HILF: History I'd Like to F**k

HILF 04: President Polk with Meryl Klemow

Episode Summary

It's a 'She's All That' episode of HILF! James K Polk is a boring-ass, one-term President of the United States, assigned to Dawn by our special guest, comedian, Meryl Klemow. She came for his mullet and piercing eyes, but the story about his problematic scrotum really reels her in.

Episode Notes

No one expected James K Polk to be president. He was a quiet, frail, Tennessee Democrat with no military record who had just lost his governor's seat... again. But history is a party my friends, and the fascinating and winding road that leads him into the White House in 1844 is wild ride. Thanks for coming along!

My guest is the hilarious Meryl Klemow - she is a comedian, podcaster, and impossible-to-cancel. Together we tell the tale of some of the most gob-smacking moments of Polk's life (seriously WHY do we keep talking about his scrotum) and unfold the personalities and mysteries that surrounded him. How did this Dark Horse even get nominated to be president? How is he responsible for the US 'acquiring' both Texas and California? ...and what the heck was in that mysteries box delivered to him on the eve of his exit from office? Settle in and find out. 



00:05:20 - Meryl explains why she is so drawn to President Polk and what has brought us to this particular F-ing.

00:07:13 - Dawn explains some of the landmines of this episode, including the subjects of slavery, the Trail of Tears, and the Mexican-American War. Buckle up. 

00:09:00 - Dawn lays out her sources and research. Primarily the biography, POLK: The Man who Transformed the Presidency and America. by Walter R. Borneman. 

Polk's America - Podcast 

00:12:00 - This Guy's Got Stones. THIS is why we keep talking about his scrotum.

00:16:49 - James K Polk was known as 'Young Hickory' because of his closeness to previous president, Andrew Jackson aka 'Old Hickory'. Jackson was much-loved by some, but so hated by others that whole party coalesced around their disdain for him - The Whigs.

00:20:16 - Meet President Tyler, another one-term president we usually forget. He is the man who proved that sometimes the Whig wears you...

00:25:38 - President Tyler and his Secretary of the Navy take most of the cabinet out for a cruise aboard a warship called The Princeton and things get... explosive. 

00:29:50 - Everything is bigger in Texas - including its origin story as a state! The US had it, sold it, stole it back, and then ultimately bought it.  Remember the Alamo?

00:32:55 - Certainly a HILF in his own right, Dawn touches briefly on the man Sam Houston. He was the president of the Independent Republic of Texas before it was annexed by the United States. 

00:38:24 - How a boring-ass vote for a 2/3 majority to win the nomination leads a dark horse into the white house. 

00:40:00 - The 1844 nominations are in it's Clay vs Polk and HOLY SHIT - Polk wins the presidency because of a 3rd party candidate upsetting the predictions in New York. 

...and thus begins centuries of people asking: Who the hell is James K. Polk?



00:42:58 - Meryl and Dawn discuss Polk's various positions... You heard me. 

00:44:35 - America wrestles with how to annex Texas and Polk on the eve of his inauguration makes a radical suggestion.

00:46:22 - Polk's bold plan - which he says he'll accomplish in one term: Get Oregon, Get Texas, Get California and change everything about the tax code... no big deal. 

00:47:45 - Zachary Taylor gots to the Rio Grande to pick a fight and Polk casually defies the constitution and declares war with Mexico. 

00:48:49 - The US begins, fights and wins the Mexican/American war in only two years - a time when information took three weeks to get from DC to California. It's a quick war but there are some very fuckable nuggets within:

00:49:25 - Charles Fremont and his secret marriage to the hot, brilliant teenager, Jessie Benton. 

00:52:10 - But then Charles goes rogue, oversteps his bounds, and gets himself court-martialed... but only after he helps create the still much-loved California Republic Flag. 

00:55:11 - A retrospective of the Mexican/American War in which we come out looking like a bunch of bullies. Not my take - Ulysses S. Grant's.

00:57:00 - Polk's out - no interest in even running again. But on your way out, Mr. President, we'd like to give you this MYSTERIOUS BOX OF GOLD!

01:00:00 - Polk's farewell cruise through the South... and right into the grips of the Cholera that ultimately kills him. 

01:06:10 - End Credits, thanks - and our subject for the next episode: The Krampus with my real-life husband, Andrew Melby


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