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- 61911#17 on the ultimate list“ Following discovery of the first AIDS cases in June of 1981, Ronald Reagan and his administration refused to (publicly) acknowledge the existence of both the virus and the deadly disorder. (Even when close friend of Ron & Nancy, Rock Hudson, was diagnosed and died from an AIDS-related illness in 1985, Reagan still did not speak out as president. It wasn't until 1987 that President Reagan publicly spoke about the pandemic.) Silence by the Reagan Administration meant that funding for AIDS research at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, along with federal funds to help those afflicted with the malady, were routinely denied. Communities across the country soon realized that if those with AIDS were to be allowed to live and die with some semblance of dignity and comfort, the communities themselves would have to provide that help because no one else was going to provide any relief.
President Reagan's response to the first cases of what came to be called AIDS was halting and ineffective. Those infected initially—all gay men—found themselves targeted with an unprecedented level of mean-spirited hostility. Much of Reagan's support came from the religious right and the Moral Majority who promoted the idea that AIDS was punishment from God. AIDS was seen as nature's way of cleaning out society's trash—homosexuals and IV-drug users were considered undesirables, so AIDS became the tool, and gay men the target, for the politics of fear, hate, and discrimination. Reagan could have chosen to end the homophobic rhetoric that flowed from so many in his administration. How profoundly different might have been the outcome if his leadership had generated compassion rather than hostility. In the history of the AIDS epidemic, President Reagan's legacy is one of silence, the silence of tens of thousands who died alone and unacknowledged, stigmatized by our government under his administration. While Reagan is often hailed as one of the nation's great presidents for what he did, we must not remain silent about the vast damage his "sins of omission" continue to perpetuate around the world. Too many have died for that. By 2009, 1,142,714 men, women, and children had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States, and more than 617,000 of them had died.
- 71808#1 on the ultimate list“ Like Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson believed in preserving the Union of states. As southern states seceded and pulled their representatives from Congress, Johnson was the only Southern senator to remain at his post. This brought him to the attention of Lincoln, who liked the way Johnson handled things in his home state of Tennessee after the Union retook control. Lincoln chose Johnson as his running mate in the 1864 election partly to demonstrate that, North and South, there was only one nation.
Lincoln was assassinated just a month after their 1865 inauguration, and had not yet shared with Johnson the details of his plans for Reconstruction. Johnson wanted to restore the southern states' rights and government as quickly as possible, and deal with voting and slavery issues after that was accomplished. The Republican Congress thought this too lenient a plan and insisted that the states agree to the Union positions on these issues before being allowed to rejoin the Union. Neither side would budge on their demands, and instead of streamlining the southern states' return to the Union, the stalemate caused Reconstruction of the South to drag on longer than necessary.
Johnson's stubbornness was what caused friction with Congress and disagreement with his own cabinet. Eventually, it led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives. Truth be told, Johnson's performance as president, thrust upon him as it was, was almost remarkable, with the country so divided, wounded, and hurting. His number one priority was to preserve/restore the full union of states, and that he did.
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- 201809#44 on the ultimate list“ Granted, a number of good things came from actions taken by Abraham Lincoln while he was president. However, he felt forced into taking these actions, going against his better judgment, while some of his "great" achievements were really shallow, meaningless gestures meant to avoid the issues at hand. Lincoln's assassination in 1865 immediately made him a national martyr, and over time, his legend became larger than life. Lincoln wanted to preserve the Union...in fact, he wanted to preserve everything the way it was; he was content with the status quo. He only took drastic action when he found himself between a rock and a hard place.
Lincoln never pretended to be a racial liberal or a social innovator. He said repeatedly, in public and in private, that he was a firm believer in white supremacy. Lincoln was not opposed to slavery; he was opposed to the extension of slavery. More than that: Lincoln was opposed to the extension of slavery out of devotion to the interests of white people, not out of compassion for suffering blacks.
Lincoln was not the Great Emancipator. The Emancipation Proclamation was not what people think it is, and Lincoln issued it with extreme misgivings and reservations. He was personally opposed to sudden and general emancipation. It was not the fear of emancipation but the fear of what would happen afterwards that palsied Lincoln's hands. He was deeply disturbed by the implications of turning loose four million black people in a land he considered the domain of the white man. He considered black people unassimilable aliens, and there was not, in his view, enough room in America for black and white people. Insofar as it can be said that Lincoln had an emancipation policy, it was to rid America of slaves and Negroes. When he failed in his attempt to end the war without touching slavery, he fell back to a second plan of gradual and compensated emancipation extending over a 37-year-period. This was linked in his thinking with a companion policy of colonizing black people in South America or Africa. He proposed a black settlement on Central American land, "rich in coal." For months after signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln was deeply involved in an attempt to settle black people on an island off the coast of Haiti. When that venture failed, he shifted to the Southwest, investigating the feasibility of settling black people in the state of Texas.
In the spring and summer of 1862, it was Congress that began emancipating. Congress forbade military officers to return fugitive slaves, authorized the President to accept black soldiers, and emancipated the slaves in Washington, D.C. Finally, Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, which freed the slaves of all rebels. Lincoln followed Congress' lead slowly and grudgingly, signing most of these acts with evident displeasure. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Cold, forbidding, with all the moral grandeur of a real estate deed, the Proclamation does not enumerate a single principle hostile to slavery and it contains not one quotable sentence. There wasn't much else in it, either. The document was drafted in such a way that it freed few, if any, slaves. It did not apply to slaves in the Border States and areas under federal control in the South. In other words, Lincoln "freed" slaves where he had no power and left them in chains where he did have power.
This wasn't the only time Lincoln acted on matters outside his scope of authority. For example, the U.S. Constitution provides that new states may be admitted to the Union by Congress, but no new state shall be formed by the merger of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as that of Congress. Lincoln bypassed both the Virginia legislature and Congress when he signed the order making West Virginia a state, the only state in the Union created by presidential proclamation. George W. Bush had some success with executive orders after 9/11/2001, but most presidents are stopped from executing proclamations and orders outside their realm of authority. Even FDR, when instituting his New Deal programs, was stopped from carrying out those programs deemed outside his jurisdiction. Lincoln got away with it because many of his political opponents that would protest his actions were from states that had seceded from the Union. „
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