Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Ginsburg, Trump And Midnight Appointments To The Supreme Court

First, the hard facts. An individual is president of the United States from the moment she or he takes the oath of office in the January after the election and remains president until the next person takes that oath, except in cases of assassination or successful impeachment. The sitting president has an unquestionable right to do all the things a …


Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: Days Of Reckoning

In the next few days and weeks, we are going to learn who everyone is, who has character and who has only a ruthless drive for power. The idea of a republic is on trial in so many ways in 2020. Now the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg brings it all into perfect focus. In a republic to have power …


CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — America And Race: When Sports Players Refuse To Play

Ever since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 24, and the subsequent national eruption of protest against police brutality, police shootings and systemic racism in the United States, we have all wondered what ultimately would come of this moment in our long, troubled history of race relations. Would this be another round of temporary protest followed …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — A Lesson From Jefferson On How The Nation Can Heal

Is it possible to heal this great nation? At the moment, we are all fixated on Donald Trump — his leadership style, his desire to disrupt, his tweets — but whether he wins or loses in November, the fundamental brokenness of our political system does not cease. In fact, it is likely to worsen. However painful it is to admit, …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Let Us Now Praise The U.S. Postal Service

Since the pandemic shut down much of American life back in March, I have worked mostly at my kitchen table in a suburban house in Bismarck, N.D. I chose the kitchen table because it has seven big bay windows around it. I like to work in the natural light. But I also like to watch for the moment when the …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Playing The Religious Card: A Long American History

“Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God.” When President Trump uttered these words this past week, he sparked the usual outrage in the world beyond his base. His accusations against Joe Biden, who is a serious Catholic Christian and who has not indicated distaste for the …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — America Is More Than Its Broken National Political Rhetoric

My daughter is a graduate student at a British university forced home to North Dakota by the global pandemic. For the past four months, she has been living in my basement trying to keep up with her doctoral work using such digital resources as are available at the British Library and the Bodleian at Oxford. She will be returning to …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — James Earle Fraser And The Legacy Of His ‘Vanishing Indian’

The American Museum of Natural History’s recent decision to remove the statue of Theodore Roosevelt from its Central Park entrance gives us all the opportunity to revisit and rethink a wide range of things we have taken for granted in American history and American memory. Although the Roosevelt debate has largely focused on the statue group’s depiction of him as …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Theodore Roosevelt, His Statue And The Problem Of The Past

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City decided recently to take down the statue of Theodore Roosevelt that has been displayed in front of the museum on Central Park West since 1940. It’s actually a statue group of three men. Roosevelt is high on horseback dressed like a cowboy or Rough Rider. Flanking him, on foot, are …

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Two Very Important Letters

A week or so ago, I wrote here about the Billings County Commission’s actions seeking federal funds to build their “Bridge to Nowhere” across the Little Missouri State Scenic River north of Medora, N.D., encouraging my readers to send letters in opposition to their scheme. My wife, Lillian, and I did so the very next day.  Shortly, I was pleased …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — Is Absolutely Everything For Sale?

If you agree that we should not throw up a bridge in the North Dakota Badlands within a few miles of Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch Site, please write to Secretary Elaine Chou asap, and please share my letter to your network of friends. Talk about Last Best Places! The question we have to ask is — is absolutely everything for …

CLAY JENKINSON: Future In Context — The Very First Fourth Of July

It wasn’t widely known that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence until a quarter century later when he stood for the presidency of the United States. At the time when the 33-year-old Virginian sat down to write America’s birth certificate at his portable writing desk in a boarding house on Seventh and Market streets in Philadelphia in the third …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — The Fierce Urgency Of Now

We need an honest debate about race in America. We now also need an honest debate about the uses of violence in the quest for justice. The shocking aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd has precipitated a national conversation about the paramilitarization of our police forces, the sad repetition of urban policemen killing black suspects in what — …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Silence Equals Violence

I am writing these words on a quiet Sunday morning in Bismarck, North Dakota, because my conscience tells me that neither I nor any other white American can justify silence in the face of the police murder of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis on May 25. Every American, and especially every white American, has to speak up now …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Jefferson’s Symposium

The Beatles asked, do you believe in love at first sight, and answered, “Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time.” Do you believe in the idea of the soul mate, that there is someone out there somewhere who represents a perfect fit for your own cluster of values, principles, habits, perspectives, and desires? That idea goes all the …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Running The Vaccine Gauntlet

