Category Archives: Presidents

L is for Lincoln

Most Americans probably know Abraham Lincoln better than any other President. He’s the only one, other than John Kennedy, whose birth day (February 12, 1809) and date of death (April 15, 1865) I know by heart.

So why are historians endlessly fascinated by the 16th President to a degree that there are over 2500 biographies of the man? Maybe it’s because the simple narrative of Honest Abe, born in a log cabin, who saw slavery as an issue worth fighting a Civil War over is instinctively such an incomplete narrative.

2009 was the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, and there were a number of pieces on PBS (public broadcasting in the US) about the man shed new light on him for me, and possibly for you as well.

Bill Moyers discussed THE LINCOLN ANTHOLOGY: GREAT WRITERS ON HIS LIFE AND LEGACY FROM 1860 TO NOW is a collection of more than 90 authors from across the years who create a constantly evolving portrait of the man whose shadow keeps lengthening across our history.

Moyers also highlighted Lincoln through the eyes of critically acclaimed, veteran dance artist Bill T. Jones. “In a groundbreaking work of choreography called FONDLY DO WE HOPE…FERVENTLY DO WE PRAY, Jones reimagines a young Lincoln in his formative years through dance.”

Jones said: “Lincoln was, in some people’s mind, always Honest Abe on a pedestal, but Lincoln had a sexuality. Lincoln was a politician. In the debates, Lincoln is the one that said to Douglas that, no, I would never marry a black woman. But I don’t — just because I don’t want a black woman for a wife doesn’t mean I must have her for a slave. And he even said, I’m not sure if all — if blacks and whites are equal, you know. But he said, people have the right to certain liberties. They have certain rights because they are in America. He was a man of his era.”

Also, from a conversation with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.:

What made Lincoln such a unique president?

Lincoln had a tremendous capacity for personal growth – more than any other American President. He was essentially a man of his times, resolute in his belief in the inequality of the races. But within the cauldron of the Civil War, he began to see that there could not be a United States without freedom for the black man. He came to embrace blacks, particularly those that fought so valiantly for the Union, as fully deserving the basic human right of freedom. He was slow to the cause to be sure, but once he got there, he was unshakable. Now, we will never know how far he might have gone had he lived. That’s part of the mystique that still surrounds him: the question “what if?”

Why is Lincoln’s legacy so contested?

Because Lincoln is so closely identified with what it is to be American, everyone wants to claim him, to rewrite his story to satisfy their own particular needs. For my own people, it was important to imagine him as the Great Emancipator, the Moses who led us out of slavery. For others, it was Lincoln the humble man who rose to greatness, or Lincoln the great Commander, or Lincoln the martyr. Every generation since his death has conjured up their own Lincoln. There were many Lincolns — enough for people to love and hate.

That explanation of the third US President (of eight) to die in office, but but the first (of four) to be assassinated, resonates with me. We project onto Lincoln, who was only 56 when he died, who he was and who he might have become. This might explain the release just last month of the generally positively-reviewed novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. No, really.

Finally, this story retold in Living Water.

The Debt
When he was an attorney, Abraham Lincoln was once approached by a man who passionately insisted on bringing a suit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to discourage him, but the man was bent on revenge. When he saw that the man would not be put off, Lincoln agreed to take the case and asked for a legal fee of $10, which the plaintiff paid. Lincoln then gave half of the money to the defendant, who willingly confessed to the debt and paid the $2.50! But even more amazing than Lincoln’s ingenuous settlement was the fact that the irate plaintiff was satisfied with it.*

More Lincoln photos here.

ABC Wednesday
The largest of over 100 places in the US named Lincoln is in Nebraska.

Presidents Day

My wife purchased a group of plastic place mats a few months ago. On one of them is a roster of all the Presidents, including Barack Obama. For no particular reason, I started noting the frequency of their first names.

Number one was James, who showed up six times (4, 5, 11, 15, 20, 39). In second place was a surprise: John with five (2, 6, 10, 30, 35). Ah, but you say #30 was Calvin Coolidge, and so it was. But the mat noted, and stated here that he was born John Calvin Coolidge. In third place was William with four (9, 25, 27, 42). Best wishes for a speedy recovery for #42. In fourth place, with three is George (1, 41, 43), which, as with John was aided by a father-son Presidency.

