Why Obama’s Re-Naming Of Mount McKinley Is Unethical, And Why It Matters

McKinley

Probably not one in 20 Americans could tell you three facts about William McKinley, our 25th President. He was thoroughly overshadowed by Teddy Roosevelt, the flamboyant and transformative Chief Executive who succeeded him when he was assassinated—that, by the way, is the one fact that one in 20 probably do know. Probably three-fourths of those ignorant 20 know the name Mount McKinley, however, and that it is the tallest mountain peak in the United States.

That alone was one very good reason to keep the mountain named as it was. A nation and its culture requires continuity, tradition, reverence and respect to its past, and it is important for a nation to have abundant reminders of  important historical figures who would be forgotten over time without landmarks, memorials, monuments, holidays, town names, statues and streets that prompt this kind of exchange with one’s children and grandchildren:

“Who was McKinley, daddy?

…Or Lincoln, or Washington…or Obama. A nation that respects and strengthens these bonds with its own history helps ensure that the public maintains a common understanding of the nation’s character and mission. In the case of the United States, it reinforces the vital concept ours is a nation of one people, not warring tribes and factions. This is especially true of our Presidents, who were and are the leaders of the entire nation, not just specific regions, states and nationalities.

It is not surprising that Barack Obama back-handedly removed the name of a predecessor from a mountain for narrow and short term political advantage, because he does not see the nation the way I just described it—which was, it is important to note, very much the way William McKinley saw it. “The mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation,” he said. “Our differences are policies; our agreements, principles,” he said. That there could be anything controversial about having a mountain within the United States named after a President of the United States would have baffled him.

It would also have shocked him that any President would try to divide the country rather than unite it, but that’s our Barack. His entire political rise and preferred method of maintaining power has been to emphasize group identity politics over patriotism and nationalism. This is yet another example, and one that is likely to be forgotten in a day or two—you know, like William McKinley.  It is not as inconsequential as it seems.

The White House’s announcement of the change was simple-minded and insulting to McKinley’s legacy and memory:

“McKinley became our 25th President, and was tragically assassinated just six months into his second term,” read the statement. “But he never set foot in Alaska — and for centuries, the mountain that rises some 20,000 feet above sea level, the tallest on the North American continent, had been known by another name — Denali.”

In fact, it was still is known by that other name. When I was in Alaska, I never heard Mt. McKinley called anything but Denali, though I’m sure there were McKinleyites around somewhere. What was so wrong with using the local name locally and the “official” name officially? That’s an easy one: doing that wouldn’t give Obama a chance to show that he favors minority, tribal loyalties over national ones, especially those involving a President who was as white as they get.

The dismissive announcement falsely implies that the mountain was named after McKinley in response to his assassination. The mountain had informally been called McKinley, in fact, before he died, honoring the man who fought for the gold standard and won against the silver standard preached by McKinley’s rival for the Presidency (twice), the silver-tongued William Jennings Bryan. Alaska’s Klondike was in the midst of a gold rush, so the name seemed appropriate. It wasn’t made formal by Congress until 1917.

See all the topics in U.S. history that would be opened up by the child’s “Who was McKinley, daddy?”? McKinley, Roosevelt, the Alaskan Gold Rush, Williams Jennings Bryan…of course, that would require a parent who wasn’t historically and culturally illiterate. What substantive discussions  areopened by the question, “What’s a denali?”

The fatuous argument that the name is somehow inappropriate because McKinley never set foot in Alaska is the kind of thing that drives me crazy, because it is cynically and intentionally pitched to stupid people. (This also explains why so many reporters, like Vox’s Matt Ygelsias, think it’s persuasive. Matt also can’t imagine why anyone would care about wiping the name and memory of a U.S. President off the map. Of course you don’t, Matt.) To state the obvious, William McKinley was President of the entire United States and its territories. He wasn’t a mountaineer, he was a statesman. Naming anything within national boundaries after a President is appropriate.

McKinley’s name on the nation’s highest mountain in Alaska took on metaphorical significance over time. He believed in a strong America with military power and a foreign presence, He believed in, and his policies reflected, a nation that sought to spread its culture and values as far as it could, in the interests of freedom and democracy. McKinley is increasingly given credit by historians for building the cultural and political foundation for “The American Century,” as our first 20th century President. That an idealistic President who wanted the United States to stand above all nations in its dedication to liberty would be represented in posterity by a lofty mountain peak in one of the farthest reaches of U.S. borders is logical, fair and appropriate.

