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Monday, February 18, 2008

President's Day, sort of

It's Presidents' Day, or as I noted last year, Washington's Birthday. Don't know why, but I know all of the Presidents, their political parties, and their years in office; very useful in Trivial Pursuit or on certain game shows.

Among the useless pieces of info in my mind:

Washington's first secretary of State was Jefferson.
Jefferson's only Secretary of State was Madison.
One of Madison's secretaries of State was Monroe.
Monroe picked JQ Adams for his Secretary of State.
Jackson picked Van Buren as his first Secretary of State.
So, all of the early Presidents, save for the Adamses, picked as the head of the State Department someone who would succeed them as President. Oddly, except for Polk's pick of Buchanan, no other Secretary ascended to the White House after that.

Many of you know that the President elected in the years ending in zero from 1840 to 1960 died in office. I always wondered what it was like for the country to have its leaders assassinated so close together in the latter stages of the 20th Century (Lincoln-1865, Garfield-1881, McKinley-1901 - OK, not the 19th Century, but close enough.) The 1881 assassination created a unique situation: three Presidents in one year: Hayes, finishing his term; Garfield; and his successor, Arthur; that had happened only 40 years earlier, with Van Buren, WH Harrison, and Tyler.
But can you name the only President who died in office that WASN'T elected in a year ending in zero? Here's a clue: he was a Whig, one of four Whig Presidents we had, who served only a total of eight years.

That would be Zach Taylor, who was elected in 1848 and died in 1850, succeeded by Millard Fillmore. When I was memorizing the Presidents, I had the greatest difficulty with the late 1840s and early 1850s, mostly because I somehow morphed Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce into Mildred Pierce.

My question to you: what is your favorite mundane piece of trivial President information that you use to impress your friends and stun your enemies?
This recent Harris poll of top Presidents left me shaking my head, with the current occupant coming in at number 10. Then I saw the AOL poll that asked where W fit in the pantheon of Presidents. As of 9 pm EST last night:
Among the bottom third 62% 269,198
Among the top third 25% 108,585
Among the middle third 13% 57,379
Well, all righty, then.
Democrats Target Kucinich for Defeat.
McCain wrong on the one issue I'd previously given him credit for.


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