In Tokyo today, President Obama said: “As America’s first Pacific president, I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world.”
The president was in error. Though he was apparently referring to his birth in Hawaii and brief childhood sojourn in Indonesia, he is not our nation’s first Pacific president. If a “Pacific president” is one born and raised in a Pacific state, that distinction belongs to Richard Nixon, born in Yorba Linda, California in 1913. Indeed, RN spent a much greater proportion of his life near the Pacific than President Obama has. He grew up in Whittier, went to Whittier College, practiced law in Southern California, did naval service in the Pacific, represented California in the House and Senate, ran for governor of the state, and for years had a home in San Clemente. Between the Vietnam War and the opening to China, Pacific Rim affairs were a major focus of his presidency.
Other presidents also had significant experience in the Pacific. William Howard Taft served as Governor-General of the Philippines. Herbert Hoover spent much of his childhood in Oregon, graduated from Stanford, and spent years as a mining engineer in Australia and China. Dwight Eisenhower had military duty in the Panama Canal Zone and the Philippines.
And there was also some fellow named Reagan…