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  • Originally published 01/16/2017

    At This Auction, Even Millard Fillmore Gets Respect

    At auction is the collection of the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies, a 60-year-old wax museum that has earnestly presented every occupant of the Oval Office — and their female counterparts — in varying degrees of accuracy.

  • Originally published 05/24/2015

    The Making of a Great Ex-President

    Justin S. Vaughn

    Which of Mr. Obama’s predecessors have been the best ex-presidents and which have been the worst?

  • Originally published 03/23/2015

    A Historical Hurdle to a Democratic ‘Third Term’ in 2016?

    Since the end of the 20-year Democratic run in the White House that began with Franklin D. Roosevelt and ended with Harry Truman, there have been six occasions when either major party could have extended its control of the White House to three terms.

  • Originally published 03/01/2015

    Our First Unwashington President

    Thomas Fleming

    A fresh review of Jefferson’s presidency shows that a guiding principle was to do the opposite of what Washington did.

  • Originally published 01/28/2015

    All the Presidents’ Memorabilia

    Jordan M. Wright’s collection of political memorabilia has been unceremoniously sitting in boxes and crates behind the orange roll-up doors of storage units in Long Island City, Queens.

  • Originally published 02/28/2014

    What's Missing from Obama's Presidency

    Kenneth Weisbrode

    If Obama the president is supposed to embody a "stable pluralism," how can he inspire the rest of us to transcend it?

  • Originally published 11/27/2013

    Every president lies

    "Every president has not only lied at some time, but needs to lie to be effective."

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    John Avlon: George H.W. Bush, Our Preppiest Ex-President

    John Avlon is political director for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. A CNN contributor, he won the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ award for best online column in 2012.It’s been a quarter-century since George H.W. Bush was elected president, but the wheels of history are finally turning his way. In a triumph of civility and character over hyperbolic hyper-partisanship, Bush 41 was honored Monday by President Obama at the White House for the success of his Point of Light award for civic volunteerism.We begin to see clearly in the rearview mirror of history, and George H.W. Bush has lived long enough to be appreciated as the Lone Star Yankee, perhaps the last unapologetically centrist Republican to enter the White House, winning California on the way to an electoral landslide.

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Murray Polner: “Where Were You Last Night at 7? Speak Up!”

    Murray Polner is a regular book reviewer for the History News Network. His column “Keeping Score” appears here fairly regularly.I always loved that great New Yorker cartoon, which has a President ordering his assistant, “Leak to the press that my Administration won’t stand for any more leaks.”How relevant. As our Big Media endlessly reports on the sheriff and his posse’s relentless pursuit of Edward Snowden, and while Pfc. Bradley Manning sits in a military court awaiting a probable guilty verdict, he and Snowden may, sadly, prove to be small fry in the long run, forgotten as the years pass as they languish in a federal prison.Now, with no thanks to Big Media and TV’s sycophantic network news programs, the Obama Administration has something new and more odious to offer—its Insider Threat Program, which the President signed into law in October 2011 and, I believe, was first revealed in depth last June by the McClatchy Newspapers’ Marisa Taylor and the intrepid Jonathan Landay’s “Obama’s Plan to Crack Down on Whistleblowers Leaked.” Widely overlooked except by the leftist Nation, Truth-out and a handful of bloggers, what Taylor and Landay reported was, to put it conservatively, potentially “game changing.”

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    1st Air Force One plane decaying in Arizona field

    TUCSON — The first plane to be designated as Air Force One now sits in a southern Arizona field that’s part of Marana Regional Airport.The aircraft that once spirited President Dwight D. Eisenhower on cross-country voyages is nearly forgotten on a 10-acre parcel, decaying under the relentless glare of the sun.“I think it’s one of these big secrets that, really, few people know that it’s out there,” airport manager Steve Miller told The Arizona Daily Star. “It’s sad that it’s just sitting out there, considering its history over the past 70 years.”...

  • Originally published 07/12/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: For Obama, Bush, Reagan, No Vacation from Politics

    Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and taught this summer at NYU's study-abroad site in Accra, Ghana. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).When William Howard Taft was president in the early 1900s, a cartoon showed a senator stuffing a bill into the mouth of a GOP elephant while a happily unaware Taft played golf. Mr. Dooley, the imaginary Irish-American bartender created by cartoonist Finley Peter Dunne, quoted Taft as saying, “Golf is th’ thing I like best next to leavin’ Washington.”Taft actually combined these passions, taking frequent golf vacations out of town, as Paul F. Boller, Jr. recounts in his book "Presidential Diversions: Presidents at Play from George Washington to George W. Bush." Taft's trips sparked mirth in the national press, which reported that the famously corpulent president could not bend over to tee up his own ball. But they also drew accusations that Taft was neglecting his official duties, and for a rich man’s sport at that.

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Lloyd Green: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Our Era of Bipartisan Ineptitude

    Lloyd Green was the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988, and served in the Department of Justice between 1990 and 1992.Who says that the bipartisan spirit is dead? Just last week Pew Research listed “incompetent” as the word most frequently associated with President George W. Bush and President Obama. A day later the administration announced that it was putting Obamacare’s much-vaunted employer mandate on hold for a year, until January 1, 2015, even as television cameras steadily streamed pictures from Cairo of the lethal tumult once known as the Arab Spring.Bush’s incompetence was born of excess idealism. Rather than seeing a region mired in muck, he envisioned a world created anew and ignored the question of what happens the day after. As for Obama, he has treated legislative victory as an end in itself while ignoring the reality of actual implementation. If Americans needed any further evidence that the respective signature “achievements” of Bush and Obama were failures wrapped in untidy and costly bows, there they were in plain sight....