An ethical President might have mentioned this even in removing the honor. An ethical  President with reasonable respect for his office and its predecessors would have made the announcement while graciously acknowledging the accomplishments, character and legacy of William McKinley, who was, among other things, one of the most decent and sensitive men who ever held the office, and who revered his predecessors.

Barack Obama, however, is not an ethical President, or an ethical leader. He is a petty and cynical one, who simply to get some positive press from a state that has vehemently opposed his energy policies, tossed a fellow President to the curb without a qualm or a thought in advance of his Alaskan visit. I wonder if Obama knows three facts about William McKinley. No, that he never visited Alaska doesn’t count.

Decent man and patriot that he was, William McKinley would never have removed an honor relating to any past President. Talk about Golden Rule breaches: would Barack Obama, the most narcissistic of all Presidents, ever accept as fair a future President’s eradication of one of Obama’s honors?

As a leader who eschews ethics in politics, this never occurred to the current President. He doesn’t believe in the principles McKinley did, like a vigorous America, and American exceptionalism. Obama could not be more different than William McKinley. McKinley was known for being remarkably non-partisan, for example, and modest. McKinley never blamed former Presidents for his problems; McKinley did not take credit for the accomplishments of others. Perhaps no President would have cared less about losing the honor of a mountain named in his honor than William McKinley.

President Obama wouldn’t have taken this action if William McKinley wasn’t a Republican, of course, or a male, or white. His arrogant decision’s symbolic value is that the President of the United States endorses a Native American tribe’s determination not to see itself as part of the whole, not to take as much pride in the fact that the majestic rock that looms over their land is named after a great man who helped build the nation it is part of, and who, in fact, gave his life to his challenge.

William McKinley believed in one America, with a single, unified, mutually supportive people who embraced the nation’s ideals and traditions. When President Obama was elected, two-thirds of Americans thought race relations were good. Today 60%,  including some 68 % of African Americans think they are not good, according to a New York Times poll, and Obama’s divisive rhetoric, policies and conduct is at the core of this change.

True, re-naming Mount McKinley is not one of the most egregious of these. It is, however, the only one that involved insulting the legacy of a far bigger man and more generous human being than he, or encouraging the public to forget a historical figure whom they should be urged o remember more clearly.

I’ll be posting more about William McKinley during the day. Outside of Ohio, there are few memorials to him, but one is in the Antietam battlefield.

McKinley-2-sm

It’s known as the Coffee Break memorial, because it includes a bas relief of Sergeant William McKinley—the only supply sergeant so honored on any Civil War battlefield, serving coffee to a Union soldier.

_mckinely_500

The inscription reads…

Sergeant McKinley Co. E. 23rd Ohio Vol. Infantry, while in charge of the Commissary Department, on the afternoon of the day of the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, personally and without orders served “hot coffee” and “warm food” to every man in the Regiment, on this spot and in doing so had to pass under fire.

To “pass under fire” on that day, the bloodiest single day of combat in North American history, was the equivalent of “crawling through Hell.” Soldiers on both sides described the shooting as so fierce that the “air was literally gray” with whizzing bullets. One wrote that if you exposed a finger to fire, it would be shot off in seconds. Another U.S. President who commanded McKinley’s regiment, Rutherford B. Hayes wrote,

“Early in the afternoon, naturally enough, with the exertion required of the men, they were famished and thirsty, and to some extent broken in spirit. The commissary department of that brigade was under Sergeant McKinley’s administration and personal supervision. From his hands every man in the regiment was served with hot coffee and warm meats…. He passed under fire and delivered, with his own hands, these things, so essential for the men for whom he was laboring.”

In those days, Presidents respected each other, and showed it.

_________________________

Sources: VoxWashington Examiner, New York TimesHuffington Post, Daily Beast,

118 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media

118 responses to “Why Obama’s Re-Naming Of Mount McKinley Is Unethical, And Why It Matters

  1. The Bill

    When everyone in the state calls it by its original and real name Denali and the Alaska State Legislature has been asking that it be officially renamed for 40 years, its a no brainer, you rename the mountain.

    • I don’t see that as an argument.

