Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ohioans in Denali

In advance of his tour of Alaska to discuss the effect of climate change in our northernmost state - while inexplicably allowing oil drilling in the nearby Chukchi Sea (but that's another post) - President Obama announced that he is changing the name of Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America and named for William McKinley, our nation's 25th President, back to its indigenous name of Denali, meaning "high one."  Mt. McKinley National Park, in which it's situated, was renamed Denali a long time ago.    
Needless to say, some Republicans angrily objected to the name change as a dishonor toward the Republican President, who served from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.  House Speaker John Boehner was particularly peeved, citing McKinley's leadership during the 1898 war with Spain that led to Cuban independence and citing also the buildup of America's industrial economy on McKinley's watch.  U.S. Senator Rob Portman was similarly displeased, as was presidential candidate John Kasich.  Now, guess what these three Republicans have in common.
Like President McKinley was, they're all from Ohio.
It simply does not make sense to name a mountain in Alaska after a President who came from Ohio, and I doubt any of these proud Ohioans have ever set foot on Denali's foothills.  (McKinley never did, either.)  Contrary to Senator Portman's association that the mountain was named for McKinley as a memorial to him in the aftermath of his assassination, the mountain was actually named for McKinley by a gold prospector in 1896, when McKinley was still a presidential candidate.  So, it was named for him when he was still alive and not yet President - two disqualifiers right there.  (The mountain was officially named for McKinley in 1917.)  McKinley had nothing to do with Denali except being in the right place at the right time.  If then-New York Governor Levi Morton, a former U.S. Vice President and another 1896 GOP presidential candidate, had been the Republican presidential nominee, then I suppose it would have been renamed Mount Morton.
Of course, there are some people who charge that McKinley, as a conservative Republican President who was supported by the captains of industry and finance and in turn supported their interests, and who also sired America's overseas empire through the acquisition of Spanish colonies such as Puerto Rico and the Philippines, doesn't deserve to have anything named for him at all.  I am not one of them. McKinley was by no means the worst President this country ever had.  In fact, as conservative Republicans go, he was one of the better ones.  He led the United States out of the worst depression the country had experienced up to that point - a depression he'd inherited from Grover Cleveland, who was as conservative as McKinley was despite being a Democrat.  Under McKinley, the economy expanded, jobs were created, and farmers enjoyed high commodity prices.  McKinley did not want to go to war with Spain over Cuban sovereignty - as a Civil War veteran (the last Civil War veteran to occupy the White House and the only such veteran to serve as an non-com) who'd been at Antietam, he knew how terrible war can be -  but pressure from public opinion fanned by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (because of the battleship Maine blowing up in Havana's harbor, likely an on-board accident)  led him to ask Congress to declare war.  But he did raise taxes to pay for the Spanish-American War, and he saw it to a quick conclusion.  The much-sainted Theodore Roosevelt, who succeeded McKinley as President, was an avid supporter of that war and also as President used American influence to instigate Panama to revolt against Colombia and win its independence so he could conveniently have a canal built there, and so was no less an imperialist than McKinley was.  Roosevelt was probably more so.  So, yes, McKinley was a decent President.  But what the heck does he have to do with Alaska? 
And lest you think outrage over the renaming of Denali infuriates only Ohio Republicans, Ohio Democrats aren't happy about it either.  "We must retain this national landmark's name in order to honor the legacy of this great American President and patriot," said Democratic Representative Tim Ryan.  Ryan's district includes McKinley's hometown of Niles.
Alaskans, meanwhile, have been wanting the mountain to be officially named Denali for decades. The bill in the Senate to change the name back was introduced by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a  Republican, who thanked the President for his decision to rename the mountain.  I'm sure that even Sarah Palin must support this name change.  As for Ohioans, they should just get a life.  Maybe they should rename a mountain in Ohio for the 25th President.
If they can find one. :-D    

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