Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Guest Post: Ike Saves the American Dream

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History co-written with Allen W. McDonnell.

January 8, 1956

In a press conference held at Key West, Florida, Dwight D. Eisenhower announced that unfortunately he would not be seeking re-election in the fall. The sad truth was that the poor health of the once-vigorous Five-Star General of the Army prevented him from running a presidential election campaign, and another mission was simply beyond his frail condition.

Ike had initially planned on serving only one term anyhow, but he remained flexible in case leading Republicans wanted him to run again. They surely did, mainly because of the GOP's lack of potential candidates, but all calculations had changed after his serious heart attack on September 24, 1955. Former New York Governor and unsuccessful GOP nominee in 1944 and 1948, Thomas Dewey had been sounded out but refused to make a third run for the White House. With Ike unable to make a full recovery, the decision was taken out of the GOP's hands. However, Eisenhower had one last card to play, and, while controversial particularly with Republicans, it would be taken in the very best interests of all of his fellow Americans.

For his preferred choice of successor, Eisenhower strongly favored his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert B. Anderson, whom he had recently promoted from Secretary of Navy. Ike described him as "just about the ablest man that I know, he would make a splendid President." However, the problem was that Anderson was a Democrat. Had Ike's health fully recovered, he would have attempted to use his authority to steer Anderson into the slot for his running mate. That of course was only if Vice-President Richard Nixon had accepted Eisenhower's recommendation to leave the vice-presidency to serve as Secretary of Defense. This scenario was no longer the worst case for Nixon, because it was highly unlikely that he would be the GOP nominee. This was because there were too many others seeking the nomination in an open primary.

Unfortunately, Nixon and Ike suffered a like-hate relationship. Eisenhower noticeably failed to publicly endorse Nixon in his announcement. In an even more shocking development, Anderson then announced that he would enter the race himself. He would contest the Democratic Party's nomination alongside Adlai Stevenson, the 1952 nominee, and populist Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver. Nixon would bitterly blame his failure to win the Republican nomination and beat a path to the White House on the "unwarranted influence" of the 34th president. Others argued that Eisenhower was a great son of the Republic who had simply followed in the tradition of Washington, Adams, & company by putting the Office of the Presidency above the petty concerns of party politics.

Anderson would fight his way through a crowded field, defeat the Republican nominee, and, at his inauguration, encourage rock and roll artist Buddy Holly to pay gushing tribute to the outgoing President Eisenhower as a great patriot with his barnstorming hit song "Love's for real not Fade Away!" Calling out "How about General Eisenhower? Come out here, sir!" a smiling Eisenhower had sufficiently recovered to join the Hollies on stage and even break character to play the tambourine alongside the Big Bopper, J.P. Richardson.

Author's Note:

In reality, Eisenhower announced that he would run again after meeting with his closest advisors. The level of campaigning was curtailed out of health considerations, but even so he won by an even larger landslide, with 457 of 531 electoral votes and 57.6-percent of the popular vote.

Provine's Addendum:

Political commentators on the 1956 race between Anderson and Governor William Stratton of Illinois frequently compared the two's similar backgrounds. Stratton had become a Congressman at 26 in 1940 and served stints as the State Treasurer of Illinois both before and after service in the U.S. Navy. Anderson had a busy resume as Assistant Attorney General and member of the House of Representatives in Texas as well as numerous business ventures before becoming a military adviser in the Pacific and ultimately joining Eisenhower's administration. Anderson was criticized as not having been a governor himself, to which he wittily replied that he had already defeated numerous governors in the primary, including Stratton's predecessor, Stevenson.

Anderson's policies laid the groundwork for the next era of the Cold War. Many saw the USSR as a great challenge with the 1955 success of Sputnik and the perception of a major missile gap with Russian superiority in ICBMs. Manned space exploration was massively expensive, and Anderson's treasury mindset saw the Earth's orbit as the farthest a space war could be effective, making a mission to the moon a needless expense. Anderson challenged suspicious numbers from the 1957 Gaither Report about Soviet missiles and did not agree to the suggestion of increasing military spending by half. Instead, Anderson focused on economic warfare through investment. Rather than supporting individual power-hungry men like Fulgencio Batista in Cuba and Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam, Anderson's State Department (and covert operations through the CIA) spread the money around to win overall public favor and economic dependence on the United States. The strategy worked in the case of Cuba, where the Popular Socialist Party lost ground as Batista's rivals gained concessions with more local authority.

