Tag Archives: Presidents

Book Recommendation: Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans

jackson book cover

by Rick Bretz

Before the people voted Andrew Jackson President, he was a lawyer, self-made business man and a commanding officer and general of a United States military unit.   The book “Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans” with the subtitle, “The Battle That Shaped America’s Destiny”  by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager concentrates on a short time period in  Jackson’s career but important to his future nonetheless.  The subtitle concerns the vital geographic New Orleans port and the Mississippi River in that they were both vital to westward expansion.  The outcome went a long way toward the United State’s goal of forging a strong voice in international relations.

This is the third book by the co-authors.  The others, “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates”, and “George Washington’s Secret Six” used the same strategy as this one, zooming in from a satellite’s view of America’s history and the Jackson legacy to give the reader a pinpoint, telescoped examination of an important battle at the end of the War of 1812 with Britain.  These short, 200 or so page books will not give a reader a wide sweeping view of subject but a slice in time or an event important to the United State’s history.  The authors are putting together the history puzzle one piece at a time.

The General

Jackson’s personality and leadership style brought results.  The book shows how Jackson, without any formal training, intuitively understood battle tactics and how to use the terrain to his maximum benefit.  He could make decisions in the middle of a battle but took advice when it was clear someone else in the command had a better idea, and that included the suggestions of a privateer or pirate, depending on one’s  assessment, Jean Lafitte.  He understood how to motivate his men and how to relate to the people of New Orleans during social functions.

BattleOfNewOrleansAreaMap

The authors do a good job of outlining the British plan of attack leading up to the Battle of New Orleans.  The British commanders made several mistakes at the beginning that helped Jackson’s cause.  However, Jackson’s ability to forecast the British Navy and Army’s avenues of attack was as much a factor in the victory as was the British commander overconfidence in taking on solders, Native Americans, Pirates and volunteers from several states in the area.  It was a mixed recipe of anyone Jackson could muster but General Jackson made the Army a personality of one, his.  That personality was tough, resourceful, with a boiling and deep hatred of the British Army from his childhood years due to events that caused the death of his family members.

The books also gives detailed descriptions of the swampy lands in the bayou that both sides of the war had to maneuver through to build defenses and a launch point for an attack.  The challenges presented by the New Orleans terrain was in contrast to the problems the diplomatic team had in Britain when negotiating a truce.  The snail’s pace communication presented difficulties in know who had the upper hand when ironing out details of a peach agreement.  They didn’t want to negotiate a peace with New Orleans in British hands. For as the book points out, the New Orleans port and control of the Mississippi River was key to America’s Westward expansion and a victory over the British invading force for a second time meant increased prestige to the World’s countries looking on a young United States.

Notable Links:

https://history.army.mil/news/2015/150100a_newOrleans.html

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/battleofneworleans.htm

https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/andrew-jackson/

 

Superior Performance-President Richard M. Nixon

President Richard M. Nixon
President Richard M. Nixon

 

by Rick Bretz

No former President provokes more passion and stimulates more conversation than former President Richard Milhous Nixon.  Voters elected him as the 37th President of the United States serving from 1969-1974, resigning on August 9, 1974, one day after announcing it to a national TV audience. Nixon’s legacy is more complicated than just a Watergate cover up.  After his resignation, according to the book “The President’s Club”, Presidents from both sides of the aisle sought his advice and relied on him for overseas missions on a range of diplomatic topics including the Soviet Union,  the Middle East and the Far East.  Actors tried their talents at being Nixon a few times in film. Few have tried to master the nuances of Nixon’s personality. There are several movies about Richard Nixon such as All “The Presidents Men” and the “Assassination of Richard Nixon” but these releases keep Nixon behind the scenes as a looming figure. We only see him in news footage. I have selected actors who have taken on the responsibility to carry the whole movie. There are a few who have accepted the challenge.

 

Nixon (1995) Directed by Oliver Stone

Anthony Hopkins as President Richard M. Nixon

Played against Ensemble Cast portraying significant people throughout his life.