I had a wonderful tour last week of the state Capitol of Virginia at Richmond. It was conducted by my old friend, Mark Greenough, the chief of interpretation, and someone who occasionally portrays John Marshall, the chief justice of the Supreme Court. As we entered the Capitol, we walked the gauntlet of about 100 women, many of them with children, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Radicalized

I’ve been writing recently about the ways in which I am being radicalized by the collapse of American civilization. I no longer think we need only to undertake a few thoughtful reforms to save the country. The colossal farce of the Trump impeachment, wherein the most important material witness to the central allegation of the articles of impeachment was not …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — You Say You Want A Revolution

Thomas Jefferson has somehow gotten under my skin. As I’ve grown older in my tights and wig, in some respects I’ve become a radical and even, at times, a paper revolutionary. When I began investigating Mr. Jefferson 30 years ago, tentatively beginning to portray him, I was mostly interested in his agrarian vision for this country. The sentence that then …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Who’s the Snowflake Now?

The silly controversy over Shane Balkowitsch’s proposal to mount a 7-foot-high portrait of the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on the outside wall of a downtown building in Bismarck comes just as we learn that Antarctica has experienced the two hottest days on historical record and just when an iceberg the size of Malta has broken free from the Pine …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — A Tale of Two Presidents, 100 Years Apart

This is the Thomas Jefferson Hour. Why are we talking about Theodore Roosevelt today? Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States. He took office 100 years after Thomas Jefferson became the third president. They are condemned to spend eternity on Mount Rushmore together. Right next to each other, in fact. There is no way that Jefferson could …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — The Death Of The American Republic

My friends, When the Senate of the United States voted on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, not to call John Bolton or any other witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, death rattled in the throat of the American republic. It’s over now. We will, of course, continue to be a great and powerful nation, a rich nation, with …

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Birthdays And Tomatoes

In honor of my friend Clay Jenkinson’s 65th birthday today, I’m going to share a story I wrote five years ago with a little bit of an update. First, let me say that it is hard to believe that my young friend Clay is 65 years old. I remember his 18th birthday, Feb. 4, 1973. We were both working at …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — A Day To Remember

Four things happened on the last day of January 2020. 1. We crossed the Rubicon: The United States was envisioned as a republic. In a republic, the protection the people have against tyranny is our system of checks and balances. The judiciary checks the legislative branch when it passes unconstitutional laws. The executive has the power to veto congressional legislation, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Jefferson, Beccaria And Incarceration

Thomas Jefferson wanted us to be the most enlightened nation on Earth, then and forever, the most enlightened nation in human history. That meant we had to be the best-educated, best-informed, most peaceful and most harmonious nation on Earth. We had to become the very template for rational, productive, thoughtful and harmonious living. This is the real American Dream. We …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Samuel Johnson’s ‘A Dictionary Of The English Language’

During the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s recent impeachment hearings, I was surprised to hear several constitutional law scholars cite Samuel Johnson’s “A Dictionary of the English Language” for definitions of treason, misdemeanors, bribery, etc, a reference to Dr. Johnson’s 1755 dictionary of the English language. It is not altogether uncommon to hear the name Dr. Johnson — usually in …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Trump’s Impeachment

What do you do when Republicans refuse to take seriously what they would find absolutely appalling and outrageous, criminal and treasonous, disgusting and Constitution-threatening if it were done by a liberal Democrat? We all know that if the situation were reversed and Barack Obama had reached out to Pakistan to demand that it pretend to investigate Jeb Bush or Donald …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Fly Me To The Moon, Please

As probably you know, the People’s Republic of China has a serious and robust moon landing program. Late this year or early next, China is preparing to land a probe on the moon that will dig up some rock samples and then return safely to Earth. China has made it clear that it intends to send men and women to …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — The Illimitable Search For Truth

A few years ago, in an interview with the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns about Theodore Roosevelt, I said on camera that Roosevelt liked to kill wild animals, that he was, as I perhaps inauspiciously put it, a killer. When you leave a Ken Burns interview you have no idea what you said will wind up in the film, if anything. …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Clay Jenkinson wrote this Tuesday. I don’t deserve to pretend to be Thomas Jefferson. Not only don’t I speak and write French and Italian, but I have virtually none of Jefferson’s famous organizational skills. My home library has more than 20,000 volumes now, and though I have a relatively logical library classification system, I have a hard time finding books …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — The Incomprehensible Machine

I’m fascinated and troubled by the mystery of Thomas Jefferson. I’m reading a biography in which he is working hard in 1784, spending political capital, to try to convince the Continental Congress to outlaw slavery in the American West. Jefferson is working on his celebrated Bill for the Government of the Western Territories. He reckons that if we can keep …