      • The Bill

        Of course you don’t because you don’t live there and it doesn’t serve your narrative that the name shouldn’t be changed. I mean why should the people who actually live there have any say in what their mountain should be called. Its not like McKinley had anything to do with Alaska or the mountain. The original naming of it was for political reasons not for anything McKinley ever did , whether in the civil war or after.

        • Are you, by chance, an Obamite?

        • That’s silly, Bill. That’s like saying that JFK didn’t use Idlewild Airport enough to have it re-named after him. It’s not political at all: we name things after Presidents, as honors for being President. You’re just ignoring what I wrote about that, not rebutting it. The fans call the Orioles baseball stadium “Camden Yards,” not “Orioles Park (at Camden Yards)”—so what? Are the Orioles obligated to change the official name? I still call the airport “National”, not Reagan. So what?

          A mountain belongs to the state no more than it belongs to the nation. There’s no narrative. What narrative? It was slimy, cynical politics—if this was something Obama really felt was justified, why didn’t he do it before any Alaska trip? And
          Obama, if he was going to dis McKinley, could have made the change with some perspective and class, and should have. He should have acknowledged McKinley’s place in history. He could have, and should have, designated, or promised to designate, another honor of memorial.

          A Cambridge, mass City councilman, angling for Italian and Irish votes in the 70’s, got the city to “officially” change the name of Harvard Square to “Terrazzo de Leprechauno.” Obama’s move was just as cynical as that one was.

          • The Bill

            Ok so you don’t have a problem with the renaming the mountain more the way it was handled and the reasons why. That if the renaming had been in a dignified non political manner it wouldn’t have bothered you. I can accept that. I haven’t seen anything that Obama couldn’t fuck up.

            • That IS what I mean, and I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. These things can be argued pro and con, but at least if you acknowledge and try to fair and respectful to both sides, the real damage in minimal. As you say, and as I witnessed, the mountain IS “Denali” in Alaska. You could change the name and still not have it appear to be such pandering, or come across as if an assassinated President was just some dead white guy nobody needs to remember. McKinley’s been undervalued for a long time, and like Garfield, he was a very admirable human being. He deserves better treatment, that’s all.

          • The Bill

            I wouldn’t name anything after JFK, well maybe a brothel or a shooting range but that is about it.

    • Rich in CT

      The Alaskan’s started calling it Mount McKinley long before they were a state. Congress did them a favor, and named it accordingly. It matters not that Alaska changed its mind. It became a defacto memorial to McKinley, who was president of the entire United States, not just Alaska. The name belongs to all of us.

      Now McKinley’s otherwise obscure name has been scrubbed from the rock, replaced by an epitaph that means “Big Mountain”. It was not as though the natives named it after one of their heroes and we usurped it. They simply gave it a descriptive title in their language. Even when called Mount McKinley, “Denali” was applicable and descriptive. The name change was completely arbitrary and disrespectful to a man who gave everything for his country.

    • Point? She’s a local politician (and an incredible hack, who only has the job because her father rigged it for her). She’s hardly unbiased. I could show you John Boehner’s video from the Ohio side, and the same thing applies. There are legitimate national reasons to keep it McKinley. There are minor parochial reasons to officially call it Denali.

      • The Bill

        what national reasons???

        • I explained that in the post.

          • The Bill

            No you gave a list of sentimental and political reasons no reasons that effect the nation.

            • Rich in CT

              The name affects no one in any material manner. It is all sentiment.

              It exploits local sentiments towards the name “Denali” for short term political gain, at the expense of national sentiment towards the name “McKinley”.

              Further, the argument that changing the name corrects any previous “injustices” is garbage. Anybody exploited 100 years ago is dead. Any living person who failed to inherit property that may have boosted them out of poverty is still poor.

              The name change benefits no one, except a few politicians who look good because of it.

  2. Wayne B

    McKinley was everything that Obama was not as president: the last president who actually fought in the Civil War and saw firsthand the terrible cost of war, he was reluctant to liberate Cuba for that reason but the USS Maine blew up in Havana Harbor and he was forced to take action. This political pandering by Obama sickens me. Perhaps the folks in Alaska should have something to say about this.

      • The Bill

        why should the folks have any say in what a Mountain in Alaska is called??

        • It’s a self-rebutting argument. The law give the Sec. of the Interior the power. Do you believe in National Parks? The mountain is in a national park, and national parks are national territory.

          And see this…

          `You are sad,’ the Knight said in an anxious tone: `let me sing you a song to comfort you.’

