John Bicknell

Clinton's Energy Plan Pits Green Against Green
Will solar and wind farms take over parks and preserves?

There is a civil war going on in the environmental movement. No blood will be spilled, but like the conflagration that nearly destroyed the Union in the 19th century, disagreements over the use of public lands for alternative energy production is not likely to be settled by compromise. Somebody will win and somebody will lose.  

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, wants to “accelerate renewable energy project siting and development” on public lands, according to her campaign website. To that end, she has called for a “tenfold increase in renewable energy production on public lands and waters within ten years.”  

Is America Ready for Fourth Party System?
A Trump presidency could spell end of GOP brand

Some notable commentators have suggested that Donald Trump’s election to the presidency would fracture the Republican Party and spell the end of the GOP.  

Whether those fears prove legitimate or overblown depends on what a President Trump did once in office.  

A Pope's Gift and the Birth of a Movement

The visit of Pope Francis this week has stirred up political debate. But it is nothing compared to the reaction another pope set off with a simple act of charity more than 160 years ago.  

In 1852, Pope Pius IX contributed a block of Italian marble to the United States, for use in building the Washington Monument. This seemingly beneficent gesture — the gift of a stone recovered from the ancient ruins of the Temple of Concord — sparked a political firestorm, and the resulting agitation helped consolidate a once amorphous nativist movement into a political force. Rallies were held, pamphlets were distributed and funds were raised with the ostensible purpose of purchasing a “Protestant” marble that would sit next to the Pope’s Stone in the obelisk that was then under construction honoring George Washington.  

Guns and Members, When Congress Protected Itself

Before there were Capitol Police to protect Congress (and leave their guns stashed in bathrooms ), lawmakers tended to their own security — and their own weaponry.  

And through much of the first half of the 19th century, whenever political tensions began to run high, guns were likely to appear on the hips of members. Jonathan Cilley, a member of the House from Maine, was killed in a duel by Kentucky Rep. William J. Graves in February 1838 over a dispute involving a bribery accusation Cilley made on the House floor.  

Delivering on the Free Exercise Clause

Two centuries before there were debates over insurance coverage for contraception or cakes for gay weddings, Congress spent two decades — off and on — debating religious freedom in a somewhat more esoteric context: delivery of the mail on Sunday.  

That debate began with a man named Hugh Wylie, a shopkeeper and postmaster in the frontier town of Washington, Pa. Postmaster was a great job when Wylie got it in 1803. He was paid $1,000 a year, more than three times what a typical workingman could expect to earn. Like any good patronage employee, Wylie helped out his family and installed his son, David, as deputy postmaster. Wylie was also a pillar of the community, serving as an elder in the Presbyterian church.  

Delivering on the Free Exercise Clause

Two centuries before there were debates over insurance coverage for contraception or cakes for gay weddings, Congress spent two decades — off and on — debating religious freedom in a somewhat more esoteric context: delivery of the mail on Sunday.

That debate began with a man named Hugh Wylie, a shopkeeper and postmaster in the frontier town of Washington, Pa.

‘Liberty’s First Crisis’ Is a Reminder of the Fragility of Freedom of Speech

Deadly attacks on cartoonists who had the temerity to portray Mohammed in unflattering terms are only the most recent and visible manifestations. Across the globe, from the dominions of tyrannical dictators to the effete offices of some of America’s finest universities, officialdom is attempting to squelch voices that dare to disagree.  

As Americans, we view our First Amendment right to free speech — to write and say what we like without interference from the government — as a first principle. Without freedom to speak, there is no freedom.  

James K. Polk: He Might Be a Giant

www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9SvJMZs5Rs  

The list of things President Harry S. Truman, presidential architect Karl Rove and alt-rock band They Might Be Giants have in common is probably a short one. But all three agree on one thing: James K. Polk.  

Boehner's Fight: A Pale Imitation of First GOP Speaker's Raucous Election

Modern elections for speaker tend to be clean-cut affairs. And though the re-election of John A. Boehner of Ohio this week was a bit messier than he might have hoped , the latest Republican speaker had a considerably easier path than the first.  

