The Full Johnson

Down with the debunking biographer,” Lyndon Johnson wrote in his college newspaper in 1929. “It now seems to be quite a thing to pull down the mighty from their seats and roll them in the mire. This practice deserves pronounced condemnation. Hero worship is a tremendous force in uplifting and strengthening. Humanity, let us have our heroes. Let us continue to believe that some have been truly great.” Read more »

Why the Candidates Still Use FDR as Their Measure

It’s not surprising that Democrats seek to wrap themselves in the Roosevelt cloak; what’s harder to understand is why so many Republicans do too. A distinguished historian explains.

When the American people got their first look at the entries in the 1988 presidential race, they sensed immediately that not one of the contenders measured up to their highest expectations.

 
Read more »

1886 One Hundred Years Ago

On June 2 the first and last presidential wedding took place in the White House: President Grover Cleveland, a rotund forty-nine-year-old bachelor, married the statuesque Frances Folsom, twenty-three. Cleveland had known Frances since her infancy, when he had helped her parents purchase her baby carriage. She was the daughter of Cleveland’s former law partner, and upon her father’s death, when she was twelve, Cleveland effectively became her guardian.Read more »

Where Have All The Great Men Gone?

The early years of our republic produced dozens of great leaders. A historian explains how men like Adams and Jefferson were selected for public office, and tells why the machinery that raised them became obsolete.

THERE IS NO clear consensus on what constitutes greatness, nor are there any objective criteria for measuring it—but when we look at holders of high public offices and at the current field of candidates, we know it is missing. Some of our leaders are competent, articulate, engaging, and some are honest and honorable. But greatness is missing. Read more »

John F. Kennedy, Twenty Years Later

Was the murdered President one of our best, a man of “vigor, rationality, and noble vision” or was he “an optical illusion,” “an expensively programmed waxwork”? A noted historian examines the mottled evolution of his reputation.

The murder of John F. Kennedy twenty years ago last month occasioned an overwhelming sense of grief that may be without parallel in our history. When the news first was announced, people wept openly in the streets, and during the painful weekend that followed, as the mesmerizing images of the youthful President and his family were flashed again and again on the television screens, the feeling of deprivation deepened.Read more »

Making History

An Interview With Theodore H. White

It is hard to remember a decade when Theodore White has not been reporting on the sweep of current events in some best-selling book: Thunder Out of China in 1946, Fire in the Ashes (on Europe’s postwar resurgence) in 1953, and, since 1961, quadrennial narrations of our most exciting political drama, The Making of the President . There have also been two widely enjoyed novels, a great many articles, and an autobiography, In Search of History . Mr.Read more »

The Strange Saga Of The President’s Desk

From the End of the Earth to the Oval Office

“To be President of the United States,” wrote Harry Truman, “is to be lonely, very lonely. …” Perhaps it is fitting, then, that when the President works in the Oval Office, his elbows are resting on a unique memento of drama and endurance in the loneliest place on earth. Read more »

Theodore Roosevelt, President

For TR, the nation s highest office was never a burden; he loved the job, and Americans loved him for loving it

If Theodore Roosevelt seems to push his way into our pages with extraordinary frequency, it is because the force and variety of this “giant,” “over-engined” man appear to be endless. The following study of TR’s personality—which so well illustrates this point—was written by Edmund Morris, who won the Pulitzer prize for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt in 1980 and is now at work on a second volume.

 

Read more »

My Friend Garfield

One summer brought excitement and glory to the young secretary of a political leader. How could he know that the next one would brim with tragedy?

In 1880, Joseph Stanley Brown—there was no hyphen m the name then—just short of his twenty-second birthday, had a job that almost any young man might envy, as secretary to Ohio’s Congressman James A. Garfield. A product of Washington’s public schools, Brown was self-tutored in shorthand and typewriting, the latter a new and rare skill.Read more »

The Paper Trust

To begin with, the Presidential libraries do not look like what they are. Each one is, in fact, a miniature Office of Public Records. And scholars who frequent such offices know that they are found in capital cities, in buildings that are heavy, ornamented, slowly discoloring monuments to bureaucrats dead and gone. The National Archives of the United States—America’s public records—are, to give one example, housed in an oversized Greek temple near the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues in Washington, D.C. Read more »