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A founder who still inspires Americans

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A founder who still inspires Americans

“Presidents Day” is actually still Washington’s Birthday officially, though no longer always honored on Feb. 22, his actual birth date. And that’s entirely right and proper, as every American should happily honor our first chief executive.

What was most remarkable about Washington was (to riff off a fellow whose birthday we celebrated last month) the content of his character.

Richard Brookhiser rescued this view of Washington in his landmark 1997 book, “Founding Father.” Hidden behind myth, written off by revisionists as just another dead, white, male slave-owner, Washington was in fact a man for the ages.

Born a Virginia aristocrat, he carefully cultivated his virtues — self-control, moderation, civility; his strengths physical and moral — to become the most widely admired presence first in the 13 colonies, then in the new nation.

He created two American institutions.

First was the army, which he commanded from 1775 to 1783, shaping a collection of untrained and undisciplined ragtag soldiers into a fighting force that defeated the world’s superpower, Great Britain.

He also set the future course of the US government itself. Presiding over its first years from 1789 to 1797, he understood he was setting precedents that had to last — even as many disagreed on what precise form that government should take.

Yet his importance goes far beyond his ­résumé. It was Washington who emphasized that America was a republic when he rebuked those who wanted a monarchy or an exalted president.

Likewise, he set the precedent for presidential limits by refusing entreaties that he accept a third term. “Washington’s last service to his country was to stop serving,” writes Brookhiser. And he was the only slaveholding founder to free his slaves, albeit in his will.

For all these reasons and more, there was no dissent when Henry Lee famously described Washington in death as “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Far-left efforts like the 1619 Project now claim that many Americans have no reason to honor Washington. But far more accurate is the understanding reflected in the musical “Hamilton”: One of the show’s most compelling moments is the entry of Gen. George Washington as the American rebels suddenly face 32,000 British troops in New York Harbor.

It’s not just his dramatic, staccato lines (“We’re outgunned. Outmanned. Outnumbered. Outplanned”), but the fact that the guy playing him is black. The show powerfully, magically, claims America’s founders for all of today’s Americans. The principles they fought for belong to us all.

Unlike other notable presidents — Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, JFK, Reagan — Washington left no memorable lines that we continue to quote today.

But, as Brookhiser tells us, “His life still has the power to inspire anyone who studies it.” Give it a try.

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Opinion

Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckoning a sour ending for a transformative prime minister

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckoning a sour ending for a transformative prime minister

Benjamin Netanyahu showed the opposite of grace as he exited from power on Sunday.

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — June 14, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — June 14, 2021

The Issue: The discussion of law and order at last week’s Democratic debate for mayor.

If any one of these five candidates becomes mayor, it will be the continuation of the de Blasio era (“Crime focus of Dem debate,” June 11).

Many of them are in favor of defunding the Police Department, which is why there is so much crime, and shootings are rising every day.

The people of this city had better wake up when they go to vote. Haven’t we had enough of this? When will it stop? These candidates will not put an end to all this.

Rob Johann

Queens

Thinking that a Republican candidate could not win the mayoral race in New York, I switched my party to Democrat so I could vote.

After listening to all the Democratic candidates during the debate last week, I want to immediately switch my party back to Republican and vote for Curtis Sliwa.

He is our only hope to live in a city that values law and order. He won’t cave to these left-wing zealots who will further destroy our city and our quality of life.

We need a mayor who can bring back the tourists, help our economy and ensure a better life for all of us.

We cannot let the city go into further decline with any of these Democratic candidates. Please, wake up and vote for someone who will lift all of us up.

Susan Green

Manhattan

The fact that Andrew Yang is slipping in the polls is the only good news in the mayoral race.

Eric Adams is talking about crime, while Yang thinks the biggest issues for the city are AI and climate change.

If Yang wins, people will be dreaming of “the good old days” under Mayor de Blasio, formerly thought to be the bottom of the barrel.

Andrew Delaney

Miami, Fla.

I am not impressed by any of the Democratic candidates for mayor of New York City.

What each of them is proposing will cause further crime, divisiveness and decay, raise taxes, make life more miserable for residents and visitors and drive more families out of the city.

What does it take to get through to the New York voter? How bad does it have to get before they abandon a party that is becoming more idiotic with every election cycle?

Take a look at cities and states that have been doing well under Republican leadership and consider voting Republican.

D.M. Diana

Greeley, Pa.

Even Adams is falling for it. He said the “solution” to city violent crime is to reach out to youth and improve mental-health services.

These chic answers are a guarantee that innocent New Yorkers will continue to be murdered, raped, thrown onto subway tracks and maimed.

Get the violent off the streets first. Whether they are criminal or mentally ill, sort that out afterward. Get them away from the rest of us first.

Paul O’Keefe

Union City, NJ

I generally agree with The Post’s endorsements, but I am baffled by its support of Adams for mayor.

His stance on the NYPD changes at his convenience. One day he’s anti-cop and a fierce critic of the NYPD (even though he was employed by the NYPD), and then he switches and comes across as pro-police.

Can New Yorkers elect a mayor who lacks common sense and leadership skills? His suggestion last summer to New Yorkers to settle disputes about illegal fireworks on their own and not call the police was deadly. Shatavia Walls, 33, died as a result.

Adams lacks the moral compass and common sense required to be a winning mayor. The people of New York deserve better.

Susan Berger

Brooklyn

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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Opinion

Maya Wiley can’t contain her contempt for cops

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Maya Wiley can’t contain her contempt for cops

Maya Wiley again proved what a disaster she’d be as mayor last week, by refusing to commit to not disarming cops.

At the debate, WCBS’s Marcia Kramer pushed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former legal adviser on what she thought of state Attorney General Letitia James’ suggestion to mandate that law-enforcers use force only as a last resort. Wiley dodged: “Safety is job one, and I’m going to keep New Yorkers safe when I’m mayor.”

So Kramer asked if she’d take guns away from the NYPD, and Wiley dropped her bomb: “I am not prepared to make that decision in a debate.”

Huh? What decision is there to make? It’d be absurd to disarm the city’s cops at any time, let alone one when the bad guys are firing their weapons at an ever-higher rate. Yet Wiley’s refusal to commit is an announcement that she finds the idea attractive.

Not that it’s a real surprise: Wiley is a police-hater who demonized NYPD officers in a campaign ad in which she claimed cops don’t think she and other black New Yorkers “deserve to breathe.”

In reality, the NYPD’s work has saved tens of thousands of black lives in recent decades, by bringing the murder rate to historic lows — though it’s now starting to inch back up because Wiley and her fans imagine that police violence is now the greater threat. Literally: She’s vowed to slash the NYPD’s budget because “trauma” from dealing with cops is a bigger problem than crime.

In reality, most minority New Yorkers want more cops in their neighborhoods, though of course they want the police to do their jobs as politely as possible. Then too, the force itself is now majority-minority.

All of which is why Eric Adams wisely made fighting crime the signature issue of his campaign and why he leads in the polls. But a large and fractured field plus the advent of ranked-choice voting could let a loon like Wiley sneak into the Democratic nomination and likely victory in the fall — unless all sane New Yorkers make sure to leave her entirely off their ballots and choose only pro-public-safety candidates.

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