Comparing American Presidents

In last month’s Parma Observer, Carmen Luna wrote an open letter to me and accused me of selectively lifting selected passages from President Lyndon Johnson’s and Donald Trump’s speeches to the Boy Scout National Jamboree. His “open letter” was in response to my column from September where I compared the speeches of Lyndon Johnson at the 1964 Boy Scout National Jamboree and Donald Trump’s speech from this past summer. To answer Mr. Luna, space limitations prevented me from including more excerpts from those speeches. But I did provide links where any reader with internet access could go and read the entire speech from each President. Even without the links I provided, anyone with internet access could do a search and find the texts of those speeches.

In the spring of 2016 I visited the home and library of President Lyndon Johnson. His home and ranch is now a National Historic Site just west of Johnson City Texas in the “hill country” west of Austin. His library is on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. Both Lady Bird and LBJ are buried on the LBJ ranch with other family graves.

Lyndon Johnson’s background and upbringing are as far removed as Donald Trump’s as possible. His family was not poor, but not much above poverty either. LBJ saw first hand the poverty in the central Texas area during the Great Depression. After college, he was a teacher in a poor rural school district and that experience had a lasting effect on him, even as President.

LBJ was a born politician and he was the master of the political deal during his career. He became President under the worst circumstances possible, the assassination of John F Kennedy. He vowed that he would make sure that the policies and agenda of JFK would get through congress. He also inherited a little war in a far of land that later would consume him and forever brand his presidency.

But except for Vietnam, LBJ’s presidency has been the most consequential since that of FDR. So much of the United States of today can be traced to LBJ’s policies and accomplishments. It was LBJ that was able to break the log jam on the civil rights bill and get it passed and signed into law in 1964. Also in 1964, he was able to get through the first major anti poverty program since FDR, the food stamp program.

After that LBJ was able to break the log jam and get Medicare and Medicaid passed and signed into law in 1965. That year saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act that guaranteed protection of everyone’s right to vote. Also in 1965 LBJ was able to get passed federal aid to education which provided federal money to help local schools and improve literacy. Another program from LBJ was the establishment of the Federally Qualified Health Centers, where the federal government helped fund and establish local health care clinics in under served locations. In the Cleveland area, there are two FQHCs that serve the poor in the central city.

Had it not been for getting the United States more involved in the Vietnam War, no doubt Lyndon Johnson might be judged as one of this country’s greatest Presidents.

Last August, I took a road trip about two hours southwest of Cleveland to Marion to visit the home and museum of Warren Harding, our nation’s 29th President. Warren Harding is not known as one of this country’s best Presidents. In fact, most historians rank him near the bottom as far Presidential rankings.

But Warren Harding’s life was fascinating. He was a successful newspaper publisher, having bought the struggling Marion Star when he was 19 years old and making it a success. His wife was the daughter of one of Marion’s wealthiest men, but her father disowned her when she married Harding. As the publisher of the local newspaper, Warren Harding was involved in every civic club and was well known in the community

He was elected to the Ohio state legislature. Then in 1914, he became the first United States Senator that was elected by the people under the 17th amendment. Previously Senators were chosen by the state legislatures, not directly by the voters. He was handsome and one person said that Harding was the only man in the Senate who wouldn’t look ridiculous wearing a toga.

His presidential administration is more remembered for the corruption of some of his appointees and of his inattention to governing as well as his untimely death two and a half years into his presidency. But Harding did have several good accomplishments as President. He established the Office of the Budget and was the first President to submit a budget to the congress. His Secretary of State negotiated the world’s first arms limitation treaty in 1921. He established the Veteran’s Administration as we have known it since then and probably did more for veterans than any President previously. He dedicated the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery and started the tradition of the President presenting a wreath at the tomb every hear on July 4.

Both Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Warren Harding had some serious problems and flaws as President. Yet both had several great accomplishments that still define the United States today. But as far as our current President, I believe that history will not be very kind to Donald Trump’s presidency. Fifty years from now, future voters will wonder how someone like Donald Trump could have been elected President.    

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 4:54 PM, 11.01.2017