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Generations—Trying to Get Them Straight

February 8, 2017

For years now, I’ve heard generation labels tossed about electronically, on paper, and in conversations, but rarely does anyone try to define them. As a historian of ideas, finally I’d had enough of this murkiness, and decided to do some sleuthing myself.

One of the first things I discovered was that there is sometimes little consensus in terms of what to call a given generation, or even when a certain generation begins and when it ends. It’s sort of like epiphanies: rarely are you aware that you are experiencing one—only in retrospect can you look back at certain days and conclude: “You know, if that day had never been, how different my life would have been!” The same is true of generations: you can only define them in retrospect, when the dust settles and you can see the time period clearly.

My wife Connie and I discovered two sources: Philip Bump’s article, “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts,” in the March 25, 2014 issue of The Atlantic; and “Why Advertisers Ignore You,” in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of AARP, the Magazine.

According to Philip Bump, the Census Department does not generally even attempt to label a time period. And it took a running battle between The New York Times and Slate to sort out the Millennials.

Let’s see what we’ve found out:


It was so labeled by Tom Brokaw, and the name stuck—but not how to define it. These are the people who fought and died in World War II. Bump postulates that the generation’s dates should be 1926-1946, ending when the war ended. AARP muddies the water considerably by splitting the period in two:

The Greatest Generation: 1907 – 1927
The Silent Generation: 1027 – 1946

I believe that here Bump has the edge in terms of consensus: the Greatest Generation time period ought to conclude with the end of World War II.


The Census Department does define this period date-wise: 1946-1964. It gets its name from the return to civilian life of millions of soldiers after the war’s end in 1945. The servicemen and servicewomen married, went to college on the G.I. Bill and had babies. My personal preference would have been to call this time period The Norman Rockwell Generation. Reason being, it was the last time period we’ve had that was mostly peaceful. It was also the last period characterized by a general acceptance of marriage, Judeo-Christian religion, and patriotism as the prevailing societal building blocks. Famed artist Norman Rockwell chronicled this peaceful time period in his 322 Saturday Evening Post covers (though Rockwell covers began earlier in the Twentieth Century, the real flowering impact-wise came in the 1950’s). Also, during this period, the U.S. was undeniably the strongest power in the world (morally, economically, politically, and militarily). It represents in history the high tide of Pax Americana—and its centerpiece was the Eisenhower administration.


This time period has never yet been clearly defined, but its time-frame is generally agreed upon as 1964-1983. I would submit that the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, slammed the door on the Rockwell Era. All hell broke loose after that terrible date: the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the March to Montgomery, the Watts riots, the March on the Pentagon, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, the Vietnam War, Ford surviving two assassination attempts—and family-wise,, divorce soaring 69% in but ten years, marriages now becoming an endangered species . . . lasting only 6.6 years. It also includes the Hippy Era, with its explosion of substance abuse and indiscriminate sex. It makes sense that no one has yet been able to successfully label this time period. Some try to insert a Generation Y into this time period, but really can’t seem to figure out how.


Generally, the time frame for this generation haws been pegged at 1984 – 2004. As time passes, this generation may be relabeled in terms of the rise of nano-technology, the social media, cyber warfare, etc. This time period also fascinates me because historians of ideas are well aware that all century-turning of the zeros are turbulent. During the last decade (fin-de-siecle) of each one, it seems as if all the mores by which that society lives by are thrown into the sky in one cosmic Hail Mary pass—and no one knows what will come down on the other side. 500-year-turns are even more seismic. And millennial turns even more so. The last thousand-year turn was followed by the Crusades and the so-called Dark Ages or Age of Faith. The last 500-year-turn was preceded by the Renaissance and followed by the Reformation.


No one knows yet what this 2005-2025 period will be called. But we do know that it began with an ideological shift left away from Christianity and, in 2016-2017, a wrenching polarizing shift back towards the right which is bound to result in turmoil. And America, in withdrawing its Pax America umbrella of stabilization from the rest of the world and retreating into a narcissistic It’s All About Me mindset—no one has any idea as to where all this will end up. No one yet knows where and when the dust will settle on the ideological Hail Mary Pass….but whatever happens, historians of ideas will have a field day trying to figure out its trajectory. Ominously, AARP editors tentatively label this Generation Z. So what will follow Z? Some are already calling this the Hook-up Generation because there appears to be no commitment tying in to the sexual act for millions of young people. Or the Suicide Generation—for suicides have reached epidemic levels. Or even the Opiod Generation or Social Media Generation.

