TIME justice

Bill Clinton Says Eric Garner ‘Didn’t Deserve to Die’

The Thelonius Monk Jazz Trumpet Competition And All Star Gala Concert
Bill Clinton speaks onstage during The Thelonius Monk Jazz Trumpet Competition and All Star Gala concert held at Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. on Nov. 9, 2014. Michael Tran—FilmMagic/Getty Images

“He was selling untaxed cigarettes on the street in small volumes, trying to make a little extra money."

Former President Bill Clinton is set to address the Eric Garner case in a Tuesday interview with cable TV channel Fusion, saying that the unarmed black man from Staten Island, N.Y. did not deserve to die for allegedly selling cigarettes on the street.

“He was doing something he should not have been doing. That was illegal,” Clinton said during the interview. “He was selling untaxed cigarettes on the street in small volumes, trying to make a little extra money. But he didn’t deserve to die because of that.”

Clinton spoke to Fusion during the Clinton Foundation’s “Future of the Americas” summit in Miami last week. Protests have continued in the days since a New York City grand jury opted not to indict a white police officer who subdued Garner in what appeared to be a chokehold, leading to his eventual death. The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, has denied using a chokehold.

Read more Selma Cast and Crew Wear ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirts to New York Premiere

Over the weekend, thousands of protestors took to the streets in Washington, D.C. and New York to show their discontent with the way police often treat brown and black people.

Clinton added there are “preconceptions wired into us and we have got to get beyond them,” when talking about race relations in America.

The full interview is set to air on Tuesday at 10p.m.

[Fusion]

Read next: Poll: 57% of Americans Say Grand Jury Wrong Not to Indict Cop in Garner Case

TIME Presidents

George W. Bush Says Bill Clinton Is His ‘Brother From Another Mother’

An unlikely bromance

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton broadcast their unlikely bromance on social media Tuesday when Clinton posted a picture of himself reading Bush’s new book.

Clinton’s #HowAreYouStillNotOnTwitter hashtag is a reference to his President’s Day tweet this year, which ribbed the younger Bush for not having an account. This time, Bush responded. He posted Clinton’s tweet on Instagram with the caption, “Thanks, 42! Hope you like the book about your pal, #41. #HowAreYouSTILLNotOnInstagram #PresidentialGrammers #BrotherFromAnotherMother”.

This is not the first public display of affection between the two former presidents. Clinton often refers to himself as the “black sheep son” of the Bush family, and Bush challenged Clinton to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge earlier this year. Their bipartisan friendship is all the more remarkable given that Clinton beat Bush’s father, President George H. W. Bush, in the 1992 election, ousting Bush Sr. after only one term in office.

TIME Foreign Policy

All the Presidents’ Looks: 9 Pictures of Commanders-in-Costume

It’s not every day when the pageantry of leading the free world looks so specifically like an actual pageant. But indeed, when Presidents of the United States don the traditional garb of the country they’re visiting, just about anything can happen.

From the hilariously uncomfortable (Putin, Bush, ponchos) to the kind-of-awesome (Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s colorful threads in Ghana), here’s photographic evidence that sometimes diplomacy requires more wardrobe changes than a Cher concert.

TIME

Meet America’s Most Successful Political Families

It's that time of year again: Bushes and Clintons galore are on the campaign trail supporting candidates who are up for election. Here's a look at America's most successful political dynasties

TIME Books

The Politician America Really Needs: A Certain First Lady

Lady Bird Johnson
Lady Bird Johnson Bettmann/Corbis

Jonathan Darman is the author of Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of A New America, out this month.

Forget the LBJ fantasies—if we could have Lady Bird back, things might be different

In this dismal hour of American politics, there is no better way to strike just the right note of sober-minded weariness than to speak, wistfully and longingly, about the wonders of Lyndon Baines Johnson. What we wouldn’t give for the impresario of arm-twisting—the president who, in the mid-1960s, forced greatness out of Washington that transformed people’s lives. The steward of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The man who delivered Medicare. If only we had LBJ around, who could force even our do-nothing politicians to do something.

The sad truth is that today’s politics are probably too hopelessly polarized to make good use of a legislative wunderkind. What we need are politicians who are unafraid to go to the most difficult places, to look painful realities in the face. And for that, we don’t need LBJ. We need his wife.

This might seem strange, sure. In pictures from the 1960s, Lady Bird often looks like the ultimate example of a smiling, silent good wife. Throughout her long career in Washington, she was always guided by a simple question: how to serve her husband best. To serve Lyndon, a wild-tempered man of expansive appetites and unending need, that often meant suffering indignities that were shocking even in a pre-feminist era. Jackie Kennedy, who watched Lady Bird write down every one of Lyndon’s thoughts and wishes, thought Lady Bird looked “like a trained hunting dog.”

