Dubya: Just following prime presidential tradition

These days most of my numbers-savvy friends entertain themselves solving sudoku after sudoku. Personally I resort neither to sudoku nor crossword puzzles in order to de-stress, but often engage in math-intensive solitaires, something which I have done since early teen days when the nature of prime numbers had a special attraction for me.

But don’t worry; I won’t bore you with details other than, begging your indulgence, to refresh your memory as to what a prime number is: an integer that cannot be factored into other integers other than one and itself. Remember? 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19… to an infinite number more, all proving to be very unique and proudly independent, some would even say, very American.

It was two weeks ago, as I was watching the news and another one of those 10-second intelligence-insulting segments in which Bush embarrasses himself before us – courtesy of his monotonic writers and a courtesan media – that I asked myself why(!). Then, it occurred to me. There must be some oddity, a defining peculiarity in this man, and the aberrant way he makes his decisions, combined perhaps with the office he holds, his party affiliation, and possibly other variables that come into play to grant us this very calamitous administration. Let me qualify “aberrant” by applying it only in reference to the welfare of the nation and the people he is supposedly serving; for those same decisions can be said to be laudatory to the power-elite and special interests they serve.

Since I have a very poor predisposition to accept astrology, palmistry, numerology or other pseudo-sciences – or even faith-based approaches – I returned to my first “math crush” with prime numbers and lined up all our presidential office-holders in ascending prime number sequence to obtain interesting results. Coincidental, one could argue, but astounding nonetheless… more a form of puzzle-solving than actual research.

Since the current duopoly politics did not get started until 1854, as the Republican Party founders chose their new party’s name to extol the “republican” beliefs in progressivism and civic virtue… and the denunciation of slavery, corruption and aristocracy, the pieces of my presidential puzzle had to start there. But to backtrack a bit, those “republican” beliefs sure appear to have made a 180 degree turn since then… all of them!

To my surprise, all prime number presidents since the GOP was established have been Republicans: (17) Andrew Johnson; (19) Rutherford Hayes; (23) Benjamin Harrison; (29) Warren Harding; (31) Herbert Hoover; (37) Richard Nixon; (41) Bush Father; and (43) Bush Son. Although the purists may remind us that Andrew Johnson was a Democrat, the fact remains that he was put in a Republican ticket with Abraham Lincoln (to balance the ticket with a Southern Democrat), and that he succeeded Lincoln after his assassination in an unmistakably GOP administration. Let’s just say that Andrew Johnson was a Joseph Lieberman “type” of Democrat… for both Andy’s and Joe’s loyalty to the Democratic Party ended when they were elected by Republican votes.

And even today, isn’t the Southern Democrats’ political DNA almost a perfect-match to that of Republicans? So they are not identical twins… but siblings they are for sure!

Eight prime number presidential office-holders and all Republicans! But that’s not all. Of the 43 presidents in our short history, 2 were sworn into office although in both cases evidence indicated that they had lost the election. And guess what, both were not just Republican but prime number presidents: (19) Rutherford Hayes who lost to Sam Tilden in 1876; and our own (43) George W. Bush who lost to Al Gore in 2000. But wait; there is more, much more to the uniqueness of the prime presidential office holders.

Benjamin Harrison (23), another American “aristocrat,” was sworn into office despite having received fewer popular votes; while Warren Harding (29) was just consumed – much like Dubya today – with lowering taxes for the wealthy and to hell with the rest. And we all know about poor Herbert Hoover (31) and the Great Depression… although in fairness to him, the blame should be bestowed on his two Republican predecessors. As far as Richard Nixon (37) is concerned, his memory brings America from a world of nostalgia and myth to one of reality. The two “shrubs” left (41 and 43) – as Molly Ivins would have called them – bring us to a face of America we’d prefer not to show, most particularly that of the younger shrub.

The overall ranking of these last 8 prime presidents among all 43 would by most historians’ accounts be in the lowest quartile… and among this Prime-8, Dubya would have a hard time fighting Harding for a seventh position. If only this lesser Bush had not presented himself as the Decider, he might have had a better shot against Harding.

It’s doubtful that I will get to find out who the next prime president, number 47, will be. Will he or she have the compassionate strains of a Herbert Hoover and the intelligence (and insecurities) of a Richard Nixon, or will he/she be another “new age” Republican and uncompassionate dolt? By that time, however, it’s very likely that, out of necessity, America’s hawkish wings may have been trimmed, and that we would be just another power-sharer on this earth… together with China, India, the EU, Greater Russia, and another half dozen aspiring regional powers. Maybe then America could undergo some form of renaissance in humanity, conviviality and a greater respect for human rights.

Who knows, maybe our 47th president will turn out to be neither Republican nor Born-again Christian! And, perhaps then, prime numbers would cease to be indicators of bad things to come.