There’s a tie for fifth place: Andrew (7,17), Stephen (22, 24) and Thomas (3,28). Of course, Stephen is a cheat since it’s the SAME GUY, but I didn’t determine the numbering schema; wait, we know him better as Grover Cleveland. You might wonder about #28, but he was born Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

Peculiar that none of these naming anomalies show up on the White House list of Presidents. It’s interesting to me that we’ve had as many Presidents named Richard and Benjamin and Ronald as we have named Millard and Lyndon and Barack.

I’m utterly fascinated by the Whig Presidents. There were 4 of them (9, 10, 12, 13) out of 44, or over 9%, though this will inevitably shrink, barring the party’s resurgence, but they served only 8 years out of almost 211, or less than 4% of the time. That’s because William Henry Harrison caught pneumonia from his way-too-long Inauguration speech in March 1841 and died a month later, succeeded by his Vice-President, John Tyler. Then Zachary Taylor, elected in 1848, died in 1850, succeeded by HIS VP, Millard Fillmore.

My focus on them comes in no small part from when I first learned to recite the all the Presidents in order from memory, and I can still do so, the hardest stretch involved that unimpressive group Taylor, Fillmore and Pierce. Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it? My particular interest in Millard Fillmore derived in no small part from a high school friend’s obsession with the 1945 Joan Crawford film Mildred Pierce. Not only did I confuse Millard with Mildred, but the Pierce that followed amplified it.

Hey, coin collectors: The Millard Fillmore Presidential dollar will be available this month!

Happy Presidents Day!

P is for Presidents

When I (mostly) finished collecting the state quarters (I STILL need a Kentucky D and some of the 2009 quarters), I decided to start collecting the new United States Mint Presidential One Dollar Coins. Actually, they are not that new. The series actually began in 2007 with the first four Presidents, then in 2008 with Presidents 5 through 8. The most recent one I have is for James K. Polk, #11, with Zachary Taylor still to come in 2009.

It occurred to me that, for some of these Presidents, these coins may be be their first appearance on American money. Apparently, the government and/or the people were resistant to putting real, specific people on its currency and coinage. Prior to 1909, when Abraham Lincoln first appeared on the penny (one cent), in commemoration of the centennial of the 16th President’s birth, there was an “Indian head” penny. Likewise it was the buffalo head nickel (five cents) prior to 1938, when it changed to 3rd President Thomas Jefferson; Lady Liberty dime (10 cents) before 1946, when Franklin Roosevelt, the 32nd President, appeared the year after he died; and Standing Liberty quarter (25 cents) before 1932, when the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth was celebrated.

The portraits that appear on paper currency were adopted in 1929. Initially, it was determined to use portraits of Presidents, but the Secretary of the Treasury altered the plan to include Alexander Hamilton ($10 bill), who was the first Secretary of the Treasury; Salmon P. Chase ($10,000), who was Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War and “is credited with promoting our National Banking System”; and Benjamin Franklin ($100 bill), who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. U.S. bills are sometimes known as dead Presidents; while one must be dead to appear on U.S. money or stamps, not all of them have to be Presidents. Not incidentally, denominations of $500 and higher were discontinued in 1969, in large part because of fears about counterfeiting.

NOT a President
The Presidents

1. George Washington – quarter, $1 bill
2. John Adams – as far as I can determine, the Presidential $1 coin is his first appearance. This was one of the founders. Why didn’t HE show up on the $2 bill instead of his sometimes rival?
3. Thomas Jefferson – nickel, $2 bill, which was discontinued for a time, and not widely found
4. James Madison – $5000 bill
5. James Monroe, 6. John Quincy Adams – just the 2008 Presidential coin
7. Andrew Jackson – $20 bill, though there are some who would like to see him off the bill
8. Martin Van Buren – just the 2008 Presidential coin
9. William Henry Harrison, 10. John Tyler, 11. James K. Polk, 12. Zachary Taylor – just the 2009 Presidential coin
13. Millard Fillmore, 14. Franklin Pierce, 15. James Buchanan – just the 2010 Presidential coin
16. Abraham Lincoln – penny, $5 bill, Illinois state quarter. There is also a 2009 Lincoln commemorative silver dollar in honor of the bicentennial of HIS birth, separate from the Presidential coin coming out next year.
17. Andrew Johnson – just the 2011 Presidential coin
18. Ulysses S. Grant – $50 bill
19. Rutherford B. Hayes, 20. James Garfield – just the 2011 Presidential coin
21. Chester A. Arthur, 23. Benjamin Harrison – just the 2012 Presidential coin

