Thursday, May 22, 2008

Benjamin Harrison: Kinda Like Jenna Bush

He had a pretty good beard.

Benjamin Harrison served as our nation's 23rd President, nestled in a sandwich made of Grover Cleveland's delicious non-consecutive terms. He was the grandson of the ill-fated President Tippecanoe, and the son of a Congressman, which is how he is like Jenna Bush. Pretty much. Born in Ohio and a graduate of the erroneously-named "Miami University" there, Benjamin Harrison belonged to a "private gentleman's club" of some kind that may or may have not involved strippers. I decline to do any further research. He married Caroline Scott and they had a son and a daughter. They turned out to be ungrateful brats (see: Harrison's second marriage). Harrison served in the Union army, while his future rival Cleveland paid somebody off to take his place. Can't really blame old Groves, though, I've seen Civil War movies. You know they didn't have anesthesia back then? Also, they just lined up and shot at each other. Dumbest. tactic. ever. Harrison's army buddies used to call him "Little Ben" because he was only 5'6". Which is slightly taller than me, but nobody calls me "little" anything because I would punch them in the face if they did.*

Anyway, like pretty much everyone else who was elected president between the Civil War and WWI, Benjamin Harrison was a Republican. After settling in Indiana, he held some random local offices and served in the Senate for six years in the 1880s. But in the somewhat-sketchy election of 1888, Harrison defeated the incumbent President Cleveland, despite losing the popular vote. (Goddamn electoral college always fucking us over.) This period in U.S. History has been called "The Gilded Age". This is because men like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and various corrupt politicians insisted that everything they owned be covered in gold. As you can imagine, this made all their shit really shiny, expensive, and heavy.

Google image search: Cleveland sandwich.

The spoils system was in full swing at this time (James A. Garfield continues to say thanks from beyond the grave, BTW), and though Harrison mostly kept his fingers out of the political promise pie, his supporters were not so scrupulous. This was awkward for Benjamin Harrison. As a Republican, he couldn't really try and reform civil service, because no one would like him. It turned out that nobody liked him anyway. He presided over a tariff/treasury surplus situation that didn't really turn out that well for anyone, though he did sign the Sherman Anti-Trust Act into law. An economic downturn and general corruption brought about a tough beating for the Republicans in the 1890 midterm elections. Harrison somehow managed to get re-nominated, however, and went up to bat** against Cleveland again. This time, there was apparently less cheating or something, because the American people wanted Cleveland back. That's a pretty clear mandate, President Harrison. Sorry everyone hates you. Oh, and his wife died pretty much right while he was losing.

Anyway, old "Kid Gloves" Harrison (He was called this because he had some sort of skin sensitivity that made him have to wear gloves. That's what Michael Jackson said too. Innnnteresting.) returned to Indiana, got remarried to one of his wife's nieces and had another kid; pissing off his grown children, who were worried about getting their full inheritance. He did some "elder statesman" bullshit for awhile, but ended up succumbing to influenza and pneumonia (just like Gramps!), dying in 1901.*** He's had some shit named after him, but he's mostly been forgotten because he didn't really do anything very cool like start a war, get shot, or commit genocide. Anyway, this is kinda what we have to look forward to when Jenna runs in 2036.

*This is false. Most likely. Don't test me.

**This stupid sports metaphor is where I will mention that Harrison was the first U.S. President to attend a baseball game, according to the the "discouraged" trivia section of his Wikipedia article.

***"It's like ten thousand spoons, when all you need is a knife..."


  1. I kinda of feel sorry for that other Bush twin daughter. Whatsherface? No really, I don't know and I'm too lazy to look it up.

    I bet she's always all "Jenna, Jenna, Jenna!" Maybe SHE'LL be the one who surprises us and becomes the first female president (sorry HRC) or something.

  2. It's Barbara. Seriously. They were like, "Your sister will have the cute, modern name, and you can have your grandma's name."