Armen Chakmakjian

Interesting quotes by or about Presidents

In Random on February 20, 2017 at 2:59 pm

“It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples.”

– Theodore Roosevelt from a transcription of Roosevelt’s speech at the opening of the Minnesota State Fair, as it appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune 3 September 1901

“Don’t worry, I’ll just confuse them”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower in March 1955 when warned by advisers to watch what he said about a crisis with Red China at a press conference

“Find out what whiskey he drinks and send all of my generals a case, if it will get the same results.” 

– Abraham Lincoln quoted in New York Herald on September 18, 1863 on General Grant’s drinking during the successful Vicksburg campaign

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

-George Washington in a letter to Alexander Hamilton August 28, 1788

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 19, 2017 on twitter on Donald Trump’s comment that something happened in Sweden the night before.


On excellent expression…

In Random on February 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm

As the 35th anniversary of my high school graduation approaches I look back fondly on those years. I attended what at the time was called “Fairfield College Preparatory School” or “Prep” for short and at the at time Fairfield College had for many years been referred to as Fairfield University. The University teams were called Stags in reference to the time when Fairfield was an all male college, but at the time of my attendance at Prep, the university was co-ed. Not so for Prep, which was still and still is a boys’ school. The teams at Prep were and are still referred to as “The Jesuits.”

I was a child of Armenian immigrants from the middle east, my mother from Istanbul and my father from the litany of famous and infamous cities of history, Jerusalem where he was born, Bethlehem, Beit Jamal, Ramleh, Jerusalem again and finally Amman where he grew into manhood before coming to the US. I was born and raised in Bridgeport CT and my father was a steel worker with a wish that he could have had more education. While attending Prep, I was presented with as good an education that one could probably receive anywhere. The level of discourse, verbal and written, between teacher and student and even more so between students about every topic was, in retrospect, way beyond our years or peers. I was on the debating team, but every common conversation in the cafeteria would become a debate of ideas.

Within this environment of elevated discussion, I was always amazed at the writing skill of my fellow students. I had to work extremely hard to express myself in a similar way. While I knew 2 other languages beside English and was taking Latin, I always felt like the bar was really high. These guys were very smart.

I write all the above for some context on the actual topic of this note which is the appreciation of excellent expression. Years after leaving Prep and getting my engineering degree, began to re-immerse myself in non-technical books and writing for my edification and enjoyment. I read works on literary criticism, politics, and creative works. I came across some writing by that guy on Firing Line with the weird accent who used really long words that I hadn’t heard in a while, at least since the high school verbal jousts or ever at all. While I didn’t come down as far over the political spectrum as he often debated from, I was fascinated when William F. Buckley and John Kenneth Galbraith would go after each other on the PBS debates. The civil repartee between colleagues who still disagreed wholeheartedly was very enjoyable.

This past Christmas one of my sisters sent me a book, A Torch Kept Lit, which is a collection of eulogies written by Buckley about people in his life that were mostly published in the National Review in his column. Given everything I wrote about above, I thought this letter by Hugh Kenner, defending Buckley’s overuse of the word “solipsism” to Charles Wallen, their mutual friend who complained about it, reminded me of a lot of the oddball discussions from that time in high school:

Dear Charles,

Bill’s point is precisely that there is no substitute for “solipsism.” If what pains you about it is simply the fact that you seldom hear it, then the fault is not in the man who grinds it against your ears, but in the millions of part-time and largely inadvertent solipsists who are so who are so convinced the universe emanates from them that they feel no need of a word to designate such a condition. Fish, on the same principal, know nothing of water and for aqueous terminology you should not apply to a fish.

If on the other hand your ears are assaulted by its impacted sibilants (as the ears of Tennyson were aggrieved by the word “scissors”) then I can only fetch you the cold comfort that for a graceless condition the wisdom inherent in the language has afforded us a graceless word. And if, finally, your grievance is that Bill uses it too often, then I can only tax you with inconsistency, since you report that after one to two years of not hearing it from his lips you were wounded anew by a single occurrence — perhaps, I will grant, on the principle of a man who has been sensitized to penicillin. Such a man’s comfort should be that others need the remedy that inflames them, and that principle I commend to you.

Hugh Kenner

Writing like this always makes me laugh out loud (LOL!).

There is no choice…

In Random on October 22, 2016 at 3:31 am

Stop. Stop telling me that your candidate is the last hope, or doing it for the right reasons, or is less bad than the other person, or is the change we need…yadayadayada.

First, Trump is completely, and uniquely unqualified by temperament and knowledge of the political and diplomatic system to be the president. He is apocalyptically bad in how he is destroying our republic and the peaceful transition of power.

I remember what I thought when he came down the escalator.  “This is a joke”.  About a month later I let out what I had suspected. That Trump it was a Trojan horse sent by the Clintons and their supporters to shake up the Party of Lincoln.

postI have never been a Clinton family supporter, I even voted for Barak Obama in the Massachusetts primary in 2008 because my 1990’s view of the Clintons was still stuck in my craw. Hillary Clinton may have been one the most experienced public servant since George HW Bush, whom her husband had defeated, and she had not yet been a Secy of State at that point.

