John McCaslin

People either love him or hate him, and these days it seems that everybody but the U.S. soldiers who stood in his Iraqi chow line isn't loving George W. Bush.

Even conservatives aren't impressed because "virtually nothing of conservative substance has happened" under the president's watch, laments former Reagan White House special assistant Doug Bandow, who goes so far as to suggest that Democrats in 2004 crown Bush their candidate of choice.

"Liberals should identify with the Bush record," writes Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, in the latest issue of the American Conservative.

"He is increasing the size and power of the U.S. government both at home and abroad. He has expanded social engineering from the American nation to the entire globe. He is lavish with dollars on both domestic and foreign programs. For this the left hates him?"

Historically speaking, the Republican Party is a far cry from when it "truly blossomed" at the beginning of the Reagan era, seconded Governing magazine editor Alan Ehrenhalt in his recent Bradley Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

Twenty-five years ago, Republicans became "the tax-cut party, the party of optimism, and not the party-poopers or guys with rimless glasses and clipped Midwestern accents," he said.

However, since Sept. 11, Bush has "made sure that it was Sept. 12 every morning ... as if we had just been terrorized, and we were in the midst of an anti-terror campaign.

"But that approach will not work in the elections of 2004, and the hold of 9/11 is loosening," the editor remarked.


We knew presidential primaries were a New Hampshire first, but political conventions?

Historical evidence has come to light that the founder of the modern political convention system was none other than the man who gave us the perforated postage stamp and central heating in the White House - Franklin Pierce.

In a New Hampshire Public Radio report this week, political correspondent John Milne reveals that America's 14th president brought electing a president out of the backrooms in 1832, when he was 27 and the youngest-ever speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner discovered documents showing that Pierce not only engineered the first political nominating convention in New Hampshire, but pressed the rest of the nation to adopt the system.

"New Hampshire has long been considered the state with the first-in-the-nation primary," Milne noted. "Gardner's discovery gives New Hampshire a claim on organizing the first-in-the-nation political convention."

Before 1832, presidential nominees were selected by congressional party caucuses. Milne said incumbent President Andrew Jackson was a personal hero of Pierce's, and Pierce happened to be Jackson's man in New Hampshire. Jackson sought a second term just as he had broken with Congress over his choice of Martin Van Buren to replace the powerful John C. Calhoun as vice president.

So Pierce organized the first convention, across the street from the New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord's Eagle Hotel. He then pressed the other 23 states to hold a national nominating convention. Pierce got his way, and Jackson got re-elected with Van Buren as his new vice president.

As Gardner informed Milne: "That convention was followed four years later, and eight years later, and 12 years later, by successive conventions in Baltimore. And in 1852 - 20 years later - our own Franklin Pierce was nominated in Baltimore at a convention that was similar to the convention 20 years earlier that had been organized by New Hampshire and by Franklin Pierce."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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