          `Is it very long?’ Alice asked, for she had heard a good deal of poetry that day.

          `It’s long,’ said the Knight, `but very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it — either it brings the tears into their eyes, or else — ‘

          `Or else what?’ said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.

          `Or else it doesn’t, you know. The name of the song is called “Haddocks’ Eyes.”‘

          `Oh, that’s the name of the song, is it?’ Alice said, trying to feel interested.

          `No, you don’t understand,’ the Knight said, looking a little vexed. `That’s what the name is called. The name really is “The Aged Aged Man.”‘

          `Then I ought to have said “That’s what the song is called”?’ Alice corrected herself.

          `No, you oughtn’t: that’s quite another thing! The song is called “Ways and Means”: but that’s only what it’s called, you know!’

          `Well, what is the song, then?’ said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

          `I was coming to that,’ the Knight said. `The song really is “A-sitting On A Gate”: and the tune’s my own invention.’

          So saying, he stopped his horse and let the reins fall on its neck: then, slowly beating time with one hand, and with a faint smile lighting up his gentle foolish face, as if he enjoyed the music of his song, he began.

    • Tim LeVier

      The folks in Alaska changed it back to Denali in 1975 and since then it’s only been referred to as McKinley in official federal capacities. So…I wouldn’t look to the folks in Alaska for help on this one. They probably just see it as the Federal Government meddling in State Affairs yet again….but this time, actually listening to their state and the desires of its inhabitants.

      • ..on a matter of no substantive importance to the state, to try to make it ignore the real issues it really cares about. It’s like tossing a kid a piece of candy, or paying the Indians 26 bucks in trinkets for Manhattan. This costs Obama nothing, not even my respect, since he didn’t have it anyway.

  3. Joe Fowler

    Let’s all eradicate, rewrite, deceive, and generally pretend about history! Here’s how they do it in Washington State:

    ***The county was originally named after William Rufus King who was Vice-President when the Washington Territory was created. In 1986, a motion was introduced to change the namesake to Martin Luther King, Jr.[3] No public votes or hearings were taken on the change.[4]

    On February 24, 1986, the King County Council passed Council Motion 6461 five votes to four setting forth the historical basis for the renaming of King County in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.[5] Because only the state can charter counties, this change was not made official until April 19, 2005, when the Governor signed Senate Bill 5332 into law.***(Wikipedia)

    King County is the largest in Washington; Seattle is it’s largest city. The ‘historical basis for the renaming’ is the immeasurable impact that Doctor King had on the area during his day and a half visit in 1961. The cost of this ‘re-branding’ to the taxpayers is not readily available, but it includes applying a stylized logo of Dr. Kings profile on every county truck, car, sign, building, webpage, business card, form, etc…
    It’s difficult to name a 20th century historic figure that has LESS to do with King County and Seattle. But let’s all pretend!

    • Alex

      Thanks! I was about to mention that. I wrote a number of letters to the editor on the issue (one was published), all to no avail.

  4. Other Bill

    “He believed in a strong America with military power and a foreign presence, He believed in, and his policies reflected, a nation that sought to spread its culture and values as far as it could, in the interests of freedom and democracy.”

    Well, obviously, President Obama must have targeted McKinley for these very reasons. President Obama believes in weakening America as part of his project of dismantling colonialism. He despises the U.S. military and thinks it is one of the most destructive forces at play in international affairs. He seeks to curtail America’s values in the world in the interest of diversity.

    It’s terrible. The Commies and the Mullahs have won. He is the Manchurian Candidate incarnate.

    • I don’t think Jack asserts that McKinley was “targetted” by obama. Or if he was, for these reasons. I think Jack mentioned this because none of it was apparently on anyone’s mind as a possible inhibition against changing tbe name- for all the reasons Jack did mention: we can’t forget our past or arbitrarily change monuments and honors.

    • dragin_dragon

      Never would have thought of that link but it is totally appropriate.

    • I am forced to admit how confused these sort of statements make me feel.

      In that time frame a ‘strong America with military power and a foreign presence’ meant a powerful hegemonic thrust, the penetration of capital into foreign markets, expansion in disregard for the expanded area. Yet this is different from ‘spreading values’ as ‘value’ is normally defined. ‘Spreading values’ is a code word, isn’t it? Shouldn’t this contrast be noted? Isn’t it a self-serving narrative to refer to ‘the spreading of American values’? When it may only have been the spreading of American business without a precise regard for values generally, or the values of others?