LANDSLIDE -- book jacket

But Lady Bird’s dutiful subservience obscured her strength: a rare willingness to see the world as it really was. Despite his modern reputation as a pragmatist, LBJ often struggled to look at the future realistically, preferring to alternate between fantasies of great glory or doom and gloom. At key moments in the Johnson presidency, when Lyndon would give in to paranoia about the future, Lady Bird was a lone voice of reason.

During the historic campaign of 1964, as delegates to the Democratic National Convention gathered in the late-summer heat of Atlantic City, a woe-begotten Lyndon, worried about the demands of the office, took to his White House bedroom, saying he might refuse the nomination and let the presidency go. Lady Bird wouldn’t have it. In a letter to her husband she was kind but clear: “To step out now would be wrong for your country, and I can see nothing but a lonely wasteland in your future. Your friends would be frozen in embarrassed silence and your enemies jeering.” Lyndon got on a plane to the convention and accepted his party’s nomination as planned.

In the fall, even as landslide victory began to look like a sure thing, Lady Bird worried about the South, where white Democrats were enraged over the Administration’s handling of Civil Rights. Though southern politicians said they could not guarantee her safety, she set off for the confederacy in a train dubbed the “Lady Bird Special” to make the case for her husband.

And trouble came. In Charleston, she was greeted by angry protesters and a crude sign calling her “BLACK BIRD.” In Columbia, South Carolina, her words were temporarily drowned out by a booing mob. It was enough to shake a seasoned politician but Lady Bird simply held her white-gloved hand in the air. “This is a country of many viewpoints,” she said. “I respect your right to express your own. Now it is my turn to express mine. Thank you.” And with that, her harassers hushed.

Just weeks before the election, the political world convulsed with the news that Walter Jenkins, the Johnsons’ closest aide, had been caught having sex with another man in the basement of a Washington YMCA. Lady Bird urged her husband to show public support and compassion for a man who had served their family for decades. When he refused, Lady Bird defied the advice of his counselors and released her own public statement: “My heart is aching today for someone who has reached the end point of exhaustion in service to his country.”

In the course of the ‘64 campaign, Lady Bird displayed a deep realism about human nature that is far more rare in a First Lady than we might think. President Obama, like his predecessors, promotes his wife as a source of real-talk, the one person who is unimpressed by his office and still gives it to him straight. But a First Lady, like any spouse, often feels the criticisms of her husband more acutely than does the president himself. A bunker of denial and recrimination can be an enticing escape for both partners in a political marriage. Hillary Clinton provided many assets to her husband during their time in the White House, but relief from paranoia and self-pity was not among them.

Even Lady Bird’s powers had their limits. As the Johnson presidency wore on, Vietnam overwhelmed everything, including Lady Bird’s ability to cut through the illusions in her husband’s head. It is tantalizing to imagine an alternate history of the Johnson presidency in which the First Lady was empowered to help her husband in Vietnam the way she helped him in other areas.

And it is tempting to imagine what would happen if more leaders today had Lady Bird’s spirit, her willingness to go to the unkind places, to face the fury of hostile crowds. Imagine how things might be different if our leaders had faith that when you look at the hard things plainly, they often to turn out to be far less frightening than they seem. And then imagine what would happen when a truly gifted leader broke that silence and spoke.

Jonathan Darman, a former political correspondent for Newsweek, is the author of Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of A New America, out this month.

 

 

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME White House

The 10 Shortest Stints in the Oval Office

William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia during his first term, is the shortest serving U.S. President

When presidential hopefuls envision their time in office, it’s almost certain that none dream of anything less than a four year stint. Most probably aspire to eight. But a surprisingly high 23% of all U.S. presidents—10 out of our 43 commanders in chief—never made it through a single full term.

So why have so many of our nation’s chief executives called the White House home for less than four years? To find out, see the list compiled by research engine FindTheBest below.

 

10. John Tyler

In office 3.92 years

1841-1845

John Tyler came the closest to completing four years in office of all 10 presidents on the list above. He was also the first president to reach the White House without being elected to office, assuming the title upon President Harrison’s death in 1841. Although he started running for reelection in the 1844 campaign, he withdrew his candidacy in August due to insufficient support from the Whig party.

 

9. Andrew Johnson

In office 3.86 years

1865-1869

Andrew Johnson ascended to the presidency after President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Johnson wanted a quick reconciliation with the South in post-Civil War America, so he didn’t give protection to former slaves, and was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1868 as a result. He was acquitted by the Senate by one vote, and remained in office to see his term through, but had lost the support he needed to run for reelection in 1870.

 

8. Chester A. Arthur

In office 3.86 years

1881-1885

Chester A. Arthur became the fourth vice president to attain the presidency through the death of a predecessor—in this case, James A. Garfield. Arthur chose not to run for reelection, and returned to practicing law instead. Almost a year after his presidency ended, however, he fell ill and died.