By 1960, Anderson had split approval ratings with many fearing he was soft on Communism. This would lead to the election of Republican Barry Goldwater, who promised to bolster conservatism in the US again, a wave that would disintegrate as the Civil Rights Movement expanded.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

June 11, 1984 - Walt Disney Company Bought Out by Corporate Raiders

The Walt Disney Company, effectively started in 1923 with young Walt Disney promoting "Alice Comedies" (shorts that blended live action and animation), faced a troubling time six decades later. It had peaked in the 1950s with Disney producing the feature-length cartoons that had brought him fame and fortune as well as live-action television programming and a theme park, Disneyland. Ever the dreamer, Walt Disney announced yet another theme park centered on the "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" (EPCOT) in 1965, just one year before his death.

Disney's company continued beyond him, first under the leadership of his brother, Roy. Roy retired in 1971 after the launch of Disney World, handing the reins to a series of CEOs and presidents who would oversee numerous projects in film and real estate, such as another Disney theme park in Tokyo. The 1980s were packed with innovation. A cable "Disney Channel" unique from the long partnership with the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Meanwhile, Touchstone Pictures began to produce films and television not suitable for the family-friendly Disney brand.

While the Disney company was truly a mainstay of the American zeitgeist, it had suffered through a rough patch of productions. Disney had released three animated features, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Rescuers, and Pete's Dragon in 1977, but only The Fox and The Hound had been released since, and it was four years later along with the departure of famed animator Don Bluth. The much-anticipated The Black Cauldron faced production issues that delayed it again and again with rewrites and disappointing test screenings deeming it too scary for children. Live-action productions like Condorman and Something Wicked This Way Comes had been box-office flops. One of the most memorable Disney productions, 1982's TRON, was scarcely recognized as a Disney product.

Without a recent big win, Disney threatened to fade away from prominence, yet there were some who saw potential where others saw a has-been. As journalist Peter Behr later wrote in the Washington Post,

"Disney's stock was languishing at less than $60 a share in November 1983. At that stock price, a raider could acquire the entire company for a little over $2 billion. But the pieces of the Disney empire were worth far more than that if sold separately. The Disney theme parks alone could bring $2 billion, experts estimated. The Disney film library of 25 animated classics -- Bambi, Pinocchio, Snow White and the rest -- plus hundreds of live-action films, cartoons and television programs were worth anywhere from $250 million to $1 billion. And that still left the extensive Disney real estate holdings. Disney was a bargain."

Saul Steinberg, who owned 12.2% of Disney's stock, found his numbers knocked down to 11.1% due to Disney issuing more stock to cover the purchase of Arvida, a Florida real estate company. Steinberg sued to stop the stock issuance, saying that it would only add to the company's debt and largely served to keep the jobs of board of directors. Federal court allowed the purchase, as well as another Disney bid to buy Gibson Greetings, so Steinberg made a move to seize Disney. Teaming with other investors such as "movie mogul Kirk Kerkorian... the majority stockholder of MGM-UA," Steinberg's Reliance Holdings announced on June 8 plans to buy up 49% of Disney stock, paying up to $72.50 per share.

Longtime Disney executive Roy E. Disney, Walt's nephew who had started at the company as an assistant director for the nature documentary True-Life Adventures, attempted to rally investors to save the company. He had resigned in 1977 feeling that the company was without creative direction under CEO Ron Miller, Walt's son-in-law, but he maintained his seat on the board of directors. Disney's lawyer, Stanley Gold, had warned Roy E. about the undervalued stock and saw potential for a quick profit. Already disillusioned, Roy. E. was happy to sell.

Steinberg's raid went successfully, and he made tremendous moves slimming down the company. Real estate and publishing were quickly spun off, and the true blow came as Walt Disney Productions was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, who added it to its acquisitions with 20th Century-Fox in hopes it would challenge Universal Pictures' partnerships with Amblin Entertainment. The mediocre box office response to Disney's Mistress Masham's Repose about Lilliputians in England made the studio an easy sale, especially with DIC Entertainment bristling about potential infringement with their The Littles television series on Disney's former ally network, ABC. Within a few years, the "Disney" name would die away, leaving on the tradition with films such as Don Quixote and The Emperor and the Nightingale.

