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Presidency

A major new installation at the Smithsonian Institution explores the nation’s biggest and most important job

Smarter than stupid, of course; but does the intellectual tradition that began with the century suggest there is such a thing as being too smart for the country’s good?

Jack Kennedy came into the White House determined to dismantle his Republican predecessor’s rigid, formal staff organization in favor of a spontaneous, flexible, hands-on management style. Thirty years Bill Clinton seems determined to do the same thing. He would do well to remember that what it got JFK was the Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam War.

In early October of 1963, Rep. Clement Zablocki, a Wisconsin Democrat, led a House Foreign Affairs Committee fact-finding delegation to South Vietnam. Invited to the White House when he returned, Zablocki told President John F. Read more >>

They’ve all had things to say about their fellow Executives. Once in a great while one was even flattering.

John Adams said Thomas Jefferson’s mind was “eaten to a honeycomb with ambition, yet weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant.” Ulysses S. Read more >>

Most of our Presidents have been avid athletes, even Taft. Could a party safely nominate an overweight and unabashed couch potato who scorned exercise?

Right now, of course, it is the coming election that provides most of the material on which this column casts its regular history-conscious eye. But not this time. September is the month of pennant races, and I’ve got baseball as well as Presidents on my mind. Read more >>

The distasteful questions we ask our presidential hopefuls serve a real purpose

Has the press gone too far?” is a question that has been asked more frequently in this presidential campaign than any other. Read more >>

He had all the right qualities. Only the time was wrong.

It’s been a long time since anyone put in a good word, or in fact any kind of word at all, for Franklin Pierce. I am a New Hampshire man who lives not far from the house where the fourteenth President was born and who therefore grew up, so to speak, beneath his paling shadow. Read more >>
Only ten of our forty Presidents have written accounts of their time in the White House. Jimmy Carter’s Keeping Faith is the latest addition to that short shelf, and James Buchanan was the somewhat unlikely creator of this rare literary form. Read more >>

Thirty years after judging Eisenhower to be among our worst Presidents, historians have now come around to the opinion most of their fellow Americans held right along.

Critics charged that Ike was spineless in his refusal to openly fight Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Read more >>

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. Read more >>

The ex-Presidency now carries perquisites and powers that would have amazed all but the last few who have held that office

Historians are still puzzling over the discovery of an official White House portrait of President Roger Darcy Amboy, who appears to have held our nation’s highest office somewhere between Van Buren and Buchanan. Read more >>

The Era of Hubert H. Humprey

They were Hubert Humphrey’s kind of people trudging through the corridors of the U.S. Capitol that day. Read more >>

A private interview with F.D.R. April 7, 1944

To observe Franklin D. Roosevelt across the barrier interposed between the President and the press was often to have the impression of a brilliant and accomplished actor meeting the challenge of a critical audience. Read more >>