      The ‘freedom and democracy’ narrative is a hard one to get behind. Is it non-patriotic for me to think that this is a mask for other interests and that ‘freedom and democracy’ have not much to do with it?
      _____________________

      Other Bill wrote:
      “Well, obviously, President Obama must have targeted McKinley for these very reasons. President Obama believes in weakening America as part of his project of dismantling colonialism. He despises the U.S. military and thinks it is one of the most destructive forces at play in international affairs. He seeks to curtail America’s values in the world in the interest of diversity.”
      _____________________

      While I have a feeling that all or some of this may be true, I cannot be sure that Obama is acting against ‘values’. He is acting against interests. This is a large difference. How can one distinguish?

      This becomes very complex because Obama is a ‘man of color’ and surely has interests and feelings about the oppression and exploitation of people of color. But isn’t that a favorable value? Doesn’t this flow out of all the rhetoric about America freeing its slaves? About civil rights? About ‘inclusion’? About dealing with its dark past? If he acts in the interests of people like him, is that not a superior value to capitalistic or militaristic expansion?

      The most complex word here is ‘diversity’. It is a code word these days. It means ‘operations against white people’. When they say a company or a school is not ‘diverse enough’, doesn’t it mean it is ‘too white’?

      I see in all this huge conflicts in values and no clear way to solve the conflict.

      Should not this be reduced to a starker truth? What we should really be concerned about is American power, and holding on to that power, and fighting back those who also desire it. We should desire military expansion and should not really care much if this expansion does harm where it expands as expansion is in our interests. And we most certainly – insofar as we are white (if we are white) – must resist this ‘diversification’ as it will mean sacrificing the right to be white. But all that means turning the tide backward. It means having – developing – other narratives. Narratives that place our own power at the center.

      Someone please give me some guidance as to how to get through this ethically.

      • “In that time frame a ‘strong America with military power and a foreign presence’ meant a powerful hegemonic thrust, the penetration of capital into foreign markets, expansion in disregard for the expanded area.”

        I don’t think he meant it otherwise, so I’m not sure of the reason of your clarification…was it corrective or an agreement?

        “Yet this is different from ‘spreading values’ as ‘value’ is normally defined. ‘Spreading values’ is a code word, isn’t it? Shouldn’t this contrast be noted? Isn’t it a self-serving narrative to refer to ‘the spreading of American values’? When it may only have been the spreading of American business without a precise regard for values generally, or the values of others?”

        I think you are trying to create a false dichotomy or you are trying to set up an argument that for some reason when American businesses happen to benefit from American expansion, American values are somehow not also being spread? That simply doesn’t make sense.

        “The ‘freedom and democracy’ narrative is a hard one to get behind. Is it non-patriotic for me to think that this is a mask for other interests and that ‘freedom and democracy’ have not much to do with it?”

        Just because freedom and democracy and our other cultural values often times don’t take hold or meet incredible resistance within the target culture doesn’t mean that isn’t part of the objective.

        “While I have a feeling that all or some of this may be true, I cannot be sure that Obama is acting against ‘values’. He is acting against interests. This is a large difference. How can one distinguish?”

        Because you are still operating on the notion that interests and values are wholly separate. There is plenty of overlap. I would presume you would think protecting our values and trying to get others to assimilate our values would be part of our interests… no?

        “This becomes very complex because Obama is a ‘man of color’ and surely has interests and feelings about the oppression and exploitation of people of color.”

        Mmmmkay…

        “But isn’t that a favorable value? Doesn’t this flow out of all the rhetoric about America freeing its slaves? About civil rights? About ‘inclusion’? About dealing with its dark past? If he acts in the interests of people like him, is that not a superior value to capitalistic or militaristic expansion?”

        No it isn’t. If, extrapolating from your assertion above this one, that America is about inclusion (which really it is about assimilation and adoption of superior cultural attributes while throwing away inferior cultural attributes), then once part of the Culture, Obama should be fully advancing it as “one of the guys”, not undermining it in the interests of other culture groups…

        “The most complex word here is ‘diversity’. It is a code word these days. It means ‘operations against white people’. When they say a company or a school is not ‘diverse enough’, doesn’t it mean it is ‘too white’?

        I see in all this huge conflicts in values and no clear way to solve the conflict.”

