The Imperial Congress

An impetuous and sometimes corrupt Congress has often hamstrung the efforts of the president since the earliest days of the Republic

On a little-remarked, steamy day in late June 1973, a revolution took place in Washington, D.C., one that would transfer far more power and wealth than did the revolt against King George III in 1776. On the 29th, a sweaty, angry majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate defied the president of the United States and voted to end armed American involvement in Vietnam. Read more »

Compromise 5: Medicare’s Complicated Birth

LBJ passes comprehensive federal insurance for seniors with shrewd politics and a strong dose of compromise

In 1965, after winning in a landslide against Barry Goldwater and helping to carry Democratic supermajorities into both houses of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson set out to enact a battery of Great Society reforms, including Medicare, government insurance for seniors. Despite his political mandate, 60 years of conservative opposition to such a measure meant proceeding with caution. Later, California Governor Ronald Reagan, for example, would characterize the Medicare bill as the advance wave of a socialism that would “invade every area of freedom in this country.” Reagan predicted that this reform would compel Americans to spend their “sunset years telling our children and our grandchildren what it was like in America when men were free.”

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Compromise 4: Whittling Down The New Deal

Compromise upon compromise whittled FDR’s dreams down considerably but enabled him to pass his Social Security Act, perhaps the most sweeping social reform of the 20th century

Not long after Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in on March 4, 1933, he began work on his “big bill.” It embraced several of his highest aspirations: universal health care, old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, and more, including a provision to make the federal government the employer of last resort in what many economists considered a “mature” economy whose private-sector employment component was destined to be chronically deficient. Read more »

What Would The Founders Do Today?

Suppose they could go on "Meet The Press"...

Who cares what the founders would do? Who believes that the experiences, opinions, or plans of men who lived 200 years ago could have any relevance to our problems? Who imagines that the Founders could answer our questions?Read more »

The D-Day Museum

What do you need to build the only national museum dedicated to World War II? The same things we needed to fight the war it commemorates: faith, passion, perseverance—and a huge amount of money.

In 1964, at former president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s office in gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I met with him at his invitation to discuss my becoming one of the editors of the Eisenhower Papers and his biographer. Of course I agreed—I was then twenty-eight years old, teaching at the brand-new University of New Orleans, and was immensely flattered—and we had a daylong discussion on how I would go about it. At the end he said, “I see you live in New Orleans. Did you ever know Andrew Higgins?”

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Sometimes Our Job Is To Say No

The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee explains why it has always frustrated Presidents—and why it doesn’t have to

I have occasionally been referred to as “Senator No,” and I’m proud of the title. But when it comes to saying no, I’m not even in the same ballpark with the first North Carolinian to serve as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Nathaniel Ma¡on. A Revolutionary War veteran and native of Warrenton, Senator Macon was chairman between 1825 and 1829. He was a fierce opponent of any and all measures to expand the power of the new federal government. Read more »

Lifeline To A Sinking Continent

Secretary Of State George C. Marshall received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the Harvard commencement exercise on the morning of June 5, 1947. That afternoon he spoke to a group of alumni. His message was short and grim. World War II and its aftermath had brought Europe to the brink of disaster.Read more »

The Federal Debt

And how it grew, and grew, and grew…

The federal government was still in the process of establishing itself in 1792 and did not have a good year financially. Total income was only $3,670,000, or 88 cents per capita. Outlays were $5,080,000. The budget deficit therefore amounted to fully 38 percent of revenues. The next year, however, the government sharply reduced expenses while enjoying increased tax receipts and showed its first budget surplus.Read more »

Amending America

We tend to see the Constitution as permanent and inviolable—but we’re always wild to change it

Six weeks into the 104th Congress, the balanced budget amendment (hereinafter BBA) that had passed the House almost made it through the trickier procedural shoals of the Senate with the two-thirds majority needed to propel it on to the state legislatures. The Senate majority leader promises he’ll bring it up for a later vote, so the BBA might yet become the twenty-eighth amendment to the Constitution—that is, the twenty-eighth change in our fundamental charter of national organization. What would that mean? Read more »

A Signature On The Land

The naturalist ALDO LEOPOLD not only gave the wilderness idea its most persuasive articulation; he offered a way of thinking that turned the entire history of land use on its head

The trouble began at midmorning on Wednesday, April 21, 1948, when a neighboring farm’s trash fire got out of control. Flames skittered across the grassy farmyard and began chewing swiftly through a marsh toward the “plantation” of white and red pines that the professor and his family had been nurturing diligently on their 120-acre patch of worn-out Wisconsin farmland since 1935.Read more »