22 & 24. Grover Cleveland (won in non-consecutive terms) – $1000 bill
25. William McKinley – $500 bill
26. Theodore Roosevelt – just the 2013 Presidential coin. Although, now that I think of it, since TR, along with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, appear on Mount Rushmore, and Rushmore is on the South Dakota state quarter, I suppose that should count in each of their tallies.
27. William Howard Taft – just the 2013 Presidential coin
28. Woodrow Wilson – $100,000 bill; this note never appeared in general circulation, and was only used in transactions between Federal Reserve Banks

29. Warren G. Harding, 30. Calvin Coolidge, 31. Herbert Hoover – just the 2014 Presidential coin
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt – dime (10 cents)
33. Harry S. Truman – just the 2015 Presidential coin
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower – $1 coin, 1971-1978
35. John F. Kennedy – half dollar (50 cents)
36. Lyndon B. Johnson – just the 2015 Presidential coin
37. Richard M. Nixon, 38. Gerald R. Ford, 39. James Carter, 40. Ronald Reagan – just the 2016 Presidential coin. BUT the Carter coin will be postponed unless he had died two years before its issuance. This is also true of the Class of 2017:
41. George H. W. Bush, 42. William J. Clinton, 43. George W. Bush, 44. Barack Obama
Here’s an interesting link to Presidents on postage stamps.



Yeah, I know it came out a bit ago, that Presidential ranking story.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk about GWB; too soon.
It seems that Kennedy is higher than I would have thought. Lot of potential for greatness, but the uptick is surprising.
Polk, with his unnecessary war mongering (Mexican War), also seems high.
Jackson’s Trail of Tears alone lowers him.
What caused Grant’s rise? Nothing comes to mind. But at least he wasn’t Hayes, whose end of Reconstruction gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow, and whose downturn is well warranted.
Jimmy Carter seems low, not because I thought he was a great President, but because even his component scores seem low. 14th in honesty?
Really can’t argue the top 4 or the bottom 10 too much.

President’s Name Score Overall Ranking
2009 2000
Abraham Lincoln 902- 1/ 1
George Washington 854- 2/ 3
Franklin D. Roosevelt 837- 3/ 2
Theodore Roosevelt 781- 4/ 4
Harry S. Truman 708- 5/ 5
John F. Kennedy 701- 6/ 8
Thomas Jefferson 698- 7/ 7
Dwight D. Eisenhower 689- 8/ 9
Woodrow Wilson 683- 9/ 6
Ronald Reagan 671- 10/ 11
Lyndon B. Johnson 641- 11/ 10
James K. Polk 606- 12/ 12
Andrew Jackson 606- 13/ 13
James Monroe 605- 14/ 14
Bill Clinton 605- 15/ 21
William McKinley 599- 16/ 15
John Adams 545- 17/ 16
George H. W. Bush 542- 18/ 20
John Quincy Adams 542- 19/ 19
James Madison 535- 20/ 18
Grover Cleveland 523- 21/ 17
Gerald R. Ford 509- 22/ 23
Ulysses S. Grant 490- 23/ 33
William Howard Taft 485- 24/ 24
Jimmy Carter 474- 25/ 22
Calvin Coolidge 469- 26/ 27
Richard M. Nixon 450- 27/ 25
James A. Garfield 445- 28/ 29
Zachary Taylor 443- 29/ 28
Benjamin Harrison 442- 30/ 31
Martin Van Buren 435- 31/ 30
Chester A. Arthur 420- 32/ 32
Rutherford B. Hayes 409- 33/ 26
Herbert Hoover 389- 34/ 34
John Tyler 372- 35/ 36
George W. Bush 362- 36/ NA
Millard Fillmore 351- 37/ 35
Warren G. Harding 327- 38/ 38
William Henry Harrison 324- 39/ 37
Franklin D. Pierce 287- 40/ 39
Andrew Johnson 258- 41/ 40
James Buchanan 227- 42/ 41


The Missing Presidents

I know an astonishing amount of information about the 43 men who’ve served as the 44 Presidents of the United States: party affiliation, terms of office, even, for many, major Cabinet officers.

But I know almost nothing about these fellows:
* Samuel Huntington (March 1, 1781– July 9, 1781)
* Thomas McKean (July 10, 1781–November 4, 1781)
* John Hanson (pictured) (November 5, 1781– November 3, 1782)
* Elias Boudinot (November 4, 1782– November 2, 1783)
* Thomas Mifflin (November 3, 1783– October 31, 1784)
* Richard Henry Lee (November 30, 1784– November 6, 1785)
* John Hancock (November 23, 1785– May 29, 1786)
* Nathaniel Gorham (June 6, 1786– November 5, 1786)
* Arthur St. Clair (February 2, 1787– November 4, 1787)
* Cyrus Griffin (January 22, 1788– November 2, 1788)
Hanson became the first President of Congress to be elected for an annual term as specified in the Articles of Confederation, although Huntington and McKean had served in that office after the ratification of the Articles. There’s even a website seling coins of The Forgotten Founders.