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Marriage and Family — Then and Now

May 11, 2016

During the last few weeks as I have been leafing through thousands of old magazines, gradually, just as is true with photographic negatives developing in a tray, an image has been evolving of the American family during the first half of the twentieth century. A number of things contribute to it: magazine cover art, story illustrations, advertising illustrations, story plots, cartoons, quotations, articles, essays, etc.

The century began with an almost stereotypical template of the roles of men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. Initially, there was a very clear line of demarcation between male roles and female roles. Boys were expected to be strong, somewhat reluctant to exhibit emotion, masculine, competitive, work-driven, and dominant. Girls were expected to be soft, loving, emotional, dependant, homemakers-in-training, spiritual, care-givers, and appreciators of fine arts.

As I read or scanned through stories, again and again I was jolted by teenage and young adult women who were motivated to flower and achieve . . . up until a certain point: when the male has made good in the job world, has enough money to invest in a home, and proposes, the female is expected to surrender the rest of her life to him. “Love, honor, and obey” were wedding vows. In most cases, the male would assume almost total control over the purse. The jolt, for me, came in reading love stories in which the male would often threaten to spank, or actually spank, the female. Once married, women were regularly ridiculed, demeaned, and (in jokes and cartoons) depicted as being inferior to the male in judgment and decision-making.

Then came 1914-1918; during World War I, women filled many of the roles heretofore filled by males (now serving in the Armed Forces). After the war, women were more than a little reluctant to be pushed back into their boxes. World War II (1939-1945) accelerated the change in roles. I could see it changing in the fiction carried in popular magazines.

The major shifts came later, no small thanks to birth-control. Thanks to it, women had a say in whether or not they were to remain in thrall by almost perpetual pregnancies. All this was followed by Women’s Lib, the gay movement, deconstructionism, secularization, cohabitation out of wedlock, substance abuse, and a resulting major shift in male self-worth.

Which brings me to Frank Bruni’s April 10, 2016 New York Times column: “Building a Better Father.” Here are some of his observations:

“As a child I was schooled constantly in how different mothers and fathers were. TV shows spelled it out. . . . A mother’s love was supposedly automatic, unconditional. A father’s love was earned. Mothers nurtured, tending to tears. Fathers judged, prompting them.

“And while mothers felt pressured to lavish time and affection on their children, fathers could come and go. As long as they did their part as providers, the rest was negotiable.”

Then Bruni references a new book, Ron Fournier’s Love That Boy. In it, Fournier admits that it took his wife’s command (tougher than a request) that he spend more time with his twelve-year-old son who was battling autism and Aspergers. . . . Fournier’s narrative, however, ends up addressing fatherhood, then and now.

“He examines his paternal feelings and failings with a nakedness that was rare in fathers of a previous generation. He wrestles soulfully with what kind of father he is and means to be. He weeps. He trembles.

“And he mirrors many of today’s dads, who are so changed from yesterday’s. In Fournier I saw my two brothers, who don’t adore their children any more than our father adored us but who do it with a gentler, tenderer touch, unafraid to broach discussions and display emotions that most men once shrank from. . . .”

“According to surveys by the Pew Research Center, men spend almost three times the number of hours a week with their children than they did half a century ago. And they feel conflicted about not devoting more. While 23 percent of mothers said they shortchanged their kids on time, 46 percent of fathers did.”


I know that one of my own biggest regrets, in terms of my involvement with our two children during their growing-up years, was that I let my wife carry a disproportional percentage of the load—especially time-wise. In a homily I recently gave to parents of third-grade students in six area elementary schools in our Colorado mountain community, here are some thoughts I shared with them.

Friends, up to now, everything we’ve said and done today has had to do with your kids; but now, I’d like to share some thoughts and concerns with you:

As I look back through the years to the time our children were young like yours, I can’t help but realize I failed to take full advantage of those crucial years. I had other priorities that seemed more important at the time. In the process, I let my wife bear a disproportionate share of the load at home.

