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From the Publisher’s Desk – We’re all animals of some pack

By Keith Whitson

Which animal best represents you? I am guessing for most readers of this newspaper, it is a large animal, with big feet and a large snout. I would say your animal has a broad range of sounds from very low frequency rumbles to higher frequency snorts, barks, roars, cries and other idiosyncratic calls.

Now, before you get offended, let me explain. I am referring to the elephant, the designated symbol of Republicans, which statistically represents the majority of Unicoi County.

But how did such an animal come to represent so many and why are Democrats represented with a donkey? The Democrats were named first. It turns out that one of Tennessee’s historical figures, Andrew Jackson, is part of the reason.

“Our White House, Looking In, Looking Out,” reports that “Actually neither party set out to find an icon. The acceptance of these symbols grew out of negative comments and political cartoons.

“The Democratic Party’s first association with the donkey came about during the 1828 campaign of Democrat Andrew Jackson. Running on a populist platform (by the people, for the people) and using a slogan of ‘Let the People Rule,’ Jackson’s opponents referred to him as a jackass (donkey). Much to their chagrin, Jackson incorporated the jackass into his campaign posters. During Jackson’s presidency the donkey was used to symbolize his stubbornness by his opponents.

“After Andrew Jackson left office, political cartoonists furthered the Democrat and donkey connection. An 1837 cartoon depicted Jackson leading a donkey which refused to follow, portraying that Democrats would not be led by the previous president.”

According to the same source, the Republicans came to be tagged with the elephant through the same method – the press. “Thomas Nast is widely credited with perpetuating the donkey and elephant as symbols for the Democratic and Republican Parties. Nast first used the donkey in an 1870 issue of Harper’s Weekly to represent an anti-war faction with whom he disagreed and in 1871, he used the elephant to alert Republicans that their intra-party fighting was detrimental to the upcoming elections.”

It is impressive that the printed word was so influential in forming this nation and our dedication to parties. Today, both written and spoken journalism are helping to inform and shape the future of America.

Candidates must walk a fine line now, with a squeaky clean past. Anything and everything is up for exposure to bring down an opponent. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the  candidate that wins the distinction as President of the United States was as motivated after going into office as they are now? I would love for them to visit every state as often as they do now and be as interested in the betterment of the people as they appear to be now.

I know everyone needs a vacation, but I would rather not know the numerous times they are getting away or how many times they have gone to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. With the expense of special travel arrangements, Secret Service and the extreme number of rooms and suites to accommodate all, I can see why our nation is so far in debt.

Even after the President is out of office, they cost us a lifetime of annual pension, staff and office allowances, travel expenses, Secret Service protection and more. Former presidents are offered a taxable lifetime pension equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the heads of executive branch departments, like the Cabinet Secretaries. This amount is set annually by Congress and was $201,700 per year in 2014. The pension starts the minute the president officially leaves office at noon on Inauguration Day.

For the first seven months, beginning one month before the January 20 inauguration, former presidents get transition funding the help them transition back into private life. Granted under the Presidential Transition Act, the funds can be used for office space, staff compensation, communications services, and printing and postage associated with the transition. The amount provided is determined by Congress.

Six months after a president leaves office, he or she gets funds for an office staff. During the first 30 months after leaving office, the former president gets a maximum of $150,000 per year for this purpose. Thereafter, the Former Presidents Act stipulates that the aggregate rates of staff compensation for a former President cannot exceed $96,000 annually. Any additional staff costs must be paid for personally by the former president.

With the enactment of the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6620), on Jan. 10, 2013, former presidents and their spouses receive Secret Service protection for their lifetimes.

No wonder so many are trying so hard to be the next leader of this country. Whether your snout reaches far or you’re a donkey, both are considered pack animals to carry the load of the master. Let’s just hope whoever wins the race doesn’t put too much on us that we become broken down.