I kinda thought her a carpetbagger going to New York (like Robert Kennedy) to win in a state that had a quirky rule that allowed people from out of state to become their Senator.  She always seemed competent and more serious than Bill. As much as I respected John McCain for his public service and his sacrifices for the country, his selection of Sarah Palin created a chasm in my cognition.  How could he select this…this person who thinks the Minutemen could see Russia…oh forget it.

I am still convinced that Barack Obama was actually a good thing for the Republic even though I voted against him 4 years later. That being said, I still talk about Bill Clinton’s speech at the 2012 Democratic convention (and you can ask my family) .  When he pleaded with the convention hall, “Wait…Wait…this is important” I howled. “Oh My God, he just won the reelection for Obama. This is the greatest political speech in television history! No one else could have pulled that off. God I hate him. He’s just so good at this.”

Anyway, as 2015 went from fall into winter, I kept feeling worse.  Trump was slinging shit at all the terrible Republican candidates, broken pols who were the weakest, lamest group of power-seeking bunglers ever collected in western civilization since King John. And I continued to think that Trump was just a distraction created by the Clintons to tear apart their former oppressors.  “We are being punked,” I repeated time after time.

Mind you I believe that Republican party went through a 20 year period of dumbing down themselves to get the Pat Buchanan voters.  Even though I voted for him, George W. Bush pissed me off each time he would say “Don’t Mess With Texas”.  I’d be like, “Dude, it’s not about Texas. Any anyway, you were born in New Haven!  You’re assuming the lead of the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan…and George Herbert Walker Bush.” Whatever…

Anyway, as I said I thought it was a ruse. We were being punked. Then Trump began to win against the numbnuts and I started to get worried. Trump started to act like the Sean Connery character in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King”.  He suddenly was no longer the disruptor, he started to believe his own bullshit. He thought he was Iskander, he was destiny. Then I got really really upset.

Why?  Because while he was sounding like the second coming of Huey Long, Hillary Clinton was getting slammed for her email server.  Benghazi.  The Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton. Instead of simultaneously falling down because of the expected conspicious Clintonesque sleaze sideshow and to a well run and clean campaign by Bernie Sanders, with whom I disagree on almost every policy position, I saw her getting stronger as more baggage was being brought in from foreign sources.

Next, exactly what I was worried about. Trump the sideshow had now become the worst nightmare for the Clintons.  He moved from agent provocateur to actually viable.  Now they were going to have to destroy him.  And his partisans weren’t going to change. They were going to dig in!

I blame the press.  The press was amused by Trump’s rise. They let out a collective snicker as they gave him free campaign ads each night on TV for a year. The nightly news story was not the policy issues we were supposed to be talking about – it was small hands, furry shoes, name-calling and other epithets. The mainstream media, biased against republican candidates by editorial nature, were reveling in the disrupter. He got good ratings…great ratings.  He was the lead story every night. He made fun of a disabled person. He called Mexicans names. He was going to build a wall.

In February, I was really distraught. I watched Bernie get attacked by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s machinations. I watched the coincident lameness of the candidates on the republican side and then I wrote the following post in which I lamented about the lack of statesmen in the election: Statesmen?  What had happened to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. This was the best we could have? Was Hillary the best of the party of Wilson, FDR and Truman..or just the inevitable candidate. If she gets elected we have another round of whitewater, blue dresses, congressional hearings, special prosecutors…ugh…

For a brief period I thought that maybe I’d hold my nose for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. I tried to ignore that he called Trump a pussy in February and challenged him to climb a mountain and…and…and then he discovered Aleppo. Johnson always seemed to me to like he was a side character in a Cheech and Chong movie, with a puff of smoke rising from behind him. “Hey Mr. Lizard, want a Cheeseburger?”  Bill Weld in contrast seems like Leslie Nielsen, looking bemused and amused by the confusion around him, then letting people know he’d known where Aleppo was because he read a story book about Aleppo when he was 4 years old in between events where he recited Cicero…and will show Gary a map when it is necessary.

Now we’ve had the debates. In the midst of all this, well before the current press-induced virality, I posted a copy of GHWB’s letter to Clinton on Facebook. I lamented at least twice, in July and this month, that class was gone in politics. Class, good behavior, positive condescension, empathy.  I still cringe each time I remember Bill’s “I feel your pain” crack but even that was more memorable and presidential than the discourse we are seeing.

In the three debates I watched Hillary start to wear the play clock down to the last second and then run the ball up the middle. She went into the 4 corners offense with no shot clock. Then, tapes of him talking start appearing talking about what he thinks he gets away with because he is famous and creepy comments about his daughter.

Walk the runner to load the bases. Just last long enough with a smile on your face. Get him to crack by questioning his business acumen.  He’s so dumb and narcissistic, he falls for it every time. She played like she was hoping she could draw him offsides.

He tells the world that he won’t accept a loss.  He thinks he can pull out the Al Gore card.  Did he not not accept the results?  Well, the state rules automatically questioned the results before the Gore campaign did. Then yesterday he goes into the Al Smith Dinner and starts to say really stupid things.

All the while, Wiki-leaks and the KGB are letting out more Podesta emails and maybe today took down the internet in a DDOS attack. So you think it is okay for them to hack our campaigns, either side?  Really? It’s ok to have someone hack our institutions as long as it is against your opponent? Really? Is that the American way?

This election is a cartoon. The candidates are caricatures. Mickey Mouse for President.