But there came the day when I was shocked by the discovery that our children were already bridging to mentors other than us. If the speed of child growth could be accelerated and shown on a screen, we’d realize that our children were changing all the time—there are no plateaus in a child’s life. So I can tell you, from personal experience, that the sobering day will come all too soon to you too, and you will look at your spouse and say,’We’re all but through; whatever they are now, our children are likely to be as adults. Our window of opportunity to make a significant difference in the trajectory of their lives is closing.

So I urge each of you, in the time you have left, to make your children your #1 priority. Institute a daily story hour and spend that precious time moulding their characters while you still have time to do so. May God bless each of you and the children entrusted to you.

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Gilbreth’s “Cheaper By the Dozen”

March 2, 2016

A timeless classic! There is a tumbler in my mind that is constantly churning books, each vying for a chance to be one of my book of the month selections. Night and day the non-stop churning of books continues. But over the month that separates one book choice from another, certain books tend to surface more often than others. Just so, Cheaper by the Dozen has been struggling for its place in the sun—not just for a month but for close to half a year now. Its time has come.


I first read it during my own growing-up years, and loved it. Also loved the movie. But then, it gradually receded from my conscious thoughts. What changed all this is my need to consider all my known and cherished books so that I don’t short-change any of them.

To a historian of ideas, the Roaring Twenties was an ideological gold mine. First of all, it was a period of profound disillusion and loss of faith in God, the result of a war so horrific that many felt that spirit of God was withdrawing from the earth. Where was God in the millions of dead, wounded, and incapacitated for life? Where was God when some 40,000,000 additional deaths from Spanish Flu were added to battle-related casualties?

Second, when a generation of men went to war during World War I (the so-called “Great War”), millions of women were forced to take their places on the factory home-front—in the process, getting their first taste of freedom. But when all those men eventually returned home, that act resulted in women being forced back into their stereotypical boxes—and many were deeply resentful of this collective clipping of their wings.

Third, the automobile changed everything. Concerned parents called them “bordellos on wheels,” and feared for their daughters’ virginity. And for good reason.

Fourth, the movie industry reinforced this perception that all the traditional moral safeguards against rampant godless hedonism were rapidly being swept away. In the process, more and more, youthful peer-pressure was replacing the “still small voice” of God.

It was unique in another respect: large families were still the norm, birth-control was essentially a non-factor, men openly bragged about controlling women by keeping them “barefoot and pregnant.” In my own immediate family, my mother was one of seven children and my father was one of eleven (two of whom died young). People did die young then. Few people outlived their sixties—and many died in their fifties. Modern medicine was still in its infancy. Smoking was openly encouraged. Obesity was merely a fact of life. Exercise? Why? Diabetes? What was that? But, as for children, they lived out of doors and felt perfectly safe anywhere they went.

World War II had accomplished something peacetime had not. It finally brought an end to the Depression that had been raging ever since 1929. Now, with boundless optimism in the air, get-rich-quick speculation reached epidemic proportions. Fortunes were made by bold entrepreneurs who were convicted that only fools worried about tomorrow.

* * * * *

The father in this book, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, was in real life the developer of the Science of Motion Study, and, not coincidentally, is today considered the father of Efficiency Studies. He and his wife (and business successor after his untimely death) used their children as convenient (and cheap) subjects on which they could test their theories of motion management. He took moving pictures of the children washing dishes to see how he could reduce motions and speed them up. Irregular household jobs were awarded to the kids on a lowest-bid basis (each one submitted sealed bids).

So this, in short, is the world of the Roaring Twenties depicted in this wondrous true story of a man and woman and their twelve children. A story that may seem like a fairy tale to us today—so different from what we daily experience.

And it has to be, for good measure, one of the funniest books ever written.

In summation, I urge each of you to read it on several levels: read it to compare our world to that one. Read it as an armchair historian of ideas. Read it for humor. And read it for one of the most enjoyable (and funniest) reads of your life.

* * *

And, for good measure, you may want to acquire or rent the rollicking 1950 movie. The cast features Clifton Web, Myrna Loy, Jeanne Crain, Edgar Buchanan, Mildred Natwick, Sara Allgood, Betty Lynn, Barbara Bates Ollestad. The film was directed by Walter Lang.

