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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

43 vs. 44

There has been an awful lot of talk about or 44th President recently.  Here's the thing though, that President hasn't been elected yet, and won't be until 2012 or 2016. Barack Obama is the 43rd President.  Technically, the Obama administration is the 44th administration, but there have been 43 different men to hold the office, not 44.  

Confused? Let's explore history a little bit...

In 1884 New York Governor Grover Cleavland was elected the twenty second President of the United States.  Mr. Cleavland, the first Democrat elected after the Civil War, did so with a broad coalition of bipartisan support on a platform of reform and change.  The second youngest man to hold the office was elected despite his detractors citing his lack of political experience.  Cleavland claimed the office was about judgment, and in his sweeping rhetoric pledged to do what was right and what was hard to defeat corruption, regardless of the political consequences.  Sound familiar?

In December 1887 President Cleavland called on Congress to reduce protective tariffs, due to a budget surplus. This despite advice that he would be giving Republicans an effective issue for the 1888 campaign, he famously replied, "What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?" But Cleveland was defeated in 1888; although he won a larger percentage of the popular vote, Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, received more electoral votes. 

The inherited surplus was used to grow the federal government, renewing rail, steamship and farm subsidies etc.  The Harrison budgets became the first to surpass a billion dollars during peace time.  Even with the surplus intact, Harrison opted to raise tariffs to a level higher than before Cleavland's cuts.  As a direct result, the cost of everything went up, strangled the economy and forced a deep depression. 

In 1892, Cleveland was back.  A series of retooled regulations and policies with a boot strap emphasis restored the economy.  Though they were largely unpopular.

The parallels of this time to our own are rather striking, but that's not why I tell this story.  Rather, my point is that due to President Harrison splitting the Cleavland terms,  Grover Cleavland is consistently cited as both our 22nd and 24th president, which means that only 43 different people have held the office.  Ergo, the 44th person to hold the office, will be the next administration.  

I have been told that this distinction is akin to the silly 2000 vs 2001 as the true millennium.  Maybe it is, but I don't think so, changing from 19 to 20 was the cool part, not the history of the date.  In this case we are being asked to miscount.  And with much smaller numbers.  I know I'm not the only member of the media with the ability to count to 43 accurately, so let's get it right.  Barack Hussein Obama, our forty third president. 

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