How We Got Here; Biden and Schools; GW’s B-Day

Good morning, it’s Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. Donald J. Trump’s second impeachment trial proceeds apace today, while the weather on the East Coast is challenging. But there’s happy news: Today is the 290th birthday of George Washington.

Wait a minute, you might be thinking. That’s not right — the Father of Our Country was born on Feb. 22, wasn’t he? And wasn’t he born in 1732, which would be 289 years ago?

I’ll explain after the break. (I wrote about it five years ago, but it’s a good enough story to revisit.) First, I’d steer you to RCP’s front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. Today’s front page features Dick Meyer on Biden’s first three weeks in office (USA Today), Joel Kotkin on modern environmentalism (Newsweek), and Rep. Elise Stefanik (Fox News) and John Nichols (The Nation) on opposite sides of impeachment. We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors this morning, including the following:

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Nancy Pelosi and Dick Cheney: A Shared Crucible. I launch an impeachment trial series with a look at formative experiences that may explain the House speaker’s motivation for impeaching a president about to leave office. 

Biden’s School Reopening Pledge Sets Low Bar, Critics Note. Susan Crabtree unpacks the controversy as the new president’s 100-day goal bumps up against reality. 

U.S. Spybusters vs. Tech-Savvy Chinese “Grad Students.” A spate of arrests illustrates growing alarm about Chinese technology theft in the U.S., Richard Bernstein reports for RealClearInvestigations.  

Despite COVID, U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Exports Hit Record Levels. RealClearEnergy editor Jude Clemente reminds the president that blocking pipelines and development does not lower demand; it only makes accessing needed products more costly.  

What Joe Biden Doesn’t Know About the Paris Agreement. Also at RCE, Tom Harris writes that the climate pact Biden plans to rejoin is one of the main instruments China uses to game the system and avoid accountability for its excesses.  

Pompeo Handed Biden a Gift on China. At RealClearPolicy, Grazie Pozo Christie argues that the former secretary of state’s “genocide” declaration regarding the Uighur minority provides the administration with a stick in conducting relations with Beijing.  

Time Running Out to Fight Extradition to Japan. At RealClearWorld, Roger Schreffler highlights the plight of two Americans pulled into the Carlos Ghosn saga.   

Would You Support Lockdowns If It Meant Losing Your Job? RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny argues that decision-makers instituted harsh restrictions because the painful consequences of their action would not hurt them.  

Will Quantum Computers Control Traffic? RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy examines a new study by researchers from Toyota and the University of Tokyo.  

1619 vs. 1776: Are We Really Teaching Founding Principles? At RealClearEducation, Jessie McBirney warns that the debate overlooks the concept of federalism. 

Fortifying the American Mind: The Fund for American Studies. At RealClearWire, Mike Sabo explores over 20 programs that teach students and young journalists the principles of liberty, limited government, and free markets.  

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George Washington’s family Bible describes his arrival into this world in this way: “George Washington, Son to Augustine & Mary his Wife was born the 11th Day of February 1731-2 about 10 in the Morning & was Baptised the 5th of April.”

So, you ask, what’s the deal with Feb. 11 — and does “1731-2” have anything to do with it? The answer is that the funky date notation, common in the mid-18th century, has everything to do with it.  George Washington was born on Feb. 11, 1731 under the old Roman calendar, also called the “Julian calendar” (after Julius Caesar). The Julian calendar had a nice, long run of 16 centuries, but it was a little off in its calculations, so in the 1500s, Pope Gregory XIII made an adjustment.

This kept Easter in the spring, which was the main idea, but it threw other things off, and

England (and its colonies) didn’t switch to the Gregorian calendar until 1752. This presented a problem for a young man born two decades earlier.

Now, instead of being born on Feb. 11, 1731, Washington was told that his real date of birth was Feb. 22, 1732. That must have been confusing, but Washington wasn’t the only one who was confused. When Thomas Jefferson inquired on Feb. 10, 1792 if he might stop by Washington’s office to wish him well on the occasion, the president’s secretary, Tobias Lear, replied archly that “the president considers the 22nd day of this month as his birthday, having been born on the 11th old Style.”

Tobias Lear’s stuffy response hints at some disapproval of Jefferson by the president. Why do I say that? Because George Washington’s own diaries reveal that while he commanded American forces during the Revolutionary War, he made merry on the earlier date. Moreover, in 1799 — which turned out to be last year of his life — Washington attended a birthday party in his honor thrown by the city of Alexandria, Va. We know this from a piece in a newspaper called the Columbia Mirror and Alexandria Gazette, dated this very day in 1799.

“This day is justly dear to all true Americans, was celebrated in this town in a style heretofore unprecedented,” the paper’s editor wrote. He continued: “The Editor regrets that he does not possess talents to describe the proceedings in the manner which they deserve.” 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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