Try to pick up an unabridged dust-jacketed hardback (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1948).

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Autumn in Appalachia – Unexpected Splendor – Part 3

February 17, 2016


Every day of our trip, the colors appeared brighter than they were the day before. But this was to be a very special day: our opportunity to see one of the most iconic hotels in America:


The Greenbriar valley has been known for sulphur springs that were considered important clear back in pre-Colonial times. Settlers to the area tended to be few, first, because it was so isolated, and second, because of the constant fear of Indian attacks.

Nevertheless, from 1778 on, there was always a hospitality center for travelers at White Sulphur Springs. By the 1830s, more and more famed Americans patronized it, including five U.S. presidents. Since it was on the Midland Trail (later, U.S. Route 40), the facilities received a steady stream of travelers. In the mid 1850s, the Old White Hotel was constructed; it featured 228 guest rooms and was over 400 feet long. It was surrounded by 7,000 acres of forested land, which has been retained until this day.

Scan_Pic0207Though thousands flocked here to be cured of their ailments by the sulphur springs, the Civil War all but brought leisure travel to a halt. Nevertheless, during the war, both North and South occupied the hotel—but eventually the North took total control of the region. After the war, the hotel became one of Robert E. Lee’s favorite vacation retreats.

1869 proved a watershed year, for it was then that the train tracks reached it. Train travel shortened the travel time from Washington from four to five days to only fifteen hours.

But by the Turn of the Twentieth Century, the vast hotel was in danger of being lost to its graduaal deterioration. It was saved just in time by Edwin Hawley, of C&O Railroad, who thereby bought control of the facility. Then came major backing from J. P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts. It was during the years 1910 to 1913 that the great white hotel we see today was constructed. This one was built to be fireproof.

Golf arrived in 1913 with the completion of an 18-hole golf course that has since become legendary. President Woodrow Wilson was among the first golfers to play the course, in 1914. Frequent guests included the likes of the Vanderbilts, Joseph Kennedy, as well as Pulitzer, Armour, Guggenheim, Bloomingdale, Carnegie, Gimbel, Auchincloss, and Flagler.

Just as the Great Depression of the 1930s began, the Greenbriar Hotel was virtually rebuilt and doubled in size. Amazingly, the hotel survived the Depression intact.

Shortly after lunch on December 17, 1941 (only 10 days after Pearl Harbor), the hotel’s general manager was asked if he’d be willing to accommodate diplomats of embassies of newly hostile nations. Then, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the removal of all enemy diplomats from the capital within 48 hours. Eighteen FBI agents came along with them, as well as 50 members of the U. S. Border Patrol. By March of 1942, the number of diplomatic guests had grown to 800; by April, 1000—eventually 1,698! Finally, by July 8, all of them had been sent home.

On August 30, the U.S. Government purchased the hotel, turning it into a 2000- bed military Scan_Pic0208hospital. During its four years of operation, the so-called Ashford General Hospital admitted 24,148 patients, and 11,346 operations were performed. Among the generals were the likes of Omar Bradley, Anthony McAuliffe, Mark Clark, Matthew Ridgeway, Jonathan Wainright, George Marshall, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

After the war, the government put the facility up for sale. After six anxious months, President Truman agreed to give the C&O Railroad first chance to buy it. Robert Young and Dorothy Draper took command of restoration and redecorating. Draper, in the process, ordered thirty miles of carpeting, 45,000 yards of fabric, 15,000 rolls of wallpaper, and 40,000 gallons of paint.

By then the Greenbriar had been closed to the public for six long years. But would people come back after all this time? VIPs who showed up at the grand opening party included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bing Crosby, William Randolph Hearst, Jr., John Jacob Astor, Clark Clifford, Cyrus Eaton, and Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy, as well as a veritable Who’s Who of the age. The press, of course, loved it.

Since that time, it almost seems axiomatic that all U. S. Presidents come here either for relaxation or for important conferences. Eisenhower was such a regular that hotel operators got in the habit of answering all incoming calls, “Good morning, Greenbriar White House.”

