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presidential history



  • From Washington to Trump: What Is Dereliction of Duty?

    by Lindsay Chervinsky

    Public ideas of the presidential duty to defend the nation against foreign and domestic enemies have evolved over two centuries; if Donald Trump had been president in 1793, his response to a pandemic wouldn't have cost him reelection.   


  • Photography Always Needed the Presidents

    by Cara Finnegan

    In the 1840s, the new technology of photography staked its place in the culture as an authoritative, reliable recording of events through the creation of images of the presidents or, in the case of George Washington, pictures of pictures of the presidents. 



  • How George Washington Didn’t Lead

    Historians Lindsay Chervinsky, Noemie Emery, David Head and Craig Bruce Smith offer reflections in a virtual forum on the first president's leadership.


  • Advice to POTUS 46 from POTUS 1

    by David O. Stewart

    The author of a recent political biography of George Washington wonders how the first president would guide the most recent one. 



  • What Good Is Impeachment, Anyway?

    by Lindsay M. Chervinsky

    The Constitution sets forth an expectation that Congress will check the power of the executive, through impeachment if necessary. The fact that it has failed to do so in th past doesn't excuse inaction in the present. 



  • The Difference Between a Great President and a Terrible One is Empathy

    by Lindsay Chervinsky

    "As President Trump begins his post-presidential life, Americans will start to reckon with his legacy. They need look no farther than his callous indifference to human life — his response to the crisis marks the ultimate failure of presidential leadership."


  • How Biden used the VP Springboard to Vault into the Oval Office

    by Joel K. Goldstein

    Joe Biden's leap from VP to POTUS is a rarity. Vice presidents are often contenders, but seldom successful. Circumstance helped Biden break the mold, but so did learning on the job as second-in-command to become a more credible candidate for the top job. 


  • Biden's Inaugural and the Return of History

    by Paul J. Welch Behringer

    Joseph Biden's inaugural address signals a willingness to return to learning from history that may encourage the empathy and humilty elected officials need to solve the nation's problems. 


  • George Washington Resisted the Siren Call of Absolute Power

    by Jan-Benedict Steenkamp

    George Washington is celebrated for his refusal to continue past two terms as President. But his earlier actions in refusing the leadership of a military coup against the Continental Congress in 1783 put the new nation on track to have civilian leadership under law. 


  • Kamala Harris and the Modern Vice Presidency

    by Richard Moe

    Kamala Harris seems poised to exert influence over policy and legislation as vice president. In this sense, she will carry forward the evolution of the office, according to a former vice presidential chief of staff who contributed to the development of the "modern vice presidency." 



  • The Lessons of the Nixon Pardon

    Isaac Chotiner interviews Rick Perlstein on the nature of presidential misconduct and accountability. 



  • The Worst President in History

    by Tim Naftali

    Previously condemned presidents have failed in some aspect of their oaths of office, whether by abusing power, failing to confront national crises, or putting self-interest over the nation. Trump has done all of this, argues the first director of the Nixon Library.



  • What Will Trump's Presidency Mean to History?

    by David Greenberg

    Above all else, a pattern of rule-breaking and a determination not to be bound by rules are the characteristics of Trumpism, and inseparable from the policies the 45th president pursued. 



  • Trump's Last Year In Office Will Define His Legacy, Historians Say

    A group of presidential historians including Timothy Naftali, Jeff Engel, Julian Zelizer, Laura Belmonte, Kathryn Brownell, H.W. Brands, Lindsay Chervinsky, Martha Jones, and Barbara Perry discuss what results of the Trump presidency – from resurgent white nationalism to battered norms of governing – will prove to be the most historically consequential.


  • The Politics of an Inauguration Unlike Any Other

    by Michael A. Genovese

    Joe Biden's inauguration will be unlike any other, but he will need to draw on inaugural traditions of declaring purpose and invoking solidarity if he is to begin to repair national division.