Nixon and Hopkins
Nixon and Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of President Richard Nixon shows a Nixon who relies on his wife Patricia Nixon for advice and support.  He shows him as someone who plays hardball politics to succeed. Hopkins doesn’t look all that much like Nixon but he splashes the screen with Nixon’s paranoia and emotional repression. The movie gives a glimpse of how tough Nixon could be when dealing with his adversaries and pushy friends looking to gain something from his position. This movie was not well liked by Nixon’s family and friends. However, the criticism aside, Hopkins does an admirable job of revealing Nixon’s complicated, multifaceted personality. The movie also gives the viewer an idea of Nixon’s childhood challenges that shaped his personality and character.

 

 Frost/Nixon (2008) Directed by Ron Howard

Frank Langella as former President Richard M. Nixon

Played against Michael Sheen as talk show host David Frost and Nixon’s interviewer

Frank Langella as Nixon
Frank Langella as Nixon

The negotiations leading up to David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon is a slice of history people weren’t aware of during the airing of the show. The movie shows the interview as a chess game between Frost and his people and Nixon and his aides. Nixon didn’t want to reveal anything that would further damage him but he also wanted to get his side of the story to the public. Langella does a skilful job of portraying Nixon as someone who his smart and is good at countering verbal maneuvers. The movie was criticized for its compression timeline that didn’t show Nixon having his way during a majority of the interview. The suspense lies in how Frost can get Nixon to admit he made a mistake and was wrong.

 

The Checkers Speech, the Real Frost/Nixon Interviews, the Farewell Speech to White House Staff

(1952, 1977, 1974)

Richard Nixon as Richard Nixon

Nixon gives his farewell speech with family by his side.
Nixon gives his farewell speech

Nobody does Nixon like  Richard M. Nixon himself.   His Checkers Speech saved his position as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate and Vice Presidential candidate during the 1952 election campaign. Checkers refers to his dog and he explains in the televised speech that the dog is beloved by his daughters and he won’t give it up. The speech addressed concerns about Nixon’s financial dealings.

If you want to get a better idea of how the Frost/Nixon interviews went, then watch the whole conversation. In this interview, you get an idea of Nixon’s intellect and command of foreign policy. It’s the reason why President William Clinton sought out Nixon’s advice when he needed answers about foreign policy and the current political climate.

The Farewell Speech to the White House Staff is riveting. The speech to his loyal followers in the White House addresses his childhood, his father, mother, revenge and serving in politics. This speech had more drama in it than 50 percent of the movies released in the 1970s.

Towards the end of the speech, Nixon says this, “We want you to be proud of what you have done. We want you to continue to serve in government, if that is your wish. Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

 

The Real Person

There are many caricatures when people portray Nixon. The real person was an intellectual and political heavy weight who got caught up in government politics as take no prisoners game defined earlier in the 1900s.. His failure was to realize the shift in the political climate and how the press had changed concerning how they reported on politicians as the Vietnam War wage on in the late 60s and early 70s.  His downfall was using the tape recording system started by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940s.

http://whitehousetapes.net/

The record, however, shows that Nixon began several programs that still live with us today. He began the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Natural Resources and proposed ending the draft. His trip to China thawed relations between the two countries and he used triangle diplomacy to further America’s interests. He also signed into law Title IX, legislation that states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” He made it possible for all daughters to participate in sports so they can have a chance at scholarships and education.

After he left office, Richard Nixon became a consultant to later Presidents as well as a prolific author and statesman.

Conclusion

President Richard Nixon will always be viewed as tragic figure with personality flaws. Some will view him as a criminal for his actions. The record is more complicated than to paint his legacy with broad brush strokes. He started many positive programs and probably helped to end the cold war when he visited China. As we have seen in the past 30 years, being a President is fraught with political landmines that can trip up the most talented of people. The Presidents that came after Nixon had and will continue to have the benefit of learning from his mistakes.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113987/?ref_=nv_sr_3

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870111/?ref_=nv_sr_1

http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/gen/resources/watergate/nixon.farewell.html

President Richard M. Nixon Links:

http://nixonfoundation.org/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/richardnixon

 

Links to Checkers Speech Frost/Nixon interviews and Farewell Speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4UEv_jjPL0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UzyZYBYg8g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32GaowQnGRw