Although the theme parks did well into the 1990s, they stymied under the encroachment of other amusement park brands like Six Flags and Universal Studios. Steinberg had attempted to sell Disney World to Universal, but investors found that without the connection to updated animated features, the parks lost ground. Instead, Fox would purchase the Florida properties, retooling Cinderella's Castle into Anastasia's Castle from the groundbreaking animated film. Many other rides were replaced, such as Splash Mountain becoming the infamous Titanic ride with its cold plunge. EPCOT soon became SFX-laden grounds for X-men and Star Wars franchises. Disney characters, eventually collected by Fox, would be relegated to a corner of the park nicknamed "Yesterdayland."


In reality, Roy E. Disney, Stanley Gold, and others launched the "Save Disney" campaign, buying up shares for their own internal takeover. The board worked out a deal with Steinberg to buy his 4.2 million shares for $70.33 apiece, fifteen dollars above the stock price, as well as $28 million for "out of pocket expenses." Ron Miller was soon replaced by Michael Eisner from Paramount, who brought along Frank Wells from Warner Brothers and Jeffrey Katzenberg to be the new head of Disney Studios. In 1989, the "Disney Renaissance" began with The Little Mermaid, which grossed $235 million on a $40 million budget. Films like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King would do even better.

Behr also wrote that Steinberg's raid may have just been an act, "buying up a company's stock, threatening a takeover and then allowing the company to buy back the stock at a premium in a legal maneuver known as 'greenmail.'"

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Guest Post: JFK and Nixon Presidencies Swapped

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

March 9, 1961 - Pathet Lao Victory Triggers US Intervention

Shocked by the Lao People's Liberation Army's stunning victory on the Plain of Jars, Secretary of State Christian Herter issued a stark warning that the Pathet Lao Communists were on the brink of taking over the Kingdom of Laos.

War hawks in the Nixon Administration led by Secretary of Defense William Knowland called for military intervention , whereas doves led by Herter called for diplomacy, proposing a neutralization agreement with the Soviet Union. President Richard Nixon rejected this "fig leaf" out of hand but was forced to consider the US role in the Laotian Civil War in the broader context of the previous Administration's plans to overthrow the Castros

As turbulent events in Cuba dominated Nixon's early days as president, his closest confidants were CIA Director Allen Dulles and USAF Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay. Meeting in Room 108 of the Eisenhower Executive Building, this inner circle of decision-makers would launch a full US invasion of the island after the Bay of Pigs operation failed ignominiously. The inevitable result of this cabal's secret deliberations in Room 108 was an escalation in the Cold War that would forever be known to alternate history as the Nixon Doctrine.

President Eisenhower's warning of the undue influence of the military-industrial complex was completely disregarded. Instead, the calculated belligerency in Southeast Asia was a dangerous gamble based on the Sino-Soviet split and Dulles' success in resupplying anti-Marxist fighters in Cuba. Although Nixon did successfully manage to avoid direct superpower confrontation, the American public was appalled by the rising death count in proxy wars such as Cuba and Laos. The medium of television began to turn the mood of the nation against the Nixon Doctrine.

Eisenhower had proudly claimed that not a single American soldier died in combat during his presidency. He had very much wanted to end the Cold War, but his scheduled summit meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was cancelled because of the ill-fated U-2 incident. By 1963, that peace mantle was passed to a new generation led by Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. Still only forty-five years old, he prepared to run for a second presidential race by launching a fateful campaign drive in the South. Meanwhile, the shadowy Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP) prepared to expose Kennedy's private indiscretions.

Author's Note:

In reality, upon taking office OTL President John F. Kennedy was surprised to learn that the US had 700 soldiers and CIA operatives in the country. He refused to militarily intervene preferring to negotiate with the Soviet Union to achieve neutralization of Laos so that the pro-Western forces, Communists, and neutralists would all share power there.

Provine's Addendum:

With Nixon handily winning the 1964 election, few at the time imagined that he would not last out the next four years. Journalists uncovered numerous misuses of presidential power, in addition to Nixon orchestrating coverups to prevent his enemies from uncovering more. JFK's political backers cleverly bounced back from the election loss by highlighting Nixon's CREEP actions to defame Kennedy, turning the tables on whom could be trusted. JFK used his charms to rally the Democratic Party for his nomination, setting him in perfect position for victory in the election. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., who had assumed the presidency from the vice-presidency after Nixon's resignation, received scantily few votes.