I fully recognize that the powers of the Presidency were far different (i/e., weaker) under the Articles of Confederation than under the Constitution. still, I don’t think they should be totally forgotten.
The 44 Presidents

12 Things You Don’t Know About the White House. Actually, I knew four.
Barack Obama’s historic victory probably ended any chance that someone born during the 1930s will become president. This makes it the only decade from the 1730s to the 1940s that failed to produce either a president or vice president.
The 1940s already have given us two presidents — Bill Clinton and George W.Bush — and four vice presidents — Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden…Presidential contenders from the 1930s included John McCain, Michael Dukakis, Ted Kennedy, Ross Perot and Gary Hart.
U.S. Grant obit from the New York Times
During the frenzy over whether Barack Obama was a “natural born citizen, I came across this, FWIW: Chester Arthur was a British subject at the time of his birth.
Presidents of the United States: Resource Guides
Debunking the Presidents


Really, I Just Wanted Him to Ride Off into the Sunset

It was my original intention to let the passing of the Presidency of George Walker Bush go unmentioned in this blog. There are plenty of other people who could, and have, dissected the last eight years of cronyism and incompetence, war, torture, loss of civil liberties, lack of regulations, etc. etc. I don’t have the energy, mostly because I’ve been under the weather the last few days.

If anything, I was going to just go back to the first year of the Presidency. I recall that dustup with China and was thinking, “What’s Clinton going to DO about this?” Then I remembered, “Wait, Clinton’s not President anymore? Who the heck IS President?” After that long, tortured completion of the 2000 election, ending with the Supreme Court making a President, and despite the fact that I watched W’s inauguration, I truly absolutely forgot he was the President, so little did his Presidency imprint up to that time.

There was his limited stem cell address in August. I opposed his position, but it was unsurprising.

Then there was 9/11. Some people criticized him for not returning immediately to Washington, DC; I totally disagreed. The Pentagon had been attacked, and it seemed like a reasonable precaution.

But pretty much everything from that point on, from the USA (so-called) PATRIOT Act to the cowboy rhetoric (catching bin Ladin dead or alive – how did that turn out?) to the lack of focus in Afghanistan. Then the build up to war in Iraq – and the faulty intel that got us there; but if Scott Ritter and Barack Obama and I knew it was a fool’s task, why didn’t he? From “Mission Accomplished” to Abu Gharb and Gitmo, this was a failed Presidency. Then he got a second term, where the (lack of) response to Katrina and the economic crises were the defining events.

But I was just going to let it pass, let him pass. I was going to ignore the recent revisionist history cooked up by W and his cronies. Until Monday. I took the day off to catch up on some reading, writing and TV watching. I turn on the television set and there’s GWB’s final press conference right out of Bizarroworld. My goodness.

“Not finding weapons of mass destruction (in Iraq) was a significant disappointment.” Disappointment. Oops.
“Even in the darkest moments of Iraq,” the president said, he and his staff found that there were times ‘when we could be light-hearted and support each other.'” Yeah. Tee hee.
“I disagree with this assessment that, you know, that people view America in a dim light,” he said. “It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom.” I’m reminded of one of his exit interviews with Martha Radditz of ABC News.Bush talked about fighting al-Qeada in Iraq; the reporter noted that, before we invaded, there WAS no al-Queda in Iraq. W responded, “So?”

The other tipping point is a relatively minor matter, in the grander scheme of things, but seemingly points to a pettiness I did not expect: the inability of the Obamas to move into Blair House.

So how will history judge the 43rd Presidency? GWB is leaving office with the lowest final approval rating compared to all previous Presidents over last 40 years. Worse than Nixon, and he was practically impeached. I think he’ll be remembered as a President who had a remarkable opportunity after 9/11 to unite the world (the headline in the leading French paper on 9/12/01 was “We are all Americans”), but instead engaged a morally and strategically dubious war, could not even respond to the needs of his own people in a disaster, and helped set in motion the worst economic collapse in a couple generations.

Goodbye, Mr. Bush.

