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Grover Cleveland (The American Presidents Series)

Grover Cleveland - Henry F. Graff, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Nowhere ManGrover Cleveland (GC) has firmly secured his place in every trivia lover's heart by being the only U.S. President to serve non-consecutive terms (as the 22nd and 24th POTUS). Add to that the fact that his family (four generations prior) are the Clevelands eponymously glorified by the city in Ohio, and he becomes something like trivia royalty. And that's about it. He served two terms as Head of State a long time ago, and doesn't seem to have left much of a mark. No momentous achievements. No history-shaping doctrines. He served in an age when Congress exercised powerful checks on the Executive branch (i.e. they did their job), so he seems weak by today's standards, but that's actually how our government was intended to function. Robust Congressional checks prevent things like Presidents single-handedly committing the nation to war, or rule by "Unitary" Executive fiat. Even without such institutional constraints, circumstances simply did not favor GC becoming a presidential rock star like Washington, Lincoln or Polk. He held office during a time of relative peace and isolation. The big foreign policy issue of his day was legal wrangling with Britain over Atlantic fishing rights. I think it's fair to say Presidents have more on their plate these days. So what does this book have to offer?Chicken WingsIf you're from Buffalo, NY you might be curious enough to read about Grover Cleveland. He's from Buffalo, which has a park and a local high school named after him. Lately, there is also a movement underway advocating construction of a Grover Cleveland Library in downtown. If that seems like much ado about nothing, remember that Buffalo has been in decline for over a generation, so any source of the civic pride is welcome. Grover Cleveland is on the short list of Buffalo's positive PR points, along with chicken wings and Niagara Falls. He recalls an age when the Queen City was a vibrant cultural and economic center, as well as a major player on the national political stage. That's empowerment fantasy material, if you were raised in the toxic atmosphere of Western New York's 1970's-80's inferiority complex over the Love Canal, the eternally-losing Buffalo Bills, and tiresome jokes by Johnny Carson about prodigious snowfall. I have since grown to see the good things about Buffalo, and after reading this book, I think Buffalo is too good for Grover Cleveland.Hit the Road, JackThe more I read about GC, the less I like him. Once this book gets rolling, he just goes from bad to worse. His entire adult life becomes a litany of douche bag behavior you wouldn't tolerate in your local dogcatcher, let alone your president. In quick bullet form:1) Military service- When called to preserve the Union in the Civil War, he paid a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant $150 to take his place at the front lines. This was a perfectly legal practice at the time, but certainly not Presidential.2) Erie County Sheriff- One of his responsibilities in this capacity was the hanging of condemned men, but he had moral reservations about the death penalty... so he paid his deputy $10/head to perform the duty. How does that even make sense? 3) Mayor of Buffalo- Obviously he only regarded this office as a career stepping-stone. He became mayor in March of 1882, and by January 1883 he was in the governor's mansion. Factor in months on the campaign trail, and time preparing to move to his new office after winning the election, and what do you have? A few weeks actually attending to business as mayor? That's like gross negligence. A lot of people's livelihoods depend on proper management of a big city like that. And what about feeling a sense of duty to the people who cast votes for you? Leaving office so soon is basically telling them "Screw you, I got a better deal."4) Governor of New York State- Same deal. Thirteen months in office, and he was on the Presidential campaign trail.5) President- not much to tell in his official capacity, but a tabloid goldmine in his personal life. He fathered a kid with his mistress, and then used his political power to deny her custody and have her committed to an insane asylum. Stop Sucking Executive CockSo with the historical record so conclusive that Grover Cleveland was a self-centered, power-grubbing asshole, why are we still naming schools, parks, and libraries after him? Are we really that star-struck by a title? How can we realistically expect public officials to act honorably, if we never hold them to any standards? And we don't. Take Richard Nixon as a case study: he was forced out of office in disgrace. All evidence points to severe abuses of power in the highest office. When Ford granted Nixon an unconditional pardon, why weren't Americans rioting in the streets, clamoring for justice? Instead, we gave Nixon a life of comfort and privilege for twenty more years. Then, when he finally died of natural causes in his sheltered mansion, his funeral was solemnly attended by dignitaries and heads of state. What happened? Do we collectively have Stockholm syndrome? And what about Woodrow Wilson? He campaigned for re-election in 1916 under the slogan "He kept us out of the war" (World War I), and within a year of his reelection, we were in the war. Why wasn't he impeached? What accounts for our slave mentality when it comes to kissing the asses of men who are supposedly public servants?Help me out here. Where does this "cult of the Executive" come from? And more concerning: where is it going? Do a Google search of the phrase "we need a dictator" and see what turns up...