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Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2001 / 28 Teves, 5761

Paul Greenberg

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Advice from the past -- Through the diligence of AP, or the Apocryphal Press, the following correspondence, tied neatly together and addressed to the President of the United States 2001, was unearthed this week in a dusty corner of the White House attic next to some old billing records:

Your Excellency:

Greetings and congratulations on the endurance of the republic which we of another era commenced. Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than to be in the place you assume today.

If I may be so bold as to offer counsel, allow me to admonish you to seek a more perfect union and beware inspiring factions, which I am confident are as rife in your day as they were, alas, in mine. Your cabinet, too, will surely have its equally brilliant and mutually opposed Hamiltons and Jeffersons. Make every use of them, but keep them well-harnessed and pointed in the same direction.

I implore you, Sir, to cherish public credit, avoid permanent alliances and remember that the best way to secure peace is to be prepared for war.

Do not allow the auspicious occasion of your inaugural address to pass without imploring the aid and succour of the Great Author of every private and public good.

Your obt servant,

;          Geo. Washington

Message to the President:

I studied politics and war so that my sons might have liberty to study commerce and agriculture, so their children might study music and poetry.

Yet facts are stubborn things, and I suspect all generations must study politics and war even in your, I hope, peaceful and prosperous time.

As the first resident of the presidential mansion, I hope that none but honest and wise men have ruled under its roof.

The influence of Thomas Jefferson, I daresay, still lives. His ideas always did appeal to the popular mind. Take them cum grano salis and balance them with a wholesome skepticism toward whatever idols of the day have succeeded ours. By now, I suspect, the great god Demos leads the whole pantheon.

In testimony whereof, etc.

;         John Adams


Remember that every difference of politics is not a difference principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists, or whatever your generation's factions are styled.

Surely your time, too, knows partisan invective, but take care to restore that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.

Hopefully, ;         Th. Jefferson

Mr. President:

One man with courage makes a majority. Remember that nothing improves the temperament of a scoundrel like hanging him. Our federal Union! It must be preserved! Have done, Sir, with questions philosophical, metaphysical, legal or abstruse. Just act. Without further ado, ;          Andrew Jackson


As your case is new, so you must think anew, and act anew. Beware of rashness, but with energy and vigilance, go forward. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives you to see the right, finish the work, bind up the wounds, and do all which may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Oh yes, you can't fool all the people all the time. Important principles may and must be inflexible.

;         A. Lincoln

Esteemed Mr. President:

Sir, I have the honor to advise you to secure complete unanimity before adopting any policy whatsoever, and to take the greatest umbrage at any slightest criticism of your person. That is how I managed so well.

Allow me to bid you an affectionate adieu, yours etc.,

;         Jefferson Davis, C.S.A.

Mr. President --

Bully for you and the strenuous life! Far better to dare mighty things, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. Stay as strong as a bull moose, speak softly but carry a big stick, and give everybody a square deal. Watch the trusts, those malefactors of great wealth, and the lunatic fringe that comes with every reform movement, including your own. You've been given a bully pulpit. Use it. ;         Theodore Roosevelt

Dear Mr. President:

May you be given the good fortune to attend to domestic reforms, as I would have liked to do. Unfortunately, the need to fashion a system of collective security will continue to demand atttention. With the greatest sympathy,

;         Woodrow Wilson

My friend,

You have nothing to fear but fear itself. The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. Do not settle for a rendezvous with mediocrity. Good luck and keep smiling, ;         F.D.R.

Mr. President:

A president is either on top of things, or they are on top of him. Remember that the buck stops with you.

;         Harry S Truman

Dear Mr. President:

You don't have to speak clearly to govern successfully. Quite the contrary. Eloquence can be the enemy of success. Indeed, it's usually best to be a little vague. Let the press try to puzzle out what you're for and against, especially if you don't know yet. No need to close any options.

;         Ike

Mr. President:

There's still time to dress up that White House guard with a few shakos. Above all, don't record your conversations. Or put anything in writing. The important thing is to assure the American people from the outset about your moral character. It might help if you wound up your address today with an assuring phrase like, "I am not a crook!''

;         Richard M. Nixon

Dear Mr. President:

P> Whatever you do, don't keep telling the American people what a malaise they're stuck in. They may come to suspect it's only you who are stuck there.

;         Jimmy Carter

Dear Mr. President,

The greatest asset you'll have in the Oval Office is deniability. Always remember to forget. Especially under oath.

Sincerely as ever, ;         Wm. J. Clinton, Esq.

Yes, yes, it's a lot of fun to dream up all this apocryphal advice, and it may even entertain, but what counsel would this inky wretch dare offer the new president? The same course I dared suggest, with negligible effect, to a new president eight years ago:

"Bring us together. Inspire more than applause. Inspire judgment, sacrifice, hope. To borrow a theme from Mark Twain: Tell the truth. You will gratify some and astonish the rest. Speak to us not as we are, but as we can be. Speak to us not as you have been, but as the president you can be.''

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