Dear President-Elect Obama

Congratulations on your historic win. Not only am I glad that you were victorious, I’m happy that it wasn’t decided by the interpretation of a few hundred hanging chads somewhere. You ran, for the most part, an excellent campaign. You gave a very moving acceptance speech, embracing those who did not support you. I’m betting even Condi Rice shed a tear or two of happiness. Not only black people, but white people, Asians, Hispanics and not insignificantly, those who identify as mixed race, were inspired that your election could happen in the United States of America.

Before I get too far into this, my condolences to you and your sister on the passing of your beloved grandmother. Her death, practically on the eve of the election, gave you no time to grieve properly.

Wow. I’m so used to voting for people who run for President and lose. I’m now 2 for 10.

One of the things I saw on the news that hadn’t occurred to me was a story in a barbershop, the barbershop of Steve Osumsami of ABC News. One man noted that young black men can’t going around saying they can’t achieve because they didn’t have a father around. He said he’d point out Barack Obama and note that a fatherless black child can become President.

I know you know what a big job you have. Moreover, you doubtless know how much you’ve already been undercut, perhaps less by your race and more by a bunch of pernicious lies that may have been a cover for race or a different form of “otherness”. Some of it was particularly venal.

One of the effects of this particular poisoning of the well is that you will need to show that you’re not part of some wacko conspiracy to undermine the country. One of the ways for you to do that is to do less.

Please follow me here. One of the most egregious things done by your soon-to-be-predecessor is his unprecedented grab of Presidential authority. Signing documents, secret dealings and other tools in the toolkit that made the last eight years far from the balance of power I believe the Founders intended. in fact, the reason I favored the impeachment of George W. Bush was not to punish him but to set limits on the authority of the executive branch.

Failing that, I think you can build confidence of the American people, both those who supported you, and perhaps even more, those who did not, by relinquishing, or at least not utilizing some of the more venal methodologies used by Bush 43. Transparency, rather than secrecy, needs to be the watchword. You have given a lot of people tremendous hope in our future, in spite of the bleak economic forecast. They will follow you a long way as long as they know what they are following.

To that end, i think your website , which will be the “source for the latest news, events, and announcements so that you can follow the setting up of the Obama Administration” is a wonderful idea.

I do hope you can do something about health care, as you’ve indicated. I’ve found your story about your mother fighting insurance companies while fighting cancer deeply moving and I know will motivate you to have America do better.

Beyond that, I’ll just wish you well. But I do have this thought: I realize that voting is a function of the states. Is there something you might champion that would champion some sort of nationwide early voting? Also, it 1polls open 12 hours for a Presidential election seems severely short when it means long lines, perhaps in inclement weather; it IS November, after all.

Finally, and I know it’s a quirk, but you say, when answering questions, “Look” as a stalling tactic way too often. Watch the Fred Armisen parodies on Saturday Night Live. Hey maybe you can appear on SNL – all your opponents (Clinton, McCain, Palin) have. Maybe it’ll be a sock it to me?” moment.


President's Day, sort of

It’s Presidents’ Day, or as I noted last year, Washington’s Birthday. Don’t know why, but I know all of the Presidents, their political parties, and their years in office; very useful in Trivial Pursuit or on certain game shows.

Among the useless pieces of info in my mind:

Washington’s first secretary of State was Jefferson.
Jefferson’s only Secretary of State was Madison.
One of Madison’s secretaries of State was Monroe.
Monroe picked JQ Adams for his Secretary of State.
Jackson picked Van Buren as his first Secretary of State.
So, all of the early Presidents, save for the Adamses, picked as the head of the State Department someone who would succeed them as President. Oddly, except for Polk’s pick of Buchanan, no other Secretary ascended to the White House after that.

Many of you know that the President elected in the years ending in zero from 1840 to 1960 died in office. I always wondered what it was like for the country to have its leaders assassinated so close together in the latter stages of the 20th Century (Lincoln-1865, Garfield-1881, McKinley-1901 – OK, not the 19th Century, but close enough.) The 1881 assassination created a unique situation: three Presidents in one year: Hayes, finishing his term; Garfield; and his successor, Arthur; that had happened only 40 years earlier, with Van Buren, WH Harrison, and Tyler.
But can you name the only President who died in office that WASN’T elected in a year ending in zero? Here’s a clue: he was a Whig, one of four Whig Presidents we had, who served only a total of eight years.

That would be Zach Taylor, who was elected in 1848 and died in 1850, succeeded by Millard Fillmore. When I was memorizing the Presidents, I had the greatest difficulty with the late 1840s and early 1850s, mostly because I somehow morphed Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce into Mildred Pierce.

