John F. Kennedy went to bed at 3:30 in the morning on November 9, 1960, uncertain whether he had defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency. He thought he had won, but six states hung in the balance, and after months of exhaustive campaigning, he was too tired to stay awake any longer.
Clinton’s egregious act of self-indulgence was outdone by an impeachment based not on constitutionally required high crimes and misdemeanors but on a vindictive determination to bring down a president who had offended self-righteous moralists eager to put a different political agenda in place.
Political vitriol is a familiar enough characteristic of American history.
In 1800, in the first interparty contest, the Federalists warned that presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson, because of his sympathy expressed at the outset of the French Revolution, was ‘the son of a half-breed Indian squaw’ who would put opponents under the guillotine.
During Grover Cleveland’s second term, in the 1890s, the White House deceived the public by dismissing allegations that surgeons had removed a cancerous growth from the President’s mouth; a vulcanized-rubber prosthesis disguised the absence of much of Cleveland’s upper left jaw and part of his palate.
Compared with other recent presidents whose stumbles and failures have assaulted the national self-esteem, memories of Kennedy continue to give the country faith that its better days are ahead. That’s been reason enough to discount his limitations and remain enamored of his presidential performance.
The lifelong health problems of John F. Kennedy constitute one of the best-kept secrets of recent U.S. history – no surprise, because if the extent of those problems had been revealed while he was alive, his presidential ambitions would likely have been dashed.
As for Vietnam, what matters is that Kennedy successfully resisted pressure to send anything more than military advisers, a stance that was a likely prelude to complete withdrawal from the conflict. There is solid evidence of his eagerness to end America’s military role in that country’s civil war.
The rise of the Tea Party, along with the emergence of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Carl Paladino in New York and Ron Paul in Kentucky, is not the first time in American history that voters have responded to hard economic times by supporting angry, unorthodox Senate and gubernatorial candidates.
Besieged by lawsuits that threatened to engulf almost everyone at the White House, Clinton assistants shunned paper or e-mail records of their daily deliberations. One told me that he would go down the hall to confer with his division chief face to face rather than discuss an issue on the telephone.
A national government using New Deal programs and the massive defense spending beginning with World War II and continuing through the Cold War was Johnson’s vehicle for expanding the Southern economy and making it, as he hoped, one of the more prosperous regions of the country.
One doesn’t simply write about Lyndon Johnson. You get the Johnson treatment from beyond the grave – arm around you, nose to nose. I should admit that he also reminds me of my father, quite an overbearing and narcissistic character. And in some ways, he reminds me of myself. Another workaholic.
Few American presidents are held in higher esteem than Thomas Jefferson. Though historians have scrutinized every phase of his long public career and found him wanting in a number of respects, he holds an unshakable place in the pantheon of American heroes.
Historians will look back and say, ‘Foreign policy in the Ford presidency was very much dominated by Kissinger, with a kind of continuity from the Nixon period.’ Ford is not going to be remembered as a really significant foreign policy maker.
Presidents need to be critically studied and analyzed.
After one party loses two elections in a row, there’s sort of blood in the water.
Despite all the public hand-wringing about negative advertising, political veterans will tell you that it persists because, more often than not, it works. But tearing down the other guy has another attraction: It can be a substitute for building much of a case for what the mudslinger will do once in office.
The institution of the presidency was profoundly affected by Watergate.