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Monday, February 17, 2014

My Favorite Presidents

February 17, 2014: In the White House cabinet room, it's tradition for the president to pick portraits of his/her presidential heroes.  Four paintings are selected and they normally represent the values, leadership style, and outlook the new president hopes to emulate.

It's likely, I will never get to be president but if I were elected commander-in-chief here are the four portraits I'd select.

Thomas Jefferson:  More than any other president, Thomas Jefferson articulated the values and ideas for which the country hopes to achieve.  When he penned the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson likely couldn't imagine how those words have come to embodied all peoples, all races, all genders, and sexual preferences. But it does not matter, for we are unlikely to imagine how far the value "created equal" will be extended in the future.  The point is that we do our part today to move the debate forward.
Theodore Roosevelt: Like Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt was always looking to the future.  How would the decisions we make today, affect those to follow?  Roosevelt set foreign and domestic policy that still impacts our lives today. However, its his views on conservation that have the most impact upon modern America.  Roosevelt lived at a time when the frontier was closing.  The belief that more resources could always be found over the next hill was coming to an end.  America, like every other country, would have to live within its means, use its limited resources more efficiency and effectively, and finally put some aside for future generations.  Under Roosevelt's leadership the national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges were created laying the foundation for a system of public lands and waters that are the envy of the world.

Harry Truman:  President Truman is the consummate every man. Even as commander in chief, Truman insisted on going on walks off the White House grounds, paying his own bills, and taking his own mail to the post office.  Truman understood the power of the White House and what it meant to be president, but never let that power go to his head.  He knew that while he occupied the oval office, he was president. As soon as his term was over, he would return to private life.  This understanding helped to keep Truman grounded and focused on what was important. 

William Clinton: It might seem strange to have Bill Clinton on this list.  Only the second president to ever be impeached. However, what set Clinton apart from other chief executives is that he both understood and enjoyed the game of politics.  Clinton excelled at knowing what his friends and enemies wanted. He then would do everything in his political power to grant or deny their desire. Clinton bucked conventional wisdom, and avoided compromise as much as possible.  Rather, he focused on moving his agenda forward, by nearly any means necessary.  He wasn't always successful, but he definitely won more battles than he lost.

Who are your favorite presidents?

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Keys to the Northern Civil War Victory

February 9, 2014: The upcoming 205th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War has got many thinking about the war. In particular, much thought has gone into what were the keys to the Northern victory. Popular opinion is the North's victory was inevitable. The Union had more men and materials and simply ground the confederacy down. The South, so this line of thought goes, could not hope to win against such odds.

In researching plot points for my upcoming novel Lost Cause, a thriller set in Civil War battlefields and locations, I read dozens of books, watched hundreds of videos, and attended countless speeches on the Civil War's battlefields, combatants, politics, and economy. This research reveals the Union victory was not predetermined. Nor did the South enter the war believing they were fighting a Lost Cause. Rather, the North won the war due to a combination of better diplomacy, leadership, resource management, innovative battle tactics, and political debate. 

What are your thoughts on the Northern keys to victory?

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