Wednesday, February 20, 2013

President's Day! Late Edition. William Howard Taft, #27

Dammit, just look at that magnificent bastard.

Howard Taft, sometimes known as "The Pimpest of Presidents"

It's my opinion that of all the presidents, William Howard Taft gets the shaft most routinely and most undeservedly.

Yes, Taft could have used a few extra minutes on the elliptical each day, but mostly he got caught in awkward point in history with inter party politics and the hurricane force of Theodore Roosevelt's Theodore Rooseveltness.

Aside from his need to shop at the Big and Tall, Taft should be known as a brilliant legal mind, a statesman and a man who made his service to the United States an admirable point of pride.  Prior to winning the Presidency as fellow Republican Theodore Roosevelt vacated the office*, Taft served as Solicitor General of the US, a judge of 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Governor-General of the Philippines, and as Roosevelt's Secretary of War.

Not a bad record.  AFTER he was done being President, he served as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  So, you know, a rolling Taft gathers no moss or something.

Taft wasn't really much of a politician, so much as he did two things: throw himself into the work he took on and firmly believe in the laws and legal system of the United States, perhaps as an idealist.  His record suggests a fortitude with legal thinking and administrative talent.  He stuck closer to the definition of the Presidential role as described in the Constitution than had Theodore Roosevelt (who more or less made it up as he went along), and his decisions were often non-political but worked through with logic and an adherence to the system, whether it was good or bad for him, politically.

He was most likely to win the Presidency again in 1912, but TR's distaste for his colleague's decisions caused the famous Bull-Moose split in the Republican party, leading to a win for (sigh) Woodrow Wilson, who would go on to show the world what being a stodgy stick in the mud was all about.

Because of this outsized stature and what seems to be lingering feelings of resentment about the loss of 1912 (let it go....), Taft is, these days, mostly known for getting stuck in his bathtub.  Perhaps true or not - he did have a new tub put in - it's pretty typical that we focus on something like that and not on his accomplishments.

*to go wrestle bison or something


Simon MacDonald said...

Who's the ex-president
That continued to be relevent?
Ya damn right!

Who is the man that would adjudicate
For the appellate?
Can you dig it?

Who's the politician that won't cop out
When there's demagogues all about?
Right On!

They say this cat Taft is a bad mother
I'm talkin' 'bout Taft.

He's a complicated man
But no one understands him but his woman

The League said...

Did.. you just make that up? Because that is freaking brilliant.

Simon MacDonald said...

Yup, I made it up this morning. As soon as I read your headline about Taft the song Shaft by Isaac Hayes started going through my head. Then I read about Taft in your post and decided it had to be done. A few creative edits later and my new hit song was born.

The League said...

I'm going to see what I can do about making this song a reality.

Simon MacDonald said...

I can dig it!

Jake Shore said...

That was awesome, Simon.

Good post. Taft was impressive. I took a Constitutional Law class last year and he is regarded as one of the finest Chief Justices in U.S. history.  I have great admiration for T.R., but he lost his mind with his idiotic Progressive Party candidacy.  It demonstrates why I hate third parties -- we got Woodrow Wilson, who I regard as one of our worst Presidents.

The League said...

It's been a long, long time since I was in any history classes, plus reading history for leisure, but that's very much my assessment, too.

For now antiquated reasons having to do with Southern solidarity, UT has a larger-than-life sized statue of Wilson on campus, and whenever I walk past it, I just sort of roll my eyes.

Jake Shore said...

Really? That's weird. I would have never associated Woodrow Wilson with Texas. I don't even associate Texas with "the South." I've always thought of it as kind of its own thing. LBJ would make more sense. Heck, a Jimmy Carter statue would make more sense.

Jake Shore said...

That's a sweet overcoat by the way. President Obama should sport one of those (synthetic, of course).

The League said...

I have to assume Taft wore this while wrestling feral boar or riding in a chariot pulled by three massive goats.

Wilson's origins were in Virginia, and post Civil War, Texas very much felt itself part of the South as they dealt with reconstruction, etc... But I think that Southern association has greatly dwindled since the 1940's or so. But the Capitol grounds and campus are littered with Confederate and Southern memorials.

No LBJ on the original 40 acres of campus, but we do have the LBJ Library on the outskirts of campus. Newer statues have been of folks like politician Barbara Jordan. But one of the main statues on campus is of George Washington, you know, because... reasons.

Jake Shore said...

Speaking of feral boars, have you done your part to eradicate this scourge? A friend of mine lived in Smithville while attending Austin Graduate School of Theology a few years back, said you have to be really careful if you strike too far off the beaten path; they're dangerous as hell. We have a pretty small population up here, and I don't think they're the huge Russian Boars you have down there.

I'm not much of hunter, but I wouldn't feel as bad about shooting feral pigs. I have kind of a weird hatred for invasive species. We have a problem with them up here.

Sorry, random.

Simon MacDonald said...

@Jake Shore

Thanks man,


The League said...

I am told by Texas media that the giant feral hogs are a real problem, but in the city, of course, we're not exactly swamped with pigs. Between the hogs and the now four year drought we're in, it's a lousy time to be in agriculture in Texas. I do believe that Texas took the step of allowing helicopter-based hunting of hogs, but don't quote me on that.

I don't think it's as bad here as in the Deep South, but they opened a toll road where you can go extremely fast, 85 or 90, and a few people got killed immediately driving into huge pigs wandering out into the road. That, I think, was between here and San Antonio.

Texas is huge, so we generally only hear about agricultural issues in the immediate vicinity, but not as much anywhere more than two hours drive in any direction (and it takes ten hours to leave Texas going West, and probably five hours to leave Texas going East).