In the summer of 1976, Jack Nicklaus arrived to rebuild the Greenbriar Golf Course—took almost two years to complete. Sam Snead has had a lifelong love for the course as well.

On Friday, May 29, 1992, Greenbriar President Ted Kleisner called together an unusual staff meeting none of those present will ever forget: “Today we are going to acknowledge,” he announced, “a secret thirty-five-year partnership with the United States government. This partnership is about to be disclosed in an upcoming article in The Washington Post which reveals the existence of an emergency relocation center, a bunker on our property and describes the facility in such detail that we can no longer deny it.”


The news was indeed mind-boggling: underneath the stately five-star resort sat a huge concrete and steel bunker designed to house Congress in the event of a national crisis! Just as startling: it had been kept a secret for an entire generation. And the bunker contained over 100,000 feet of space. Mosler Safe Company constructed the huge blast doors that protected vehicular entrances into the bunker. The bunker was intended to not only house Congress, but also dormitories, dining room, and a power plant; as well as a sophisticated communications center. An underground water system constantly replenished three huge 25,000 gallon storage tanks within the bunker.

All during the Cold War, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, this vast facility was kept in readiness for use with only a few hours notice needed. A landing strip adjacent to the Greenbriar Golf Course was part of the planned evacuation process.

Today, under new management, the Greenbriar is entering its fourth centuiry. What a remarkable story!

Our source for this section is a book you may well wish to purchase yourself: Robert Conte’s lavishly illustrated hardback, The History of the Greenbriar, America’s Resort, (printed in Canada: The Greenbriar, 2000, 2014).

* * * * *

We found it easy to locate White Sulphur Springs, but anything but easy to find the hotel itself. Clearly, management feels that if you have to ask to find the hotel (situated as it is in the midst of such a vast complex of buildings, golf course, and forested reserve), then maybe you’re not paying guest material. 🙂 Which we weren’t—we just wanted to see it, eat there, and pretend we could afford to stay there.

Eventually we found it, and soon found ourselves in another world. A fascinating synthesis of comfort and understated palatial. A king’s ransom of great paintings gracing the rooms, cut-flowers everywhere. A library in which guests may write letters. We didn’t see a check-in counter anywhere. Strangely, however, in spite of the opulence, we felt at home here, and wished we could stay. We did eat in one of the cafes. My nachos towered higher than any I’d ever seen elsewhere. Bob’s milkshake set a price record—at least for him. But the experience was worth it: we could now cross the Greenbriar off our list of places to see before we die.


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December 23, 2015


Stories are best internalized when they are read, heard, live, or on the air, for only so does the readers/listeners have the opportunity to create their own original mental imagery. Otherwise it’s only pre-fab or second-hand.

This Christmas, I’ve had the opportunity to be interviewed on the following radio broadcasts:

KPOF Morning Show in Denver
Janet Parshall on her nationally syndicated Moody Network broadcast
Don Kroah on his Salem Network broadcast on WAVA in the District of Columbia
Clyde Jennings on his Maryland broadcast on WGTS
Doc Dave Kirby on his Troy, Alabama broadcast on WTBF
Athena Baschal’s Focus on the Family Boundless podcast radio show

Following, just to give you a feel for Christmas on radio, is a condensed synthesis of a half-hour interview.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM in Troy, Alabama, for December 18, 2015.

Christmas in My Heart #24 compiled and edited by Dr. Joe Wheeler.

A Christmas tradition for WTBF listeners for 24 years, my friend Dr. Joe Wheeler presents his latest compilation of classic seasonal stories based on Christian values and beliefs. This latest edition is no exception to his successful pattern: his 91st book (and 76th story anthology) contains more than a dozen wonderful stories guaranteed to leave you misty-eyed. Drawn from over a century of stories first printed in magazines (many of them, sadly, no longer published), Joe Wheeler has carefully chosen these 15 particular Christmas stories and written an original.