Kennedy's first term brought an end to the fighting in Vietnam with an American-allied evacuation and Cuba with a firmly entrenched pro-America local government. He opened up diplomacy with China, weakening USSR superiority among the Communist nations, while also overseeing the Moon landing in 1969, which Nixon had promised in his early, more popular days. Kennedy looked to be a shoo-in for the 1972 election, but he was assassinated by radicals seeking vengeance for Cuba. His VP, Hubert Humphrey, assumed the presidency and won in the coming election, saying that Kennedy had "restored the dignity of the highest office in the land." With sweeping social reforms through the 1970s, the Democratic Party remained in power well into the 1980s.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Guest Post: June 24, 1908 - AH obituary for Grover the Good

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Allen W. McDonnell and John P. Braungart.

Grover Cleveland aka 'Uncle Jumbo' and 'Grover the Good', passed away at his estate, Westland Mansion, in Princeton, New Jersey, aged seventy-one. At the time of his death he remained the only member of the Democratic Party to be elected President since the Civil War.

In the years before his election as the 22nd and then 24th US President, Cleveland served as the Sheriff of Erie County, where one of his duties was to carry out the hanging of a convicted murderer. Also, he was elected mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York, winning fame as an anti-corruption crusader. His fight against political corruption, patronage, and bossism convinced many like-minded Republicans, called "Mugwumps", to cross party lines and support him in the 1884 election.

As the White House incumbent, Cleveland was at the very center of tumultuous events during the contested presidential election of 1888. Cleveland won a plurality of the popular vote, but his Republican opponent Benjamin Harrison handily won the Electoral College by a margin of 65. Most controversial of all was the Republican victory in Indiana, largely as the result of a fraudulent voting practice known as Blocks of Five. The elections in 1888 and 1892 were the first time incumbents were defeated in consecutive elections (the second would be Jimmy Carter's defeat of Gerald Ford in 1976, followed by Carter's subsequent loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980).

Dysfunctional government was fueled by the lasting anger at corruption and scandal. The dispute rolled into the 51st United States Congress in which Democrats, supported by Mugwumps, retaliated by electing Cleveland as the first ever non-member Speaker of the House of Representatives. But this dangerous step, only intended as a one-off backlash really created a whole new precedent. The bipartisan convention was changed, and from then on as a matter of tradition, when a party in control of the House lost the Presidential race, they elected the loser as Speaker of House.

In the view of bipartisans, this fracture was caused by contradictions inherent in the U.S. Constitution and required widespread reform including the scrapping of the Electoral College. However, naysayers dismissed the national popular vote as outdated and irrelevant.

Author's Note:

In reality, Cleveland continued his duties diligently until the end of the term and began to look forward to returning to private life. He is the only President to have split two terms with Harrison holding office in between. Today, he is praised for honesty, integrity, adherence to his morals, defying party boundaries, and effective leadership and is typically ranked among the upper half to middle tier of U.S. presidents. Meanwhile, the House has never been led by a non-member and experts such as the Congressional Research Service consider it unlikely in the near future despite speculation surrounding Donald Trump. He is bidding to repeat Cleveland's success in 1892 when he defeated Harrison in both popular and electoral votes, thus becoming the first (and, as of 2017, the only) former president to successfully get his job back.

Provine's Addendum:

The "Speaker from the Shadows" tradition became an important part of Washington social norms, especially as it was not a mandated part of constitutional government but an expectation. Benjamin Harrison himself served as Speaker of the House in 1895 during Cleveland's second term, stepping away from teaching law at Stanford. William Jennings Bryan eagerly accepted the position during the Taft administration in 1911. Charles Evans Hughes, who nearly defeated Wilson in 1916, gained the position in 1919, and expected to ride the popularity to another bid for president in 1920, only to have the nomination seized by Harding instead. Al Smith came into the Speaker position in 1928 under Hoover, hinting the change of public opinion toward the Democrats, who would control both the legislative and executive branches of government until Thomas Dewey famously refused the position to continue as governor of New York (an act that many blamed for his loss again in 1948). Adlai Stevenson accepted the position during the Eisenhower administration, establishing numerous social programs. Former presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter both served terms as Speaker of the House with Johnson seeming much more comfortable back in Congress and Carter eager to advise on social programs in the era of Reaganomics. Johnson turned over the reins to McGovern, while Carter would similarly hand the position to Mondale. The "Democrats in Congress, Republicans in the White House" reversed in the 1990s with George H.W. Bush's short time in Congress before retiring.

