Joe Biden vs. James K. Polk

Politico reporter Joshua Zeitz thinks Joe Biden could learn something from James K. Polk.

I hope not.

Polk has become a popular president among the American monarchists.

I get it. I used to be a Polk fan, too, back when I thought Bob Dole was a conservative.

It’s embarrassing, but we all start somewhere.

I used to agree with Mr. Zeitz on Polk’s record. He accomplished everything he set out to do in four years and hung it up.

Retiring, in fact, was fairly noble.

But Polk was a disaster long term. He started a war over a dubious claim and lied to Congress, a la George W. Bush, expanded executive power–something Calhoun criticized–and helped craft the image of the “energetic executive” by working into the night by gas light.

Zeitz is also incorrect that Polk obtained everything he wanted. He whiffed on “All of Oregon” and had to settle at the 49th Parallel, a position that had already been negotiated before he fumbled the ball.

Polk boasted in his diary that he was looking “John Bull” in the eye and John Bull would blink. It turned out to be the other way.

And Polk’s dream of an “Empire on the Pacific” as Norman Graebner termed it contributed to the problems of the sectional conflict.

The issues were already present, but acquiring more exacerbated the problem. The North could not stand any longer to be a political minority and forced the South’s hand.

Henry Clay might have been the better option for the stability of the Union. The same could be said for Seward in 1860 if we had to pick a Republican.

Zeitz thinks Biden should also pack it up after four years in office. According to Zeitz, Biden has a record to be proud of–seriously–and thinks it might be time to ride off into the sunset.

I would love to see Brandon retire, but I would also like to see most presidents retire.

The office hasn’t been the same since John Tyler.

Either way, Zeitz’s piece made for a great topic on The Brion McClanahan Show.

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