James Madison became our country's first wartime president during The War of 1812, setting a precedent where no incumbent president has ever lost re-election during a time of war.
In 1846, President James Polk asked Congress to declare war on Mexico because, as he stated at a private Cabinet meeting, he wished ''to acquire for the United States--California, New Mexico and perhaps some other of the northern provinces of Mexico.''
In 1898, a mysterious massive explosion sank the battleship USS Maine in Cuba's Havana harbor, killing 260 of the 400 American crew members aboard, thus kicking off the Spanish-American War.
On August 5, 1964, the Washington Post ran the headline:
"American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression."
President Lyndon Johnson's administration used this "attack" as justification for ramping up military activity in Vietnam.
Ronald Reagan authorized the invasion of the tiny island of Granada.
His successor George H.W. Bush followed suit with his "100-hour war" with Iraq, known as "Desert Storm" in 1991.
In 1999, his son, then Texas Governor George W. Bush, reported to journalist Mickey Herskowitz:
"One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief"My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it"If I have a chance to invade"if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."
Then came September 11, 2001, after Bush ignored repeated intelligence warnings Osama bin Laden was intent on attacking the United States.
"Suddenly, he's at 91 percent in the polls, and he'd barely crawled out of the bunker."
Two years later the United States invaded Iraq, a country that had no hand in the fateful attacks, and posed no existential threat to our nation's sovereignty. After being re-elected in 2004, Bush stood before the American people talking about earning some "political capital" he intended to use. That "political capital" was privatization of Social Security and other Republican agenda items.
Well, here we are again.