Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Burlington College and its ex-president

We could have seen this coming, but hope sprang eternal… until it died, poetically, in the snows of mid-May. Burlington College finally gave up the ghost after several years of trying to overcome one of the dumbest decisions ever made by a college president.

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I have to agree with Ms. Hallenbeck. For those just joining us, Jane O’Meara Sanders was president of Burlington College from 2004 to 2011. In her antepenultimate year, she engineered a massive land deal that put the college deep into hock: the college agreed to buy 33 acres of land and some buildings for $10 million from the Diocese of Vermont, which was liquidating assets to help pay the consequences of its long-suppressed pedophilia scandal.

Burlington College, with a student body of 200, had to assume millions in debt to acquire the property. But Sanders had a Big Plan. She was going to greatly expand the campus, nearly quadruple the student population, and dramatically increase fundraising.

In the depth of the Great Recession.

When liberal-arts colleges were dropping like flies.

It was a terrible idea on its face.

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Resilience, but no revolution

Bernie Sanders won’t be the Democratic nominee for president. And it’s not because of superdelegate shenanigans or imaginary Clinton conspiracies* or the media’s reluctance to validate his candidacy. It’s not even because I endorsed Hillary and voted for her in the primary.

*Honestly, I don’t get the Clinton hate. To hear some of my leftish acquaintances tell it, the Clintons are somewhere between Richard Nixon and Attila the Hun on the universal scale of evil. 

But give the guy credit. He did better than expected on Super Tuesday. Not well enough to give him a shot at the nomination, but more than well enough to keep his candidacy going all the way to the Democratic convention.

Which is an absolutely worthwhile goal: get all the publicity you can for progressive ideas, and compel the Democratic Party to honor the left wing for the first time since, oh, 1972. Bernie has proven that the left wing is as strong a potential source of energy (and even money) that the party can’t afford to ignore. That is his enduring gift to our political discourse.

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Hillary for President

Been thinking about this for a long time, waiting to see if something would change my mind. Could still happen, but for now, I’m settled.

If the presidential primary were today, I’d vote for Hillary Clinton. With apologies to Bernie, to all of Bernie’s supporters in Vermont, and to those who believe theVPO is a “hyper-partisan, far left blog.”

Why Hillary? Glad you asked.

First and foremost, Clinton is much more electable than Bernie Sanders. The policy differences between them are less important to me than keeping the Republicans out of the White House. Especially with at least two Supreme Court seats likely to come open in the next five years. It’s just hard for me to see Bernie appealing to a national electorate, especially if the Republicans come to their senses, reject the absolute crazies, and nominate someone plausible like Jeb! or Rubio.

Clinton is the best person to take on the partisan snakepit of Washington. She’s been through the wars, over and over again. She can handle it. I believe she would accomplish more than a President Sanders, even though she’d have a less ambitious agenda.

Last Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd asked Bernie how he’d advance a Democratic Socialist agenda through a Congress that might still have Republican majorities. Bernie acknowledged that he couldn’t do it on his own — that he’d need a “political revolution” with masses of voters demanding change. Call me cynical, but I don’t see that happening. Most people can’t be bothered to do anything more than vote once every four years. Maybe a Sanders presidency would energize the masses, but I doubt it.

Gender definitely plays a role. When other factors are equal, I’ll vote for the female candidate because women are so grossly under-represented in American politics. There is value in having a woman President, in terms of personal connection to gender issues and in sheer symbolic terms. The more glass ceilings we can break, the better.

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The greatest horndog to ever occupy the Oval Office

And it wasn’t William Jefferson Clinton, no sirree. It was one of our most forgettable chief executives, Warren G. Harding.

(Why am I writing about Harding in a Vermont political blog, you may ask? Why, because — as no one has apparently noticed so far — the image at the top of this page is that of Our 29th President, begrudgingly recreating his youthful days as a newspaperman. And good golly, did he go to seed in his later years.) 

Later this month, the Library of Congress will make public roughly 1,000 pages of previously-sealed love letters between not-yet-President Harding and his mistress of 15 years, Carrie Fulton Phillips. And they contain some steamy, squicky stuff, to judge by a few excerpts already making the rounds. From December 24,1910:

“My Darling. There are no words, at my command, sufficient to say the full extent of my love for you — a mad, tender, devoted, ardent, eager, passion-wild, jealous … hungry … love … It flames like the fire and consumes … It racks in the tortures of aching hunger, and glows in bliss ineffable — bliss only you can give.”

Apparently Harding’s wife didn’t stir the same “ardent, eager, passion-wild, hungry love” in the breast and/or loins of our then-future chief executive.

It’s been known for some time that Harding was a serial adulterer who makes Bill Clinton look like a faithful Catholic priest by comparison. But these letters ought to destroy whatever shred of dignity there is left in Harding’s reputation. And it ought to shred the credibility of any Republican who grandstands about Clinton’s peccadilloes, or in any way implies that Clinton brought dishonor on the office of the President. That had already happened long ago, in spades, at the hands and/or loins of the Republican Harding.

As for the squick factor, how about this? In the letters, Harding refers to his penis as “Jerry.” In one letter he invites Carrie to an expedition to the summit of “Mount Jerry.” And in another:

“Jerry … came in while I was pondering your notes in glad reflection, and we talked about it … He told me to say that you are the best and darlingest in the world, and if he could have but one wish, it would be to be held in your darling embrace and be thrilled by your pink lips that convey the surpassing rapture of human touch and the unspeakable joy of love’s surpassing embrace.”

Eeeeeeeeewwwwwwww.

The affair continued while Harding was Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and a U.S. Senator; he called it off when he became President, for fear of public disgrace and/or staining the White House furniture. He undoubtedly had other paramours while occupying our highest office, but his handlers didn’t want to take a chance on a long-term relationship becoming public. Especially one with, as the New York Times reports, close ties to pro-German factions during World War I. Indeed, the Times reports that Phillips “had social ties to Germans in the United States who were said to be spies.”

Harding begged Philliips to burn the letters, but she didn’t. Instead, she kept them in a box where they were discovered after her death. And sealed, until July 29. Get your popcorn, folks.