O is for One Hundred Days

So Donald Trump may be trying to suggest that the one hundred day mark of his glorious administration is not a big thing (can’t imagine why!) but I am here to tell you that it is. My evidence? This…

This is Child 3’s creative way of marking her 100 days in first grade. Since she is in sixth grade now, it has been a while since she made it. And I know for a fact that this ‘assignment’ is common throughout schools here at some point in kid’s first or second full-time year in school. So where does the 100 day thing come from?

I’ve read a couple of different accounts – one citing the fact that it took Napoleon 100 days to return from exile, re-establish himself as the ruler of France and start the war against the Brits that would end at Waterloo – but the origin of this as a US phenomenon seems to lie firmly with FDR.

Ever since Franklin Roosevelt’s charge into office with the New Deal, among other achievements, the concept of the importance of 100 days as a marker of importance has become part of US culture. And that’s despite the fact that, “Presidents since Roosevelt have been held up to a standard that not even Roosevelt achieved,”

That said, the 100 day mark is arbitrary. It has a cultural significance but doesn’t define a school year or a presidency. It merits buttons and not much more.

But for those interested in what Trump has or has not achieved in his first 100 days (and yes, I did think about making a sheet just like Child 3’s buttons and putting a photo of Neil Gorsuch in the first box and leaving the rest blank!), here is a link to Fox News’ review. Since Fox loves Trump and Trump loves Fox, I think it makes interesting reading…

Trump’s first one hundred days in numbers

 

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F is for FLOTUS

Let’s begin with a little confession. A couple of years ago I watched a whole series of VEEP thinking that the President (who was never seen because the programme is all about Selina, the Vice President) was actually called Potus. I thought it was his surname. Thankfully my lovely husband was able to put me straight and so I was able to move on in life knowing that POTUS means President Of The United States and his wife is therefore FLOTUS: First Lady of the United States. Doh. Sometimes I can be a bit slow on the uptake!

So the FLOTUS is on my mind today in particular because I was listening the British radio this morning and apparently some woman back home turned 90 today and its a big deal 😉

As there is no monarchy over here, there is no direct equivalent, but there is the First Lady and I have been writing about First Ladies this week with my book reviewer’s hat on. I’ve been reading and writing about Louisa, The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas, an excellent biography of the wife of John Quincy Adams, the sixth POTUS. I also did some research about First Ladies in general and found that there are regular surveys carried out asking US historians and scholars who the ‘best’ First Lady is/was. Without preempting my article for Bookbrowse, here are some amusing facts about First Ladies that I learned this week:

Laura Bush tops the list of First Ladies who “could have done more”.

Mary Lincoln rates pretty poorly and drags down her husband to 7th place in the best “power couple” category. In the First Ladies’ ranks she comes in at a lowly 31st, but in previous years has been in last place.

Number one in six out of 10 categories is Eleanor Roosevelt. She was also the longest serving First Lady.

Dolley Madison ranks as 4th best First Lady but I’d personally like to recognise her as the First Lady with the most jolly name. Here is a picture of Dolley who was First Lady from 1809-1817. I think she looks pretty jolly too:

1024px-DolleyMadisonbyPeale

Michelle Obama joined the rankings the last time this survey was conducted (in 2014). She does well, ranking 5th overall, and also tops the list of First Lady who ‘most effectively managed family life while in office’.

Only two women have been married to a President and the mother of a President: Abigail Adams and Barbara Bush. Abigail Adams (FLOTUS of the 2nd POTUS) also tops the rankings for Integrity and Value to the President, placing 2nd overall to Mrs Roosevelt.

Jackie Kennedy takes 3rd place overall and wins out in the categories of Being a White House Steward and Public Image.

Hilary Clinton came in 6th place in the 2014 survey but she tops the rank in one very topical category…… First Lady most capable of being President!

 

C is for Caucusing

Feeling topical this morning, I have been dittering around on the internet – and dipping in and out of my much loved Historical Thesaurus of the the Oxford English Dictionary – wondering if the word caucus originated in the States. Caucus, and in particular the -ing form (gerund or participle? maybe depends on the usage?) sounds like an old sort of word. It makes me think of wassailing, and I don’t think that’s only because caucus rhymes with raucous.

It seemed to me there would be a bit of history out there about caucusing and caucuses, but what I came across instead was the perfect literary use of caucusing that I am a) only sad I hadn’t remembered myself from reading the book, and b) delighted with because it pretty much summed up some of the electoral craziness that has been going on over here for months.

I refer, of course, to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and in particular, to this:

caucus

Chapter 3 of Lewis Carroll’s famous novel (first published in 1863)  is called A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale, and here is the pertinent text:

“What is a Caucus-race?” said Alice; not that she much wanted to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

“Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to explain it is to do it.” (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter-day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (“the exact shape doesn’t matter,” it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no “One, two, three, and away!”, but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out “The race is over!”, and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, “But who has won?”

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”

Particularly given the close results in the Democrat caucus last night, it seems to me that Alice might have grown up and turned into Hillary Clinton and that Bernie Sanders could be The Lory, who also takes part in the Dodo’s race and claims superiority over Alice because he’s older than she is. No? Just a thought.