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion ("Liberalism” is a conspiracy against the public by wire-service journalism.)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion

We all have our opinions. A lie is a lie is a lie. A rose by any other name is still a rose.


32 posted on 03/20/2014 10:44:18 AM PDT by spel_grammer_an_punct_polise (What we need is to sucker the fedthugs into a "Tiananmen Square"-like incident on the National Mall!)
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To: Phillyred
Time and perspective. That is what it takes to judge the true value of a presidency.

I agree with that. And I also believe that my opinion that Obama is one of the very worst presidents on our history will stand the test of time.

33 posted on 03/20/2014 10:51:04 AM PDT by DoodleDawg
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