Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 9, 2011
HISTORY: Cheesy

Great look back at Andrew Jackson's enormous wheel of cheese. Yes, the White House had different problems in those days.

Speaking of the Jacksonian era, I've recently been reading "A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent," which is an excellent look at the Polk Administration - Polk was without doubt our most underrated president, one of the five or six most consequential and accomplished presidencies and by far the most significant one-term president. Anyway, one thing that was a quite different problem, which modern presidents only think they would like to have: Polk faced a challenge early in his tenure owing to the fact that the editor of the essentially-official Democratic party newspaper was antagonistic to him, and he had to maneuver to oust the editor despite the fact that he was an old friend of Jackson, Polk's mentor. We still have a variety of partisan and ideological media organs, but Polk's experience illustrated the double-edged sword of the 19th century tradition of having a paper that was widely seen by the public as speaking for a party: if the party had competing factions, it could do disproportionate damage to party leaders on the wrong side of the split.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 AM | History | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I saw that Polk book at the bookstore recently and thought it looked interesting. Will have to pick it up sometime; thanks for the recommendation.

Posted by: Kevin R at March 9, 2011 12:45 PM

I want to read that as well, but I must ask: have you read Meacham's book on Jackson? (They seem to have similar purposes.) Because Meacham's book was atrocious.

Posted by: per14 at March 9, 2011 2:08 PM

If by atrocious you mean tedious and dull, then yes per I agree. But if by atrocious you mean how dare they lay bare the genocidal person he was (and he was by no means alone on that one), then no. The founding of the United States is a bloody and oft times shameful one. It's our duty to know it, and to always try to make it better.

He was a strange man. Sort of a combination of Richard Nixon (who remade the Republican Party, way more than Reagan actually did), and George W. Bush (especially in his self righteous belief in himself). Able, bloodthirsty, but could be gentle, then tough. Very very American in his archetype.

Posted by: daryl at March 9, 2011 3:37 PM

I always thought there was something cheesy about Jackson... ;)

(Polk book ordered, btw. Looks interesting.)

Posted by: Phineas at March 9, 2011 5:29 PM

Yes, that's what I meant. (And I don't Meacham's book was really breaking new ground about Jackson.) The book was so poorly written and put together that it was distracting. I don't see how anyone could make a book about Jackson tedious, but Meacham pulled it off. Probably the worst written piece of history/biography I've ever read. Anyway; I hope Merry's book is better and I brought it up because I've read a few reviews that compared it to Meacham's book.

Posted by: per14 at March 9, 2011 6:52 PM

BTW Crank, enjoy the Polk book. For reasons I've never understood, James Polk never got the attention in American history he deserved. You could argue lots of things, and while I can understand Mexicans not liking him, he did a helluva job in looking after his own country (and he was clearly a man of his time). If your kids ever have to do papers on presidents, avoid the obvious, and have them go for Polk. There is enough really interesting material, and I remember my teachers not wanting me (or the other kids who were good students in the class) to pick him. They knew nothing about him and lumped him with clucks like Pierce and Fillmore. Rushmore is a more fitting place.

And having a party organ newspaper is as old as the Republic. It was really the NY Times that caused Hayes to "beat" Tilden; and even now is there any media outlet more allied to one party than Fox (and the Tea Party makes is a bit more interesting)? And please, not MSNBS. Olbermann took his few viewers with him.

Posted by: daryl at March 9, 2011 8:50 PM

Haven't read the Jackson book. Have always been interested in Polk.

As far as Reagan and Nixon, I'm also currently reading Steve Hayward's Age of Reagan. Fascinating stuff.

Posted by: Crank at March 9, 2011 9:37 PM

Oh and Daryl, if you don't think the NY Times is every bit as reliably Dem as Fox News is Republican - and has been since before there was such a thing as Fox News - you're just in denial.

Posted by: Crank at March 9, 2011 9:50 PM

I live in Texas, and Polk is fairly well-regarded here. I wouldn't say he's especially famous or anything, but Texans generally like him because of how much he pushed for our annexation before he was elected.

Posted by: David at March 10, 2011 2:32 AM

Was sitting on the story of the Republican President spying on American citizens without a warrant until after the 2004 Presidential elections reliably Dem of the New York Times?

Of course the same Tea Party members, who I'm told are only trying to reduce the size of government and protect the founding fathers view of the Constitution, cheered along and defended W's actions.

Someone needs to tell that NPR fundraiser that racists is a distant third, behind liars and morons, when explaining the make-up of the Tea Party (GOP).

Posted by: Berto at March 10, 2011 12:06 PM

I hadn't thought about this book in years. I picked up a used paperback edtion in Florida about 15 years ago. Polk is one of the best Presidents that no one knows about. You'll really enjoy the book.

Posted by: peter at March 11, 2011 12:54 AM

Crank, the difference between the Times and Fox is that the Times will champion their side with truth and facts. Fox, well, let's just say that Fox doesn't.

Posted by: daryl at March 11, 2011 1:42 PM
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