1934’s “A Wood Crowns the Waters,” Eric Philbrook Kelly movingly writes of the loss and suffering of Eastern Europe, especially Poland, in the early years of the 20th century. In a castle ruin lives a broken-hearted old man whose wife was killed by artillery and his son taken away to vanish in the Great War. His only friend is a sweet little girl from the nearby village, who expects to hear the great bells at midnight of Christmas. They also hear a lonely violin, and find a young traveler who is on a narrow ledge. Risking their lives, the old man and the girl rescue the 12-year-old boy, and get an incredible Christmas gift. Other stories tell of dealing with loss at Christmas: a child, an empty nest, a bush pilot’s nerve, and the faith of a child.

Mabel Lee Cooper retells a story from 4th century AD, “The Lost Child,” a powerful tale of forgiveness. Thomas Vallance talks of “Celestial Roots” in a country tale. Walter Dyer presents an ancient Christmas story told in Syria, not of a little drummer boy but of a baby camel who came to the Manger! Isobel Stewart brings one of the newer stories, that of a new beginning for a grief-stricken mother, in “Choices.” Mary Russell gives us insight into college life in 1937 and what it was like for a young coed far from home at Christmas and how she created her own new traditions at the dorm, in “Joy to the World.”

As always, Joe Wheeler closes the anthology with an original story, and “The Dream Catcher” might be his finest one yet. It involves a wealthy grandfather who takes in his widowed daughter-in-law and young granddaughter when his only son is killed in combat in WWII. But Questa’s mother grieves herself to death, leaving granddaughter and grandfather to take care of each other, his wife having died giving birth to Questa’s father. She is carefully and joyfully raised to young womanhood by the gentle, wise man. The tale concludes with his reading of a favored Christmas story that he had saved for her 18th Christmas. It was Henry Van Dyke’s classic, The Other Wise Man.

We visit with Joe Wheeler on Sunday On the Bookshelf on WTBF-AM/FM and discuss
Christmas in My Heart #24 from Pacific Press. Please join us!


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March 5, 2014

Preliminary indications and predictions add up to a bleak scenario for our time. Just to refresh your memory, go back through history to the events leading up to World War II: British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his Conservative Party agreed to a foreign policy based on appeasement of Hitler. Chamberlain sought to draw Italy’s dictator Mussolii away from Hitler by concessions. In 1938, Chamberlain and his team met with Hitler and Mussolini in Munich and agreed to the rape of Czechoslovakia; and the stage was set for the horrific war that followed. Reason being: each back-down emboldened Hitler to gobble up another nation. History has not been kind to Chamberlain and his ill-conceived policy of appeasement.

Winston Churchill, Chamberlain’s successor, likened appeasers to a tiger that appeasers hope will eat them last.

So now we are faced with Janus-faced (one face to the Olympics, another to his opponents) Vladimir Putin, who is determined to crush the former countries that were freed by the fall of the Berlin Wall. U.S. and European leaders dithered like Chamberlain over Putin’s invading Georgia and Moldova (after the breakup of the Soviet Union), doing little to stop Putin. Now Obama is faced with Putin’s next step: the invasion of another sovereign nation, the Ukraine. Apparently, noting that Obama’s famous line in the sand for Syria’s dictator Assad turned out to be nothing but rhetoric, Putin feels empowered to do another land grab–not content with Russia’s already being the world’s largest nation.

Our current administration continues to weaken our armed forces in favor of entitlements, so our military is stretched paper-thin around the world. Already, Japan, seeing the backdown of Obama where Syria is concerned, realizes that it can no longer depend on America to defend it from the new tiger of the East, China, so it is beginning to rebuild its long inactive military. Now, Obama and Kerry are faced with their own moment of truth. The long fuse lit during the fiercely-fought primaries where Obama and Hillary Clinton fought almost to a draw. The issue of presidential guts was brought up then: that whoever won the presidency, after their honeymoon was over, inevitably their guts, or lack of them, would be severely tested by leaders of nations around the world. The question brought up then is clearly the question facing Obama now: Does he have the guts to stand toe to toe to Putin and demand that he pull back from the Ukraine? Guts such as Washington had, Lincoln had, FDR had, Truman had, Reagan had.

Let’s hope Obama will rise to the occasion and institute serious repercussions with real teeth for all our sakes– such as tough sanctions and freezing of Russian assets. If he does come through with real presidency toughness, it may end up defining his presidency.

Stay tuned. The Ukraine’s Crimea will answer this question.