        It’s not a hard conflict to resolve. Diversity *isn’t* a value. Diversity IS a side effect of individuals exercising the freedoms within the market, but that doesn’t mean that culturally we don’t have a homogeneous set of values derived from experience and reason, the overriding judge of which is the notion: throw away cultural attributes that are inferior and keep cultural attributes that are superior.

        “Should not this be reduced to a starker truth? What we should really be concerned about is American power, and holding on to that power, and fighting back those who also desire it.”

        Yes, there is a certain geopolitical imperative involved here that doesn’t undermine our values. On the world stage, individual nations interacting are probably analogous to individual people interacting millennia ago compared to how those individuals interact within their societies. And so what? Security must be present for the interior of a society to even have hopes of ethically functioning – and that means the ethics that govern interactions INSIDE the society don’t necessarily translate to the ethics that govern interactions between the society and other societies… again, so what?

        “We should desire military expansion and should not really care much if this expansion does harm where it expands as expansion is in our interests. And we most certainly – insofar as we are white (if we are white) – must resist this ‘diversification’ as it will mean sacrificing the right to be white. But all that means turning the tide backward. It means having – developing – other narratives. Narratives that place our own power at the center.”

        I think this is just silly. We should resist forced diversification when that diversification undermines our cultural values, which by the way, aren’t “white”, though the race grievance industry labels them so.

        • You again? 😉 Is it my destiny?

          The last time around I found that this blog-style did not work for more extended conversations. That is too bad, for me anyway.

          What I can say is not very complex: There is a conflict between ‘stated values’ and ‘what really happens’. My impression is that at a national level there are many declamations about great and high values and the implication that a great and wonderful work is being undertaken and completed by America the nation, but what actually happens is rather run of the mill political and economic power-playing.

          It is not that I am opposed to power, or even that I might not desire to define a patriotism of that sort. It is that I wish to be able to separate out the fact from the fiction, or the fact from the propaganda. I am interested in the ‘Machiavellian truth’.

          I must say that I do not believe ‘nations’. A nation is not a person. A nation is a conglomeration of vast interests. So, I do not know how to have patriotism and I do not know how to define it.

          But the issue here is the accusation that Obama is a traitor to his nation, and is undermining it, doing it tremendous harm. I suppose that I am saying that it seems (therefor) possible to do great harm to a vast conglomeration of interests while one is upholding ‘value’.

          But I might be convinced that ethics and values are not what should be focussed on, but rather ‘straight power principles’. Raw, directed power. I am not sure if you see my point.

  5. Michael

    Unethical: to incur huge costs (signage, travel brochures, tourist guidebooks, etc) for the U.S. government, the state of Alaska, tour companies, commercial enterprises, on and on to change the name of the mountain in Denali National Park

  6. Does Mt McKinley reside on Federal land, State land, Tribal property or private land?

  7. SamePenn

    “…the name is somehow inappropriate because McKinley never set foot in Alaska”

    Okay, now we have that thing called “Moon.” What are we going to call those other orbs up in the sky to differentiate them from the bright one?

    • We could name it “Armstrong”

      • No, the Kickapoo name for moon is Tepehkiiha—they’ve called it that forever, and resent the fact that we still call it MOON. Obama can pick up the vital Kickapoo bloc for Hillary by renaming the moon Tepehkiiha.
        True, it will wreak havoc with all those “moon-June” songs (“By the Light of the Silvery Tepehkiiha”). as well as “Blue Tepehkiiha,’ and “Pale Tepehkiiha Risng” “Everyone’s Gone to Tepehkiiha”, and “Tepehkiiha River,” but what does Obama care?

        Armstrong’s just another white guy. Fuck him.

  8. Alex

    He could have named a waste treatment plant for McKinley (as some idiot did for Bush), so thank God for the small victories.

  9. The problem with these competing names is that now both names are traditional. There’s also the competing cultural difference about naming things in honor of specific people, Denali seems more like an adjective/description. More people would get behind renaming ‘Mount Blues’ for Louis Armstrong because it is an honor.

    Sadly, the value for honors for past president have lost their lustre, because so many in the last forty years have not been worthy of that respect. Modern cynicism makes these honors far MORE important, we need reminders that the chief executive shouldn’t pander to special interest but work for all of us, Names do change sometimes, but unnaming a MAJOR honor for a previous president is a terrible precedent. I wonder if this is a bass ackward rebuttal and compensation for not being able to force the name change of the Redskins.