For Speaker Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts, it took almost two months and 133 ballots to be installed as the chamber's top office.  Republicans commanded a plurality — but not a majority — in the 34th Congress, which convened in December 1855. And it was by no means clear that the new party, founded less than two years earlier, would become the dominant opposition to the Democrats. The American Party, better known as the Know Nothings, was challenging Republicans for supremacy in the North with a platform based on limiting immigration and slowing the process of naturalization for immigrants already in the country.  

Boehner's Fight: A Pale Imitation of First GOP Speaker's Raucous Election

Modern elections for speaker tend to be clean-cut affairs. And though the re-election of John A. Boehner of Ohio this week was a bit messier than he might have hoped, the latest Republican speaker had a considerably easier path than the first.

For Speaker Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts, it took almost two months and 133 ballots to be installed as the chamber’s top office.

With Malice Toward Some: 'Lincoln and the Power of the Press' Elucidates Symbiotic Relationship Between Politicians and Journalists

The haze of nostalgia often blinds people to the problems of the past. This is especially true in politics and journalism, where current practitioners love to wax rhapsodic about how great things were in the good old days, when everybody got along and drank whiskey with each other and were regular old pals.

Harold Holzer’s “Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion” is here to offer an antidote to our nostalgic haze, while rendering a fascinating story in the process.

A Bloc of One
New biography gives Thomas Hart Benton, a 19th century giant of the Senate, his due

In his own time, Thomas Hart Benton was always a force to be reckoned with. But the Missouri Democrat who served nearly 30 years in the Senate has not received the love or attention from historians that some of his more celebrated contemporaries enjoy.

Over Lincoln's Shoulder
The five ex-presidents who badgered the man trying to save their country

When Abraham Lincoln took up residence in the White House in March 1861, he had five former occupants looking over his shoulder. No president ever had more. And what a motley crew they were.

The Mountainous Question of Jessie Benton Fremont and Renaming Yosemite's Mammoth Peak

A proposal by California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock to rename Yosemite’s Mammoth Peak after Jessie Benton Fremont might not be the most important legislation Congress will consider this year. But it could be the most enlightened.

Going Along, Getting Along and Falling Apart
‘Washington Brotherhood’ shows how a Congress that ‘works’ isn’t necessarily a good thing for the country

In these days of legislative gridlock, there is a tendency to look back at the good old days when lawmakers all got along because they shared a whiskey at the end of the workday and socialized on D.C. weekends rather than returning home.

Such social interactions, we are so often told, lubricate the legislative process and round off the rough edges of partisanship.

Levin's 'Liberty' Needs Less Utopia, More Whig

Utopian visions are typically the purview of the left. Conservatives, with their well-placed tendency to have less faith in the perfectibility of man, tend to steer clear of such things.

Now comes talk-radio host, best-selling author and lawyer Mark R. Levin’s “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic,” which bills itself as “a first step” on the road out of perdition.

An Honest Appraisal of Abe Lincoln by a Conservative
Leading Conservative Calls for the Party of Lincoln to Be Just That

Any writer who presumes to make a political case that the Founders — or any other icons of American history — are on his side has a considerable burden of proof to meet. Few are up to the task.

Trying to figure out What Would [fill in the blank] Do in current circumstances almost always ends in the writer amazingly enough discovering that [fill in the blank] would do exactly as the writer would.

Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly, Ron Barber to Confront Jared Lee Loughner at Sentencing

When Jared Lee Loughner appears in court Thursday for his sentencing, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) will be there to see it. Giffords's husband, Mark Kelly, plans to directly address the man who seriously injured his wife and killed six people, ABC News reported Wednesday evening.

Others survivors expected to speak include Rep. Ron Barber, who was an aide to Giffords and replaced her in the House, and former Giffords aide Pam Simon.

Making a List, Checking It Twice

The people choose presidents in the moment, but their choices are evaluated by history. That dichotomy — some might call it a contradiction — lies at the heart of the problem with most efforts to “rate the presidents.” When historians speak, they leave the people out of it. When the people look at their choices in the voting booth, it’s rarely with an eye on what posterity might think.

Robert W. Merry tries to bridge that gap in “Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians.”