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — ‘Do What You Want, But Stay Off Of My Little Mo’

Here’s part of an article that appears in the November issue of Dakota Country magazine, on the newsstands now. “If we find the moral courage to save the Little Missouri River Valley today, we will congratulate ourselves 100 years from now, just as we congratulate Theodore Roosevelt for bucking the industrial zeitgeist a hundred years ago to set aside 230 …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — The Republic On The Brink Of Collapse

“Checks and balances, Mr. Jefferson. Checks and balances,” said John Adams. We are only a republic if each of the three branches of the national government has some capacity to check the excesses of one or both of the other two. The Founding Fathers sought to ensure that no single individual or entity would ever have unlimited, unchecked power. The …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — ‘Robinson Crusoe’

Over the past few days, I have had the wonderful guilty pleasure of sitting down to read “Robinson Crusoe” cover to cover. I know I should have been doing other things, some of them pressing, but I just sat there and read this famous and fabulous account of a man who is shipwrecked on a small island off Venezuela and …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Meriwether Lewis On The Ohio

The extension of the Lewis and Clark Trail from St. Louis all the way to Pittsburgh is an invitation for all of us to reboot our understanding of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The late Stephen Ambrose deserves credit for giving ample space to the Ohio River portion of the transcontinental journey in “Undaunted Courage” and for penning a sentence …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Guns And Madness

In the wake of Dayton and El Paso, we flirt again with the idea of doing something to lessen or prevent mass gun violence in America. All the polls show the same thing. The overwhelming majority of the American people want reasonable gun regulation: serious universal background checks, the banning of certain types of advanced weapons of war, the right …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — And So Once More To The River

So here comes my favorite week of the year. It’s the 18th time I head to Montana and Idaho for the Lewis and Clark Cultural Tour through the White Cliffs of the Missouri River east of Fort Benton and up on the Lolo Trail west of Missoula. I made a list Monday of the number of times on the nine-day …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Enough Already

Where will it end? I understand taking down statues of Confederate generals, especially those put up during the Civil Rights Movement to reassert white Southern pride and a grim determination to perpetuate Jim Crow as long as possible. I can even understand taking down statues of Robert E. Lee, though I personally have always seen him as a tragic figure, …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — One Brief Shining Moment

Richard Nixon said it was the “greatest week in the history of the world since the creation.” My parents and my sister and I sat in our den (there were dens then) and watched the entire thing in grainy flickering black and white on our big console color TV. I took a hundred 35mm black-and-white photos of the television screen. …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — In Search Of America

The last time I wrote to all of you I was about to embark on my John Steinbeck Jr. camper truck journey in Colorado. I had no idea what to expect. The rig I rented in Denver was really designed for back country exploring — heavy tires, a very powerful engine, shovels and other equipment latched to the side and …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Farewell To Edmund Morris

I want to take a moment to lament the passing of one of the finest scholar-biographers of our time Edmund Morris. The great biographer of Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt died May 24. He was 78 years old. Morris was born in Kenya on May 27, 1940, to South African parents. He moved to Britain in 1964. Without a college …

CLAY JENKINSON: In Search Of America — Trying To Make Sense Of It All

Well, here are my preliminary thoughts. My rig is the smallest, most pitiful in the whole KOA complex. I’ve walked around once — several more to come as the night lights up here at Weedpatch Camp! Some of the RVs are so luxurious and massive that the pickup-like vehicle that pulls them is more like the cab of an 18-wheeler …

CLAY JENKINSON: In Search Of America — Leadville, Adventure And Gratitude

To all of you who are following my little journey in search of America (or a bit of it), I am having a splendid evening. I arrived at this remote and understated camp, not far from Leadville, Colo., about 2 p.m. I did the minimum to set up camp. Only one other couple is here. They have a pickup on …

CLAY JENKINSON: In Search Of America — I Fell In Love With America All Over Again

ASPEN, Colo — Last night, I camped about a dozen miles from Aspen, but you would not have known that billions, even hundreds of billions, of dollars were spending themselves nearby. This morning, I drove in to check my email and post this report, but I will leave soon. I wanted a Starbucks because I knew there would be free WiFi. But, …

CLAY JENKINSON: In Search Of America — I Know The Path Well Enough

Sundays always remind me of my father, Charles Everett Jenkinson. He has been dead for a quarter of a century now, but Sundays, I often miss him acutely. But he would never come on such a trip, not for all the money in the world. He thought camping was very silly: Why jettison 10,000 years of improvements in comfort to …