The Oval Office (The Importance of History and Tradition)
The Oval Office is more than just the room from which the President conducts business. It represents all that is exceptional about our great country. Think for a while about the outstanding public servants who have given our country everything they had to give.
The Oval Office is in the West Wing of the White House, a short walk from the main residence. The present day West Wing (and Oval Office) was built in 1934-35. In fact, throughout the 1800’s, Presidents operated from an office in what is now the family living quarters of the White House. (Families in 1800’s simply dealt with the fact that the President also conducted business down the hall from them.) Many latter day Presidents have used what was once the main office as their private offices. George W. Bush would frequently review his next day’s agenda and edit speeches from his office upstairs in the White House.
The modern day Oval Office, while only 77 years old, has certainly seen its share of drama. It was from there that:
- Winston Churchill cajoled Franklin Delano Roosevelt (endlessly, FDR would have said!) to help Britain as it edged closer to and then found itself involved in war with Germany.
- Harry Truman made the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan. Harry Truman was as democrat as they come. He was a frugal man, and never met a penny not worth pinching. Monday morning quarterbacks of more recent vintage have attempted to repaint the canvass of WWII history by calling Truman a cold-blooded murderer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Truman agonized over the decision to drop “the bomb”, but in the end he slept comfortably knowing that the decision actually saved millions of Japanese and American lives. The thought of having to fight for Japan, inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot, and mile-by-mile was unfathomable. Truman made the courageous and right decision.
- Ike ran the country during the halcyon days of the 1950’s. Oh yes, there was also a major conflagration that is often overlooked by many people; the Korean War. The War raged from 1950-53, and whilst it did not end in victory, per se, anyone who lives south of the 38th parallel in Korea has not forgotten what the United States of America did for Korea. (If you want to take a look at what a capitalist democracy has accomplished in the past 60 years as compared to the totalitarian state to its north, take a look at what Korea looks like at night. To the south of the 38th parallel there is light and hope. To the north, there is nothing but darkness and despair.
- JFK beat Nixon. The 1960’s ushered in the Camelot era. John and Jackie Kennedy moved into the White House, and captured the imagination of the country. This was a time when WWII veterans were in their prime. American businesses and government were run by veterans; hardened, seasoned men. It wasn’t always pretty. Felt fedoras and bourbon on the rocks were the order of the day. What the public saw and thought was not always what was actually happening; a fact any student of the Kennedy administration knows only too well. But one lesson learned in studying the American presidency is that perceptions do matter. And for those 3 short years before he was assassinated, Americans were full of hope and confidence. The country was on a roll.
- LBJ assumed the Presidency. Just as quickly as the roller coaster of emotions went up, it came crashing down when LBJ moved into the Oval Office. He was larger than life, and could work the political game as few others ever have or ever will. But he found himself in the middle of a social revolution, as the first of the WWII baby boomers began to spread their wings and fly. And they wanted to fly anywhere except where LBJ and the establishment wanted them to go. One destination they most certainly did not want to visit was Vietnam.
- Richard Nixon’s 1-½ terms in the White House were certainly action-packed. No doubt the Oval Office had never had so much audio equipment installed in it!
- Jimmy Carter spent 4 years there and , suffice to say, did not leave much of a mark on the pages of history. But let us never forget that this is a man who served his country in the U.S. Navy, and believed wholeheartedly in what he was trying to do. He was, in our opinion, ill qualified for the position, and out of touch with what everyday Americans want in a leader.
- Ronald Reagan gave those everyday Americans what they were looking for in a leader. Reagan carved out a simple platform and rarely deviated. Oh how the mainstream media disliked the man. It wasn’t until his funeral two decades later that they began to speak well of him. Reagan connected with people, and he never abandoned his belief that the government should be there to create opportunities for people to flourish, not guarantees that people will do so.
- George H. W. Bush occupied the Oval Office with dignity and grace. He was truly a statesman president. And from that office, he and his team presided over the end of the cold war, and the successful management of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.
- Bill Clinton rolled into town. What can we say about Bill Clinton? He was larger than life, and so very human. He clearly could not contain his passions very well, but no one doubts his intellect. And when the republicans won the majority in 1994, Clinton moved to the center and passed major pieces of legislation with them. Clinton was pragmatic.
- George W. Bush entered office wanting to focus on tax relief, education reform and a handful of other priorities. 9/11 changed all that. This President is a man misunderstood to this day by millions. Opine Needles remains convinced that the view of his years in office will be very positive once seen through the lens of history.
- Barack Obama changed the dress code in the Oval Office, and now one does not have to be in a jacket and tie to enter the room. We think that in itself sums up the state of affairs as we approach the November 2012 election.
You see, why would we be surprised that President Obama would not care whether the Oval Office is respected by way of a dress code? This is a man who has stated that he does not believe we are an exceptional nation. Implicit in his line of thought is that we have arrived today on a road littered with examples of injustice and unconscionable colonialism. We ought not be proud; we should be ashamed. Why would we wish to honor the Oval Office; the very symbol of our arrogance and power?
Well, we respect tradition, and we hope very much the new President will restore that particular tradition.
This ramble through the last ¾’s of a century is just a snapshot of the decades and leaders who have worked in the Oval Office in that time. The point is that we ARE an exceptional nation, and the Oval Office is a great example of that exceptionalism. We have come from all over the world and been united by something unique to our country; the compatible prospects of freedom and economic opportunity.
We now stand at a historic precipice, as four more years of class warfare and profligate spending will likely send the United States into an economic death spiral. To the electorate we say:
- Tradition matters; The White House, Oval Office, and the presidency itself are inextricably intertwined with our American History. Respect these institutions, no matter who the President is.
- We ARE an exceptional nation; be proud of it, and vote for the candidate who also believes as you do.
- History matters: learn as much as you can about the multiple times Keynesian economic strategies (and universal health care programs for that matter!) have been implemented (and failed) around the world. Be informed.
- Embrace the notion that we want a President who believes in a country in which we may assure every American of our commitment to equality of opportunity, but we will not countenance the notion that the Government is supposed to guarantee equality of outcome. For those who think equality of outcome is a sound idea, we suggest they study Russian history from 1917-1989.
- Don’t stand on the sideline. Above all else,
THINK RIGHT. ACT RIGHT. VOTE RIGHT.