The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton
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The American President is an enthralling account of American presidential actions from the assassination of William McKinley in 1901 to Bill Clinton's last night in office in January 2001. William Leuchtenburg, one of the great presidential historians of the century, portrays each of the presidents in a chronicle sparkling with anecdote and wit.
Leuchtenburg offers a nuanced assessment of their conduct in office, preoccupations, and temperament. His book presents countless moments of high drama: FDR hurling defiance at the "economic royalists" who exploited the poor; ratcheting tension for JFK as Soviet vessels approach an American naval blockade; a grievously wounded Reagan joking with nurses while fighting for his life.
This book charts the enormous growth of presidential power from its lowly state in the late nineteenth century to the imperial presidency of the twentieth. That striking change was manifested both at home in periods of progressive reform and abroad, notably in two world wars, Vietnam, and the war on terror.
Leuchtenburg sheds light on presidents battling with contradictory forces. Caught between maintaining their reputation and executing their goals, many practiced deceits that shape their image today. But he also reveals how the country's leaders pulled off magnificent achievements worthy of the nation's pride.
my function as Commander-in-Chief.” The Great White Fleet spent fourteen months at sea, though the president had only enough funds to get it halfway around the world. When the chair of the Naval Affairs Committee threatened to deny him further money, he retorted that should that happen, he would simply leave the pride of the US Navy stranded in mid-Pacific. “There was,” he subsequently stated, “no further difficulty.” On Washington’s birthday 1909, only days before his final term ended, Roosevelt
voters in the Great Plains believed that, in imposing price ceilings on wheat but not cotton, the president was showing partiality to his party’s following in the Solid South. Wilson’s appeal for confidence probably neither lost nor won him votes, but it had colossal consequences. He had all but invited Republicans to regard him as their enemy, and the miscarriage of his challenge meant that he would be bargaining with the great powers in a few weeks having been, by his own reckoning, disowned.
venture too close to the sun. Its rays melted his wings—plunging him into the sea. 3 • Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover On March 4, 1921, H. L. Mencken went down to Washington to witness the inauguration of Warren G. Harding. That night, after he had returned to Baltimore, he wrote Benjamin Franklin’s biographer Carl Van Doren: “Harding’s speech was the damnedest bosh that even he has perpetrated. It almost brought me to tears. Was it for this that George Washington was
were shocked by the proposed federal intervention, which they blamed on FDR’s advisers. The Michigan Republican Arthur Vandenberg said, “When we mix Ph.D.’s and RFDs, we are in trouble.” Only FDR’s tremendous popularity kept the plan alive. “Filled with horrors and hellishness as this bill is, I’m going to support the president,” said one congressman. The Agricultural Adjustment Act revolutionized the raising of staple crops in the United States—from 1933 into the twenty-first century. “Our
“Fine, what sort of an explanation would you make?” I replied, “Mr. President, the only thing you can say about that 1932 speech is to deny categorically that you ever made it.” Instead, Roosevelt offered the huge crowd in the stadium a rationale. When he took office, he recalled, some advised him to let Nature take its course. “I rejected that advice because Nature was in an angry mood,” he said, then elucidated: “To balance our budget in 1933 or 1934 would have been a crime against the