 

7. John F. Kennedy

In office 2.83 years

1961-1963

Perhaps one of the most well-known and beloved presidents, John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. Oswald was arrested on the same day of the assassination, but he was shot and killed by a man named Jack Ruby two days later. While the FBI and the Warren Commission investigation concluded that Oswald had acted alone, the exact details of what happened are still a mystery, and many conspiracy theories abound.

 

6. Millard Fillmore

In office 2.67 years

1850-1853

Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president, and took office after the death of President Taylor in 1850. Unlike the other vice presidents on this list who did not seek reelection, Fillmore threw his hat in the ring in 1852, but lost the Whig nomination to his secretary of state, Daniel Webster. He also ran on the American Party ticket in 1856, but came in third place.

 

5. Warren G. Harding

In office 2.42 years

1921-1923

Warren G. Harding campaigned on the promise of a “return to normalcy” after the First World War. He’s most well-known for the Teapot Dome Scandal, but in recent years has been viewed more positively as a moderate politician who passed the first federal child welfare program and endorsed African-American civil rights. He intended to run for reelection in 1924, but passed away for unknown reasons in 1923. The most likely reason for his death is heart failure, but some have speculated that he was poisoned or committed suicide.

 

4. Gerald Ford

In office 2.42 years

1974-1977

Gerald Ford is the only person to rise to both the presidency and the vice presidency without being elected. He was appointed to the vice presidency when Spiro Agnew resigned in the face of extortion, bribery, and conspiracy charges, and was elevated to the presidency upon Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Ford ran for reelection, defeating Reagan for the Republican nomination, but lost to Jimmy Carter in the presidential election.

 

3. Zachary Taylor

In office 1.33 years

1849-1850

Zachary Taylor rose to stardom when he led (and won) several battles in the Mexican-American War, helping America keep control over the annexed territory of Texas. Although he had little interest in politics, he was persuaded to leverage his popularity and run for the presidency in 1849. Taylor won the election, but died of a stomach related illness shortly into his term.

2. James A. Garfield

In office .54 years

1881-1881

James A. Garfield was elected in 1881, but only served for a few months before he was shot by outraged political office seeker Charles J. Guiteau. Although Garfield was shot in June, he passed away (officially leaving office) 80 days later in September 1881. During his short time as president, Garfield appointed a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court and proposed a civil service reform act that was eventually passed into law by his successor, Chester A. Arthur.

 

1. William Henry Harrison

In office .08 years

1841-1841

William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia 32 days into his term, claiming the title for shortest presidency by a longshot. It had generally been believed that Harrison caught a cold that lead to pneumonia during his inauguration, where he delivered the longest address in American history, in stormy weather without a coat or gloves. But a 2014 analysis shows that the president actually died of typhoid, and likely contracted it in a marsh close to the White House.

 

FindTheBest is a research website that’s collected all the data on U.S.. presidents, and put it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching for it. Join FindTheBest to get all the information on presidents, Congress members, and thousands of other topics.

TIME Budget

Which President Accrued The Highest Budget Deficits?

Hint: It wasn't Barack Obama

When looking at the United States’ massive amount of national debt, many Americans focus blame directly on the president. In fact, CNN surveyed 1,010 adults nationwide earlier this year and found that 44% still believe that President Bush and the Republican party were “primarily responsible for the country’s current economic problems.”

But was it this former president who left the country in its worst shape at the end of his two terms? With data provided by the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Council of Economic Advisors, research engine FindTheBest ranked the 14 most recent presidents by the total deficit they accrued during their presidencies—so far, in the case of Barack Obama—as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product of their time in office.

TIME Presidents

Watch the Rise and Fall of Richard Nixon in TIME Covers

President Nixon Graced TIME's cover more than anyone else, and not just for Watergate

In early August of 1974, 40 years ago this week, the news was all President Richard Nixon. On Aug. 5, the “Smoking Gun” tapes were released, revealing to the public that the President had known about Watergate. On Aug. 8, he became the first and only U.S. President to announce his resignation. But Nixon already had a long history in the news, and it didn’t end in 1974. In fact, no other individual has been featured on the cover of TIME more frequently, with 55 appearances to his name.
 
The irony in all that? None of those covers are from precisely 40 years ago. The week leading up to the resignation, the cover featured Rep. Peter Rodino of the House Judiciary Committee; two weeks later, when the resignation itself made the cover, newly-inaugurated President Gerald Ford was featured.
 
The issue in-between—the issue that would have appeared right around the same time as the tapes went public — went in a different direction: Jack Nicholson.

TIME Presidents

9 Things You Didn’t Know About Richard Nixon

TIME Cover Aug. 25, 1952: Richard Nixon
Boris Chaliapin for TIME

From his first TIME cover story

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the resignation of President Richard Nixon, the milestone for which the scandal-plagued politician is best remembered. But in 1952, when not-yet-President Nixon first appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, the scandal was decades away. He was a relatively young man, 39, whose political career was just taking off. Having successfully moved from the House to the Senate, he was the Republican nominee for Vice President, a man whose background could have still been unknown to readers.

