Who was the first Pacific President?

President Obama recently closed a speech in Japan with the claim that he is the first “Pacific President.” Now, it is clear that this claim is hyperbolic and that other men have a better claim on that title - the question is who?

I have a few nominations:

Nixon - grew up in Orange County, California, served in the Pacific Campaign of WWII, his enduring foreign policy decision remains the China trip and subsequent improvement of relations.

Hoover - educated in Oregon and California, worked in mining in Australia and China and even learned Mandarin. Mediated a border dispute between Chile and Peru, two Pacific Rim countries.

Taft - Governor-General of the Philippines for two years, negotiated the Taft-Katsura Agreement.

Fillmore - Sent Commodore Perry to open Japan to western trade.
Earlier presidents had an effect on our development as a Pacific power, starting as early as Jefferson, but major developments concerning other Pacific powers don’t go back earlier than this, IMHO. But even so, examples like Nixon and Hoover should be strong enough examples, and I think Millard Fillmore is the earliest one I can make a strong case for.


I’m wondering who the first President to see the Pacific was? William Henry Harrison was apparently ambassador to Colombia, but I don’t know if he saw the ocean there, and I don’t no if a previous Prez would’ve seen it first. I can’t imagine any of the early ones would’ve had the opportunity.

I don’t think the title is very well-defined, so to figure out who has the best “claim” on it, we’d have to figure out exactly what is meant by it.

Obama seems to have staked his “claim” as follows:

So if “Pacific President” means having the Pacific region as a formative influence and a part of his heritage, I think Obama clearly does have the best claim to being the first in that category.

If it just means “President who has lived in geographical proximity to the Pacific and had important contacts with other Pacific countries during his presidency”, then I’d agree that Hoover or Nixon, probably Hoover, is the first significant figure in that category.

I’d say Hoover. He was the first “western” President in the modern post-frontier sense of that term.

He was the first president to be born west of the Mississippi.

Teddy Roosevelt, for sending the Great White Fleet over there to show 'em who was boss.

So what you’re saying is, the term isn’t Pacific enough?

BHO is from the middle of the Pacific. I think that’s what he meant.

Jefferson, whose Louisiana Purchase theoretically extended to the Pacific Northwest.

One of the late 19th Century presidents–either Hayes or Harrison (William Henry’s grandson) visited L.A. while in office, being the first President to do so. It’s hard to imagine he didn’t see the Pacific while he was here. But Hoover was the first one to have spent any meaningful portion of his formative years here. I’d say if you live four years in a town and state going to college, you have the right to say you’re from there.

IIRC I read in David Herbert Donald’s biography of Lincoln that he had always wanted to see California and planned to do so after completing his second term. In the same book there was something about some political machinations leading up to the 1860 election, in which some political rival wanted to get him out of the way by offering him the post of Territorial Governor of Oregon.

President Richard Nixon a 100% California born and bred within a few miles of my residence and influential in opening up China.

Eh, no, the Purchase was the western side of the Mississippi-Missouri watershed. But Lewis & Clark did explore to the ocean.

Obama was born in the Pacific, and spent most of his formative years there. That’s what he meant. That’s all that he meant. It isn’t necessary to try to parse it, or nitpick or refute it.

For a right wing nutter, it’s absolutely necessary to try to refute every syllable out of his mouth, including all those annoying "uh"s. The standard isn’t whether it might conceivably be true, or even worth holding up to scrutiny, but simply that, if you dispute everything, people will eventually get the impression he’s untrustworthy, a prevaricator, a smooth talker without any substance, and that is their hard-earned goal.

First of all, history didn’t begin with Obama, and while I don’t want to nitpick this too much it is clear that this is a slight to other presidents. After all the aforementioned Nixon grew up with the Pacific a few miles away and was stationed in WWII in the South Pacific. I would consider these “formative years” whatever Nixon made of them later.

And the same or more can be said of Hoover’s education in the Pacific Northwest and California, and professional work in Australia and China.

He was talking about the Pacific RIM. He specifically said “Pacific RIM.” Trying to call it a “slight to other Presidents” is childish and ridiculous. He is (for whatever it’s worth) perfectly entitled to call himself the “first Pacific President.” Find some way to deal with it and move on to the next phony outrage.

Since his hometown is west of the San Andreas fault (I think), Nixon was even born on the Pacific Plate, if we wanted to make that the distinction.

He wasn’t born in the Pacific Rim, and that’s what Obama was explicitly referring to.

Dio, California is on the Pacific Rim while Hawaii is not on the rim, but in the middle of the ocean. You need to try another argument.

No, you need to give it up and move on to a more fruitful faked-up outrage.

This is an ASININE thing to argue with.