Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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More Presidents’ Day reading

Mickey Craig has done us a favor by linking to the D.C. Examiner’s reading list. Let me add a few more and invite readers to recommend their favorite presidential biographies.

Richard Brookhiser’s Founding Father is the closest thing I’ve found to a Plutarchian presentation of an American president. There are so many good books on Lincoln, it’s hard to know where to begin. Actually, let’s begin with Ken Masugi’s recommendations in the D.C. Examiner--Harry Jaffa’s A New Birth of Freedom and Crisis of the House Divided. Then there’s Allen Guelzo’s Redeemer President and WIlliam Lee Miller’s Lincoln’s Virtues.

Update: Ken Masugi raises an interesting question, as does Mickey in his comment: Is it Presidents Day or Presidents’ Day, or should we just give up and go back to good old Washington’s Birthday? It’s Presidents’ Day at NRO’s The Corner; Presidents Day at VOA; and President’s Day at Kids Domain (which comes up near the beginning of my Google search).

Gentle readers, let’s take a vote: should it be Presidents’ Day, Presidents Day, President’s Day, or Washington’s Birthday?

Discussions - 17 Comments

Ok, it’s s’ not ’s. You are a gentleman.

As I understand things, it is claimed that the actual name of the federal holiday is still Washington’s Birthday. Stories about how it came to be so widely called President(’)s(’) Day seem to be apocryphal.

My vote for favorite presidential biography is "When Character was King" about Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan. It helped me appreciate a presidency I was too young to understand but old enough to remember. (I was six when he was inaugurated)

It’s Big George’s Birthday.

Abe still has pretty good rep, but people need to be reminded GW was our Wellington and our Churchill rolled into one.

Washington’s Birthday. Were I to celebrate Presidents’ Day, people might think I was in some way honoring Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter et al.

There is something vaguely state-worshippy about honoring a federal office with a holiday. Furthermore, it is the way of things that this office, like most any other, has been filled with as many or more knaves and fools as it has been with people worth honoring. I am not putting the flag out on President’s day to honor mediocre numbskulls like Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Dwight Eisenhower, or James Buchanan, and I certainly don’t care to honor crooks like Bill Clinton, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon. It ought to be called Washington Day - his like come along once a century, if mankind is lucky.

I would, however, support making Calvin Coolidge’s birthday a national holiday which each employee in the Federal government is encouraged to honor by firing himself.

I would like to recommend "Plain Speaking" by Merle Miller. An "oral" biography of Harry S Truman written in the early 1970’s. It served as the source for the one-man play "Give ’em Hell Harry" with James Whitmore. Great book and play (on video).

Let us bring back Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s as separate holidays. I remember celebrating both when I was in school.

By All Means;

George Washington’s Birthday.

That way there is no question where or whether the apsotrophe belongs.


Let’s celebrate George Washington’s birthday and wait for Chester Arthur to get his own holiday.

Some guy wrote a book called the Age of Reagan. His name escapes me, but I thought the book was good enough to assign to one of my classes this semester.
In response to some of the other reader comments, WM should probably read Stephen Ambrose’s Eisenhower. Dwight Eisenhower was not a mediocre numbskull. Chester Arthur was not a terrible president either.

Please let’s resurrect respect for George Washington who has been reduced to a cartoon figure with wooden teeth cutting down a cherry tree.

It’s Washington’s Birthday!

I am aware of Stephen Ambrose’s view of Eisenhower. Ambrose is willing to forgive him almost anything. Eisenhower twice deserted Eastern Europe - twice. Once as Supreme Allied Commander, and again (Hungary) as president. And the general with verve, backbone, and brilliance in that war so irritated Eisenhower that he pulled his command on the eve of Invasion.
Eisenhower was a spineless mediocrity witht he blood of Imry Nage on other Hungarian freedom fighters on his hands.

The official name of the federal holiday, as established by federal statute at 5 USC Section 6103, is Washington’s Birthday. I hope you will do your part in stamping out this Presidents Day nonsense. At least then you won’t have to worry about the apostrophe issue.

Your points are well taken and what happened in Hungary and all of Eastern Europe was certainly a tragedy of historic proportions. I am sympathetic, believe me. But when Eisenhower was SAC his orders were to defeat Nazi Germany. If he did anything more he would have been exceeding his orders. I think you are correct to be critical of Eisenhower’s handling of the situation in 1956 but let us always place the blame where it belongs: on the totalitarian communist system and the people who ran it.
I appreciate your comments, though, and I can see that your criticism of Eisenhower comes from a good place. I understand if you cannot overlook Eisenhower’s handling of the two events you mention.

Fair enough, Stephen - Ike does not lack admirers. His legacy will likely survive me :)


Just as we do not and should not excuse Carter’s policies, that encouraged communist aggression in the late 70’s, we should not excuse Ike’s policies when they did the same.

As far as the name of the holiday, I have no particular problem with calling it Presidents’ day instead of Washington’s Birthday as it is generally accepted that it is in honor of both Washington and Lincoln, both of whom are worthy of such an honor. However, President’s Day and Presidents Day are both unacceptible for reasons of grammar.

While I think you can make a case that Carter’s policies encouraged communist aggression, I think you would be hard pressed to make a similar claim about Eisenhower. Eisenhower encouraged an uprising and then failed to support it. That is a very different thing. In addition, Eisenhower did oppose the Soviets around the world, including overthrowing the two governments.

Could you give me an example of when Eisenhower’s policies led directly to the Soviets moving into and holding a new territory?

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