In hindsight, it’s hard not to see foreboding or irony in the story that appeared under the headline “Fighting Quaker.” For example, his mother, the piece notes, preferred not to call the police on shoplifters at their family’s store, thinking of the shame it would bring to their families; Nixon apparently internalized the harm that could be done by exposing wrongdoings. Did he think of the harm he would do when he was the one exposed?

But it’s also easy to see why his life story would have been fascinating to voters. Here are nine things to know from the 1952 cover story.

He once worked as a carnival barker, for the “wheel of fortune” at the Frontier Days Rodeo in Prescott, Ariz. The Nixon family spent time in Arizona for the health of older son Harold, who had tuberculosis.

His parents had a lemon grove in Yorba Linda, Calif.—but, TIME noted, they would have rather grown oranges. (Nixon’s grandfather had moved to California from Indiana with the thought of growing the latter.) When the fruit farm proved “a lemon,” the family opened a general story in Whittier, Calif., called Nixon’s Market.

He played the piano and acted. His family, devout Quakers, attended church services four times a week. The young Richard Nixon played piano for the Sunday school. When he returned to Whittier after law school, he returned to work at the Sunday school when not busy as a divorce lawyer. He also participated in community theater. He met his future wife, Pat Ryan, while playing a fictional attorney in Night of January 16th, a play written by Ayn Rand.

His debating career began with bugs. In a seventh grade boys-vs.-girls debate on the relative merits of insects, Nixon asked an uncle who was an entomologist for a list of good things about insects, thus helping the boys’ team convince the judges that “insects are more beneficial than harmful.” However, he would later find that bugs weren’t so great: While in the South Pacific with the Navy, he said, the only things that bothered him—despite being under fire—were “lack of sleep and the centipedes.”

He worked his way through college, and lived in “a shack” during law school. While at Whittier College in his home town, he worked at Nixon’s Market. (He also helped his mom with the dishes, TIME noted, but that was probably not a paying gig.) After graduating, Nixon attended Duke University law school on scholarship, and lived “in a wooden patch a mile and a half from the campus” with three shack-mates.

He got into politics by answering a newspaper ad. In 1945, a Republican group was looking for someone to run against a popular Congressman in California. They placed an ad, which was seen by a family friend of the Nixons, who called him up and suggested he give it a shot.

But that early political career was dogged by the stench of by cannibalistic minks. When Dick and Pat Nixon moved back to California so he could run for office—they’d been in Baltimore before that—they ended up living next door to a family that owned “a smelly, cannibalistic brood of minks.”

He almost didn’t take the gig that got him national attention. Once he got to Congress, Nixon was offered a spot on the House Un-American Activities Committee, which had a terrible reputation. He hesitated before accepting, but his role in sorting out the Alger Hiss scandal—in which TIME editor and former Soviet spy Whittaker Chambers identified the State Department’s Alger Hiss as a Communist—brought him to the national stage, and led the GOP to encourage him to run for Senate, which he did successfully.

He never went to the movies. Never!

If that’s not enough to demonstrate that he charmed some Republican voters, perhaps the letters section from the Sept. 15, 1952, issue will: “There is very little—if anything—that his opponents will find in his career to criticize,” wrote one reader. That opinion would have seemed vindicated when the fall came, as Eisenhower and Nixon took the White House. But, as history showed, another reader had a firmer grasp on the situation: “Surely I’m not the only TIME reader,” wrote George Brasington Jr. of Waycross, Ga., “who is now convinced that the GOP picked a lemon in ex-Lemon Picker Nixon.”

Read more about Nixon in TIME’s archives

TIME Presidents

The 55 Times Richard Nixon Was on the Cover of TIME

The 37th president, who resigned 40 years ago, scored 55 covers

In early August of 1974, 40 years ago this week, the news was all Nixon. On Aug. 5, the “Smoking Gun” tapes were released, revealing to the public that he had known about Watergate. On Aug. 8, he became the first and only U.S. President to announce his resignation. But Nixon already had a long history in the news, and it didn’t end in 1974. In fact, no other individual has been featured on the cover of TIME more frequently, with 55 appearances to his name.

The irony in all that? None of those covers are from precisely 40 years ago. The week leading up to the resignation, the cover featured Rep. Peter Rodino of the House Judiciary Committee; two weeks later, when the resignation itself made the cover, newly-inaugurated President Gerald Ford was featured. The issue in between—the issue that would have appeared right around the same time as the tapes went public — went a different direction: Jack Nicholson.

Read Henry Kissinger’s 1982 take on the “Smoking Gun” of Watergate here, in TIME’s archives

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