During the 2000 election, when Al Gore narrowly defeated George W. Bush, some political commentators mentioned the old "electoral college" that had been scrapped in the late nineteenth century and how it could've meant a victory for Bush instead of taking over what had once been his father's seat as Speaker of the House. Most people ignored the dusty old idea or laughed right out at it. After John McCain's service as Speaker of the House during Obama's first term and then return to the senate, Donald Trump became the next Speaker of the House of note during Hilary Clinton's administration. Trump's rhetoric was as fiery as any Speaker before him, and he brought the Electoral College back to the forefront of American thought. With it, he would have won by an enormous margin, and social media fired up with periodic demands to bring it back. Following Trump's second loss in 2020, he returned to the House again as speaker in 2022 with more demands for reform of America's electoral system.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Guest Post: Gore Acts on Terrorist Threats

This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History based on Robbie Taylor's AH scenario terrorist attacks with input from Allen W. McDonnell.

July 19, 2001

Heads of the Transportation Department, national security agencies, and CEOs of major airlines gathered at the White House for a crisis meeting called by President Al Gore and his Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke.

The consensus was agreement upon emergency upgrades to airline security including the banning of knives and boxcutters and the reinforcement of cockpit doors. Of course, all of these infrastructure changes would take several months to roll out; so, in the short-term, Gore was entirely dependent upon his intelligence apparatus to prevent terrorist threats.

The top leaders of the al-Qaeda terrorist group had been sending a message of global threat from the USS Cole to the bombings at the embassies in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Spain, and Turkey. Caught out by Gore's initiative, they were forced to bring forward their dastardly plans to crash airline jets into several buildings in New York City and Washington. Not fully prepared, several Saudi Arabians were taken into custody prior to boarding intracontinental flights in Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. The F.B.I. had been closely tracking them since Gore had received a briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S."

The nation never knew how close to tragedy it came, and this had a serious downside. Covert success created a "chicken-and-egg-style" problem because Gore lacked the political capital required to go into Afghanistan and capture Bin Laden and his cohorts. For justification purposes, he only had the recorded confessions of the terrorists, and Americans were confused by his complicated explanation of the link between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. However, on the positive side, Fore was armed with the necessary Special Forces capability that had been developed as a result of the Operation Eagleclaw fiasco in 1979. As a result, the Battle of Tora Bora would not be a repeat of the ill-fated Tehran mission.

With the isolated exception of strong backing from the belligerent Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, the United States' unilateral action in Afghanistan provoked widespread anger across the Middle East. Even Holbrooke's conciliatory efforts to negotiate a two-state solution to the continuing Israeli-Palestinian standoff came to naught. Fury in the Arab streets over this diplomatic failure ripped open many wounds that President Bush had carefully avoided during the Gulf War by persuading the Israelis to stand aside despite SCUD missile attacks from Iraq. Domestic pressure upon Gore would build as he faced a backlash of public opinion for "his" "days of chaos" as airports slowly adjusted to heightened security. This was an aggravation as the NASDAQ began an epic crash with unemployment rising and the overall economy stalled. The truth was Gore had inherited unresolved problems from Clinton's Boom years.

The leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, provided much-needed operational assistance prior to his assassination by al-Qaeda operatives. News of his bloody murder was relayed to a surprised-looking Gore while he was televised reading a book, The Pet Goat, to students at a Sarasota school. After the inevitable political satire in the tabloids, the subsequent capture of Bin Laden on foreign soil would provoke bitter controversy around the world with the American hyperpower standing accused of imperial overreach. To assuage world opinion, the terrorist mastermind was handed over to the World Court to face justice in the Netherlands. This trial would dominate television channels throughout 2004 as Gore battled for re-election against the foreign policy hardman John McCain, Senator from Arizona.

Hawkish republicans labelled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction as an unresolved threat to the safety of the country. Rumours spread that Vice President Joe Lieberman had been engaged in secret diplomacy with Saddam to slowly loosen up some of the restrictions on the Kurds and Shias and even bring them into the Iraqi government. To win in the fall, Gore had to defend himself against the harsh accusation that his decision-making as Commander-in-Chief was sound but he lacked the authority and presidential leadership necessary to forcibly direct a worldwide war on terror and defeat jihadism.