  10. Isaac

    “He never set foot in Alaska…”

    And that is why all of the stars are named after noteworthy space aliens.

  11. jan chapman

    I’m with Bill. Obama didn’t rename the mountain, those guys way back when did when they named it Mt McKinley. He merely changed it back to its original (i.e. true) name. If John Boehner wants to name a geographic phenomenon in Ohio after McKinley, he can go ahead and do it. The people of Alaska should have the final say.

    • “If John Boehner wants to name a geographic phenomenon in Ohio after McKinley”

      How, praytell, do you propose he do that, after making your hard-fast rule, that “originalism” is the correct method of naming. Which by the way, seems like a really silly rule to me.

    • So my home town’s name of Arlington (Mass.) should be changed back to Menotomy, the original Indian and colonial name (it’s in “Paul Revere’s Ride”) What’s the “original” name of anything? So all those high schools trying to be politically correct and get JEB Stuart and Stonewall Jackson’s name off of them should be told that the “true”names are settled?

      The originalist theory needs some work, methinks.

      • As we were memorizing important Texas facts as part of our Freshman Year in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, a Hispanic classmate in another unit (who didn’t make it through) felt a silly notion that he’d correct the record. When asked about the history of the tradition of Aggie Muster, he gave his answer (which I’ll truncate and emphasize for pronunciation): “On April 21st, each year, on the anniversary of the battle of Sahn Hah-seen-toe…”

        For which the upperclassman (of Hispanic decent himself if I recall) cut him off, corrected him: “It’s SAAN JUH-SIN-TOE…we won the war, we get naming rights”.

      • Tim LeVier

        In Colorado, we have the Johnson and Eisenhower tunnels… but no one ever refers to the Johnson tunnel. if you see a traffic report, it’s all about the time it takes to get to the Eisenhower tunnel because Eisenhower is the Westbound tunnel that gets the traffic from Denver. I wonder if Vail and Grand Junction do traffic reports about the amount of time it takes to get to the Johnson tunnel…..methinks not.

      • jan chapman

        Just clarifying the “renaming” meme. I do agree that it could become ridiculous if carried to the extreme, but this is hardly extreme. The people of Alaska want it renamed, so he did it. It makes sense since that’s what it’s called by the locals. I doubt if the Democratic nominee carries Alaska because of it, so it’s hardly a pandering move. Things are renamed all the time. A nearby school was renamed after Gordon Parks, when it had been named for a Kansas City newspaper magnate since God knows when. My children went there. But really, I’m over it.

        • Things are renamed all the time= Rationalization #1. When a name was an honor, something else should be named for the new honor. And in this case, as I explained, there were respectful ways to do it. Obama doesn’t respect or honor his predecessors sufficiently. Never has.

  12. Wayne B

    There are over 14 mountains named for presidents in the US including Mt. Pierce and Mt. Eisenhower. I propose we dedicate a mole hill in Chicago after Obama is gone to celebrate his accomplishments.

  13. Eric Monkman

    Ohio has more electoral influence than Alaska, and it is even a swing state. Will Clinton or the Democrats really benefit electorally from this move?

    The United States is a nation of people, but it is also a nation of that values smaller communities and localism (look at the opposition that usually attends any federal program that is perceived to violate “states’ rights”). If Alaskans like to use a certain name, why not make it official? If official versus unofficial names don’t matter, why not let Mt. McKinley be the unofficial name?

  14. jan chapman

    It’s not a rationalization if you believe it is more ethical to acknowledge the original name and the wishes of the people in the state where the mountain is located. The fact that the name change was essentially a joke perpetrated by a gold prospector who had everything to gain from maintaining the gold standard makes the change to “McKinley” the more unethical decision.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/31/denali-or-mckinley-how-a-19th-century-political-joke-turned-into-a-119-year-long-debate/

    Names change all the time because our perspective changes. The name Gordon Parks is much more relevant to the students at my neighborhood school than the other guy ever will be. They named our most beautiful bridge over the Missouri after Kit Bond and, oh well, it just shows that Missouri is run by the Republicans. It’s not unethical, I just don’t like it.

    • What perspective changed? The only one I see is that the current regime thinks that tribal sensitivities trump national objectives and history, except when the sensitivities involve honoring figures the administration has decreed are politically incorrect, like Confederate war heroes.

