The Presidential Follies

An old, familiar show is back in Washington. There’s a new cast, of course, but the script is pretty much the same as ever. Here’s the program.

WHEN THE IRAN-CONTRA STORY BROKE LAST NOVEMBER, A NUMBER OF public figures as well as news commentators put the revelations in a historical context. Walter Mondale said in a New York Times interview: “It was all so knowable. Did they really think they could get away with it—violate the law and nobody would care?...They were so full of hubris....” Read more »

Taking Another Look At The Constitutional Blueprint

In this year of the bicentennial of the Constitution, American Heritage asked a number of historians, authors, and public figures to address themselves to one or both of these questions:

1. What change would you like to see in the Constitution and why?

2. What article or clause of the Constitution is of particular significance to you—and in what historical, political, personal, or other connection? Read more »

A True Capacity For Governance’

Despite his feeling that “we are beginning to lose the memory of what a restrained and civil society can be like,” the senior senator from New York—a lifelong student of history—remains an optimist about our system of government and our extraordinary resilience as a people

My father, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, grew up in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and is now, at fifty-nine, the senior senator from his home state. He began his education in New York’s public schools, the Benjamin Franklin High School in East Harlem and City College of New York. After serving in the Navy, he received his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in 1948 and his Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He began his career in government as an aide to New York’s governor Averell Harriman from 1955 to 1958.Read more »

101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

This is not a test. It’s the real thing.

How precise is the educated American’s understanding of the history of our country? I don’t mean exact knowledge of minor dates, or small details about the terms of laws, or questions like “Who was secretary of war in 1851?” ( Answer: Charles M. Conrad.) But just how well does the average person remember the important facts—the laws, treaties, people, and events that should be familiar to everyone? Read more »

Four More Years

Here is how political cartoonists have sized up the candidates over a tumultuous half-century.

AMERICANS HAVE BEEN turning out political cartoons since the dawn of the Republic, but in the nineteenth century the drawings tended to be verbose and cluttered, their characters trailing long ribbons of speech balloons as they stumbled over obscure symbols. It took the national turmoil that surrounded the emergence of Franklin Roosevelt to bring the art to its incisive, confident, acid maturity. On the eve of the election, we offer a portfolio of cartoons both admiring and execrating from the last thirteen presidential contests.Read more »

II. The Final Act

A sometime “Nixon-hater” looks back on Watergate and discovers that his glee of a decade ago has given way to larger, sadder, and more generous emotions

AT THE TIME OF Richard Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency, columnists, politicians, and other sages spoke woefully of the tragedy of Watergate, or the trauma of Watergate, depending on whether their sense of language was Shakespearean or psychiatric.Read more »

I. The Hour Of The Founders

In which a President fails to fulfill his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” And a reluctant Congress acts.

EXACTLY TEN YEARS AGO this August, the thirty-seventh President of the United States, facing imminent impeachment, resigned his high office and passed out of our lives. “The system worked,” the nation exclaimed, heaving a sigh of relief. What had brought that relief was the happy extinction of the prolonged fear that the “system” might not work at all. But what was it that had inspired such fears? When I asked myself that question recently, I found I could scarcely remember.Read more »

“Explaining What You Are After Is The Secret Of Diplomacy”

This century’s most powerful Secretary of State talks about the strengths and weaknesses of the Foreign Service, the role of the CIA, the rights of journalists, the contrast between meddlers and statesmen—and about the continuing struggle for a coherent foreign policy

THE CONDUCT of American foreign policy has changed radically since the days when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was essentially his own Secretary of State. AMERICAN HERITAGE believes it is a matter of importance to examine those changes through the eyes of an expert. Few people, we think, better qualify as such than Henry A. Kissinger, who not only had a hand in those changes but who probably exercised greater power than any Secretary of State in this century. Dr.Read more »

How The Media Seduced And Captured American Politics

A noted historian argues that television, a relative newcomer, has nearly destroyed old—and valuable—political traditions

TELEVISION HAS BEEN accused of many things: vulgarizing tastes; trivializing public affairs; sensationalizing news; corrupting the young; pandering to profits; undermining traditional values. The indictments are no doubt too harsh, and they ignore the medium’s considerable achievements over two decades. Yet even the severest critics have not noticed the way in which television first seduced and then captured the whole American political process. Read more »

A Postage Stamp History Of The U.S. In The Twentieth Century

Here is the federal government’s own picture history of our times—and it tells us more than you might think

FEW ARE AWARE of a major publishing project that has been sponsored by the federal government and some of our leading citizens over the past eight decades. It is a lavishly illustrated history of the United States in our times and it comes in parts—on postage stamps, to be precise. The story it tells may say as much about how we see ourselves as about what we’ve done since 1900. Read more »