Author's Note:

In reality, Bush White House Officials argued that the Administrator did not mention a specific time or place and that the threat was similar to the variety of different terrorist threats U.S. intelligence monitors frequently.

Provine's Addendum:

Commentators in the 2004 election said that it was likely Gore's actions in fall of 2003 that tipped the vote against his reelection. Coming out of a bitter economic plunge with the popping of the Digital Bubble, Gore focused much of his attention on reviewing overly earnest investments. As subprime mortgages began to increase, Gore's policies worked to slow down their potentially skyrocketing. Business leaders howled at government red tape slowing an already struggling economy with potential jobs lost in construction, although some economists suggested it may have prevented over-investment in assets that would prove toxic, perhaps even sparking a Second Great Depression when the bills became due.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Guest Post: March 3, 1976 - Board Of Estimate Rejects Donald Trump's Plan to Rebuild the Commodore Hotel

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Allen W. McDonnell and Brian Hartman.


March 3, 1976 - Board Of Estimate rejects plan to rebuild the Commodore Hotel

Budding young real estate developer Donald J. Trump failed to convince New York City's Board of Estimate to approve his innovative plan to rebuild the 1919 Beaux Arts brick-and-stone-detailed Warren-and-Wetmore-designed Commodore Hotel.

Their key objection was primarily financial: Trump had made an audacious request for a forty-year tax abatement. Due to the projected creation of 1,500 construction jobs, the proposal was strongly backed by the head of the Economic Development Administration, Alfred E. Eisenpreis, who hailed it as "a very exciting hope for the City." However, the stumbling block was the near-bankrupt city forgoing $4 million a year in real estate taxes in exchange for a share in the profits plus payments beginning at $250,000 a year and rising, in stages, to 4.2 million after 50 years. The City Council President Paul O'Dwyer had ominously warned that the Board needed to "look very carefully" at what the city would get in exchange for its tax forgiveness. Trump had sensed an opportunity in the city's financial crisis, but his proposal was simply politically unacceptable to the voters in their current mood.

The city's appeals for a bail-out from the state legislature in Albany, and then personally to President Ford, had been flatly rejected. The bankrupt owners of the Commodore Hotel had unpaid back taxes going back to 1970. With occupancy rates of 49 percent, the hotel closed shortly after the decision was made. Alternative schemes to convert the building into apartments, or even demolish it, were then taken under serious consideration. Whatever the solution, the Trump Organization was out of the project due to the withdrawal of its principal partner, the Hyatt Hotel Group.

Trump had not lost hope in his dream of upscaling his father, Fred's, business success in Queens and Brooklyn to Manhattan. Not discouraged by this failure, he relocated to Camden and started an even bigger project. Still only 29 years old, he attempted to use his influence to cause a revitalization of the city by replacing the lost industrial wealth with a new world financial center. In this endeavor, he was greatly assisted by the entrepreneurial talents of his wife and business partner, Ivana. However, when the diminutive Abraham Beame left the mayoral office, his successor Ed Koch was far less receptive to his charms, and the bold plan was only partially successful.

The popular and affable Koch glowed in the celebration of the Statue of Liberty's 100th anniversary celebration , but his re-election year of 1989 was a very difficult one for New Yorkers. Unable to win a historic fourth-term, he was driven from office with the city beset by racial tension. He would be replaced by the Manhattan Borough President, former marine David Dinkins, who became the first African-American to become Mayor of New York. His progressive views would strongly clash with Trump's over the notorious Central Park Five case.

Now based in New Jersey, the Trump Organization enjoyed greater success with the barrel-chested Governor Chris Christie. After Christie won the Presidency in 2012, Trump would finally build an International Hotel in Washington D.C., which he would open with Ivana. As he approached his seventieth birthday, his daughter Ivanka prepared to take the reins of the Trump Organization.

Author's Note:

In reality, after the city government granted a tax abatement for the renovation, Trump and Hyatt completely remodelled the hotel from June 1978 to September 1980, spending $100 million and removing almost all of the Commodore's original decorations.

Provine's Addendum:

The Trump Organization found not just gold mine but a string of gold mines in America's Rust Belt. Improvements in technology such as fax machines made office work traditionally only seen in key centers available anywhere with a telephone line, so Trump built an empire through towns that had been traditionally industrial but now suffered high unemployment and low real estate values. After buying up entire blocks, often with huge local and state government incentives, the organization would use connections to set up clerical services, phone answering banks, and telemarketing.

