By Jim O’Neal
When Grover Cleveland was running for president in 1884, Joseph Pulitzer wrote an editorial endorsing him and listed four reasons for wanting him to be president. “One, he is an honest man. Two, he is an honest man. Three, he is an honest man. Four, he is honest.”
Cleveland had been mayor of Buffalo – a Democrat in a Republican city – and his name quickly became “The Veto Mayor.” Any bill that he thought was a raid on the public treasury was quickly vetoed. (He would later veto over 300 bills in his first year as president.)
In 1882, Democrats in New York were looking for someone to run for governor. Someone asked “Why not the mayor of Buffalo?” He was nominated and won in a landslide.
Teddy Roosevelt was then a member of the New York Assembly and formed an alliance with Governor Cleveland on legislation called the Five-Cent Fare Bill. It was intended to force transit companies in NYC to cut their 10-cent fares by 50 percent (this was before Uber). However, when Cleveland read the final bill, he decided it was a violation of the U.S. Constitution. He also firmly believed the state should not get involved in private contracts, so vetoville.
Everyone was stunned, including TR, but then he rethought his position and decided the governor was right. After helping get the veto upheld, TR “The Dude” and Cleveland “The Big One” found other areas of mutual cooperation. (It was an arcane political concept called bipartisan cooperation.)
President Cleveland’s favorite political phrase was “Public service is a public trust.” He believed an executive, whether governor or president, was exactly that – an executive officer whose job was to see that the organization was run efficiently and that shareholder (taxpayer) money was not wasted. He believed fervently that “The people support the government. The government does not support the people.”
A novel concept that JFK would recall more eloquently in 1961 as “Ask not …”
Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].