      Rich nails it, I think. The nation owes a debt to William McKinley, so not obliterating his honor so a mountain that is a big mountain and that everyone has been calling a big mountain can be called officially “Big Mountain” in a fringe language just doesn’t strike me as a legitimate allocation of priorities.

  15. T. Roosevelt

    Bully!

    There is nothing more delightful that spirited debate and though my humble predecessor chooses not to rise to his defense, I cannot contain myself! No sir, by God, it would do everyone a deal of service in educating themselves about good President McKinley.

    Let’s not forget, under his leadership, that the America you benefit from could very well still be at the mercy of European intrigues! Cuba was liberated and we gained Hawaii and several other strategic Pacific Islands from which we could project our naval power! The treaty leading to the Panama Canal was negotiated under his guidance, ensuring the ability to rapidly redeploy our Glorious navy from ocean to ocean! He expanded Manifest Destiny past California…Why didn’t you name that awe inspiring peak in Hawaii after the modest man who established your place in the world, which a later generation secured? What have you forgotten?

    He helped emphasize the role of the military as fist while never forgetting to open that fist into a hand of friendship as soon as war-like problems were resolved! Don’t forget the Boxer Rebellion, which threatened to end the Open Door policy with China! It was HE who sent American soldiers to stifle that dust up and reestablish trade with the great reclusive country always on edge of vacillating between extreme isolationism and extreme abuse at the hands of outsiders! Let’s not forget that follow-on Presidents have modeled this foreign policy.

    At the turning point in history, all the building energy of Grand Republic was converted onto a platform capable of real influence and real rapid progress on the world stage! I couldn’t think of a better symbol for the President who did this than our Tallest Mountain.

    Best Regards,
    T. Roosevelt

  16. I’m sorry—didn’t get around to my McKinley posts today. I’ll get them up.

  17. Rick M.

    I say we get input from Native Americans for their POV. Jack, contact Senator Warren for that.

  18. So, what about renaming all these Martin Luther King, Jr. streets? I’m sure he never even drove on them. Let’s put it to a vote of the people of the state. Just to show how contemptuous a move this is, let’s rename them all “Crime Street”. That is kind of the effect of this renaming. So, President Obama removes the name of the president from the party he calls “the crazies” and renames it “Big Mountain”. How can that not sound petty and mean spirited?

  19. Beth

    I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve concluded that I don’t like the naming of buildings or natural monuments generally after Presidents, good or bad. I think I would make an exception for a President who did something spectacular AND related to the subject in question — for e.g., I wouldn’t mind going to a Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

    I don’t like flying into JFK or Reagan National. I don’t like passing the George Bush CIA. I think it is unseemly actually — just tacking a name in front of a building.

    If we want to honor McKinley, then let’s commission a statue of him or an exhibit that explains what he did and why he should be remembered.

    • joed68

      I agree. I’d be turning in my grave, if I was a dead president. The parade that my town holds in my honor is mortifying enough.

    • Interesting take.

      1. How do you feel about the one-point of view, self-glorifying, pyramid-like Presidential libraries of modern vintage? I’ve been to one: the Kennedy Library. It should he called the Hagiography and Myth-Preservation Library. Couldn’t stand the deceit and lies…but then, that was Jack. And Bobby. And Ted…

      2. What about the FBI building named after the guy who created the FBI?

      3. Towns? Cities? Like, say, Washington?

      4. I’ve been to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s a twofer: Teddy did his cowboy stint in the vicinity, and he did launch the National Park system. (It’s a fantastic park, except that I nearly was bitten by a copperhead and trampled by wild horses…)

      • Beth

        1. I HATE the practice — for the reason you stated above. If ex-Presidents want to build a library, then they can donate the funds Carnegie-style and the town can build and purchase the books and media.
        2. I don’t like that either, but there it makes more sense. (FYI — my office faced the FBI building for 4 years and I never once saw a rooftop sniper. I was very disappointed.)
        3. Town and city names are different because they are being chosen by the States. Locals can name their cities whatever they want in my opinion. Washington, DC is special because George Washington was our first President and the name seemed appropriate then as it does now.
        4. Yes, my guess was that there must be at least one park named after him. Good.

        • Tim LeVier

          (FYI — my office faced the FBI building for 4 years and I never once saw a rooftop sniper. I was very disappointed.)

          I suppose we have good snipers then. It’s their job not to be seen.

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