This project initially grew famous in financial sectors, but Trump came to a status as a living legend through the burgeoning internet. Always eager to seize on a new opportunity, Trump was one of the first popular bloggers, first adapting parts of his book Art of the Deal and then writing on nearly every topic that became newsworthy. Some of his legion of followers loudly suggested he should run for president, but Trump joked, "Why would I take the pay cut?"

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Guest Post: President Agnew

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Eric Lipps, Brian Hartman, Allen W. McDonnell, and Jeff Provine.

August 23, 1972 - Spiro T. Agnew Accepts the Republican Nomination

Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland (known affectionately to his friends as "Ted") accepted the Republican nomination for the forthcoming 47th quadrennial presidential election. His running mate was Congressman Pete McCloskey of California, who had recently run in the Republican primaries on an anti-Vietnam War platform despite (or because of ) being a former US Marine serving in Korea and awarded the Navy Cross and the Silver Star.

The following morning's headlines read "Let us Continue," although these scornful words did not form part of Agnew's acceptance speech. Far from being the makings of an urban myth, it was a sarcastic reference to Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose ascent to the Oval Office had enabled him to avoid prosecution for his shady business dealings. Likewise, Agnew would strenuously deny alleged bribery and kickbacks dating from his time as governor of Maryland. Agnew's speech went further by giving a rambling defense, leading to the most memorable assurance that, "I am not a crook. The President of the United States is not a crook."

Agnew's ascent differed greatly from the 36th President and was potentially was even murkier. Events behind this political cataclysm traced back to the immediate exposure of the break-in to the Democrat Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel Complex by members of CREEP, the notorious "Campaign to Re-elect the President" para-political body. In the face of extensive evidence of presidential misconduct, there was a bitter power struggle in the White House led by Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig who infamously declared, "I am in charge." Amidst this government crisis, Richard M. Nixon died from an aortic aneurysm before the end of the primary season, bequeathing Agnew both the presidency and the nomination. 'Ted' selected McCloskey for his running mate but chose not to appoint him Vice President for the remainder of his later predecessor's term. This would prove a weak choice. Rather than stirring the "pity vote," Agnew's predecessor's death in effect left Agnew holding the bag for Nixon's misdeeds. Later, some would argue Nixon had been the luckier one.

Agnew would disastrously lose the general election to the equally hopeless but fundamentally honest George McGovern and then face justice with no prospect of a pardon. Agnew of course contested criminal charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy; on the same day, he was formally charged with accepting bribes totaling more than $100,000 whilst holding office since 1962 as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and Vice President. Although the prison sentence was suspended, ex-President Agnew would be fined $10,000 and would live out the remainder of his life as a political pariah, shunned even by Republican conservatives who had once looked to him to speak for them.

Author's Note:

In reality, several major revelations and egregious presidential actions obstructing the investigation later in 1973 prompted the House to commence an impeachment process against Nixon. He resigned from office under Section 1 of the 25th Amendment on August 9, 1974.

Provine's Addendum:

The McGovern presidency would work to realign federal programs with LBJ's earlier Great Society policy, a similar switch of opinion that occurs with the changeover of the White House and, indeed, had been seen in the more conservative direction when Nixon was elected in 1968. Many felt that the federal welfare programs and government-supported healthcare came at the right time as stagflation and a recession hit hard in 1973-1975. McGovern ran in 1976 on how he helped heal the economy, but the financial turmoil and widespread patriotism for the nation's bicentennial drove a great deal of force behind the conservative Republican who had come to power during the GOP chaos: former California governor Ronal Reagan. Reagan blamed "welfare queens" for draining the nation's economy and argued to reinstate American world authority after the humbling Vietnam War, planks in a platform that won him the 1976 election.

Reagan would win again in 1980 after staring down the USSR's consideration of military involvement in Afghanistan. During his famed speech in 1979, Reagan warned the Soviet Union's General Secretary, "Mr. Brezhnev, don't cross this line." The double-meaning of a political border and Reagan's seeming willingness to step in delighted Americans, especially after the USSR decided to only support the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan by proxy. With expansion questioned, the USSR focused on strengthening its union and revitalizing its economy by reconnecting with China through huge trans-Asian transit construction. Meanwhile, another economic recession would doom the Republicans' 1984 bid, instead ushering Democrat Walter Mondale into the White House.

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