My question to you: what is your favorite mundane piece of trivial President information that you use to impress your friends and stun your enemies?
This recent Harris poll of top Presidents left me shaking my head, with the current occupant coming in at number 10. Then I saw the AOL poll that asked where W fit in the pantheon of Presidents. As of 9 pm EST last night:
Among the bottom third 62% 269,198
Among the top third 25% 108,585
Among the middle third 13% 57,379
Well, all righty, then.
Democrats Target Kucinich for Defeat.
McCain wrong on the one issue I’d previously given him credit for.


I Hate the Debates QUESTIONS

I’ve watched none of the debates, Democratic or Republican, in 2007. The problem is that they’re not debates as I understand the term.
Then there’s this October 31 post from GovTrack.US called “Debates giving time based on poll numbers?”
The New York Times has an interesting flash application that breaks down the text of yesterday’s Democratic debate (there was a debate?) by speaker and shows visually the distribution of who spoken when through the debate. They took the transcript, made it visual and interactive, and the end result is a vastly different view onto the debate than anyone had before.

One can’t help but notice that the different candidates are not getting the same amount of speaking time. Clinton spoke more than 3.5 times more words, and the same for speaking time, than Biden. For that matter, basically so did the moderator, who held the floor for more time than anyone but Clinton. It’s no wonder that Clinton is considered “the Democrat to beat” considering she’s in our face more.

If the numbers weren’t so vastly different between the candidates, we’d chalk it up to some random variation that happens from debate to debate. But, from the numbers, the speaking times are clearly planned. It’s so clear that I feel like maybe I missed something. Is it common knowledge that the debates are proportioning time out to the candidates based on their poll numbers (or something equivalent)? It’s not just that the front-runners are getting more time. The statistical correlation is ridiculously high (speaking time versus FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. Oct. 23-24: r=.96). That is, the debate organizers are basically using this formula to determine how much time each candidate should get:
Speaking Time = 8:26 minutes + 25 seconds * Latest Poll Number (%)

Of course, debate organizers can’t control exactly how long each candidate talks for, but the candidates only deviated from the formula by at most two minutes and twenty seconds (Biden, who spoke less, and Edwards, who spoke more).

1) Are you watching the debates? If so, who’s impressed you, depressed you? If not, why not? Not interested in politics? It’s too early to pay attention? The “debate” format?

There was a question about the Bible at the last Republican go-round:

Joseph: I am Joseph. I am from Dallas, Texas, and how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?
Anderson Cooper: I think we’ve got a question. Mayor Giuliani?
Huckabee: Do I need to help you out, Mayor, on this one?
Rudolph Giuliani: Wait a second, you’re the minister. You’re going to help me out on this one.
Mike Huckabee: I’m trying to help you out.
Giuliani: OK. The reality is, I believe it, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily literally true in every single respect. I think there are parts of the Bible that are interpretive. I think there are parts of the Bible that are allegorical. I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be interpreted in a modern context.
So, yes, I believe it. I think it’s the great book ever written. I read it frequently. I read it very frequently when I’ve gone through the bigger crises in my life, and I find great wisdom in it, and it does define to a very large extent my faith. But I don’t believe every single thing in the literal sense of Jonah being in the belly of the whale, or, you know, there are some things in it that I think were put there as allegorical.
Cooper: Governor Romney?
Mitt Romney: I believe the Bible is the word of God, absolutely. And I try…
… I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways. But it’s a guide for my life and for hundreds of millions, billions of people around the world. I believe in the Bible.
Cooper: Does that mean you believe every word?
Romney: You know — yes, I believe it’s the word of God, the Bible is the word of God.
The Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don’t disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.
Cooper: Governor Huckabee?
Huckabee: Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It’s the word of revelation to us from God himself.
And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don’t believe it. But in the greater sense, I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says “Go and pluck out your eye,” well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical.
But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And as much as you’ve done it to the least of these brethren, you’ve done it unto me. Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I’m not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.
And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don’t fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small.

I agree with the allegory references by Rudy and Mike, and Huckabee’s suggestion of the difficulty of understanding the Bible. But the idea that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is simple and really easy, I don’t buy; maybe it is in concept, but not so much in execution.

That leads to:
2) Do you think the question about belief in the Bible is an appropriate one in a pluralistic society for a Presidential debate? Recent episodes of Doonesbury suggest that an atheist would have a very hard time getting elected, although previous Presidents have given only lip service, at best, to the faith – do you agree with that assessment?

3) How would you answer the question about belief in the Bible?
A recommended website: Open