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Famous last words (of presidents)

    The good folks at Mental Floss have compiled the last words of the 38 dead presidents.How well do you know your dying presidents? (Answers at bottom.)1. "Water."2. "Thomas Jefferson survives."3. "Send Mike immediately."4. "I have a terrific headache."5. "I understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more."6. "Are the doctors here? Doctor, my lungs..." 7. "She won't think anything about it."8. "'Tis well."9. "No, you certainly can't."10. "The nourishment is palatable."Of course, presidential last words tend to lack the spunk of Tom Paine's, who spent his final moments berating two clergyman trying to convert him on his deathbed: "Let me have none of your popish stuff. Get away with you. Good morning."1: Ulysses S. Grant; 2: John Adams; 3: LBJ; 4: FDR; 5: William Henry Harrison; 6: Benjamin Harrison; 7: Abraham Lincoln; 8: George Washington; 9: JFK; 10: Millard Fillmore.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    LBJ Was a Great President

    Vaughn Davis Bornet

    LBJ in 1969. Credit: Wiki Commons.This quoting of the opinions of some famous people on the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson contains evaluations after his death in 1973 and my attempts at a scholarly evaluation twenty years later. Its purpose is to try to dilute the casual and even thoughtless remarks about this period of leadership that appear routinely (“Vietnam!”), and not too thoughtfully, in today’s lesser publications.

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Joseph Nye: Do Presidents Really Steer Foreign Policy?

    Joseph S. Nye Jr. is a University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard. This article and the accompanying sidebar are adapted from his upcoming book, Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era.The 21st century began with an extraordinary imbalance in world power. The United States was the only country able to project military force globally; it represented more than a quarter of the world economy, and had the world’s leading soft-power resources in its universities and entertainment industry. America’s primacy appeared well established.Americans seemed to like this situation. In the 2012 presidential campaign, both major-party candidates insisted that American power was not in decline, and vowed that they would maintain American primacy. But how much are such promises within the ability of presidents to keep? Was presidential leadership ever essential to the establishment of American primacy, or was that primacy an accident of history that would have occurred regardless of who occupied the Oval Office?

  • Originally published 05/19/2013

    Dallek on the "second term curse"

    WASHINGTON — Is there a second-term curse?Historian Robert Dallek thinks there just might be — and President Obama's current travails could be the latest example."After one party loses two elections in a row, there's sort of blood in the water," Dallek said in an interview Wednesday on USA TODAY's weekly newsmaker video series, Capital Download. "They're really eager to strike back and reduce the influence, the control of second-term presidents." What's more, a president's shortcomings have had time to surface after four years in office....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    Al Kamen: A Step Back on Cabinet Diversity

    Al Kamen writes for the Washington Post.Important segments of President Obama’s base have been hammering him for not appointing enough Latinos and African Americans — and no gays — to his second-term Cabinet.Thirty-two years ago, when Ronald Reagan’s first-term team was coming together, the Cabinet included one woman, U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, and one African American, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Samuel Pierce.But the number of women and minorities increased later in Reagan’s term, and he named the first Hispanic Cabinet member.Quick Loop Quiz! Who was that person?Ah, you guessed it: Education Secretary Lauro Cavazos....

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Steve Yoder: It’s Time for Democrats to Ditch Andrew Jackson

    Steve Yoder is a frequent contributor to The Crime Report. He writes about criminal justice, immigration, small business and real estate. His work has appeared in The American Prospect, Good, The Fiscal Times and elsewhere. Spring means that appeals for money are bursting forth from both major political parties. It also means Democratic officials in states and counties around the country are busy getting people out to their major fundraiser, the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. And they’re bringing in the big guns: Vice President Joe Biden will keynote the South Carolina Democrats’ dinner tonight.But after an election in which Democrats rode a wave of minority support to keep the White House and Senate, party activists should wonder about one of the founders for whom that event is named. If branding matters, then the tradition of honoring perhaps the most systematic violator of human rights for America’s nonwhites should finally run its course.

  • Originally published 04/30/2013

    Presidential Historian Notes ‘Sense Of Camaraderie’ At Bush Library Dedication

    George W. Bush shed a sentimental tear. Barack Obama mused about the burdens of the office. Bill Clinton dished out wisecracks. Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush chimed in, too, on a rare day of harmony at the dedication of the younger Bush’s presidential library that glossed over the hard edges and partisan divides of five presidencies spanning more than three tumultuous decades.“To know the man is to like the man,” Obama declared of his Republican predecessor, speaking Thursday before a crowd of 10,000 at an event that had the feel of a class reunion for the partisans who had powered the Bush administration from 2001 to 2009. Dick Cheney was there in a white cowboy hat. Condoleezza Rice gave shout-outs to visiting dignitaries. Colin Powell and Karl Rove were prominent faces in the crowd.Presidential historian Terry Golway is an author and a professor at the Kean University Center for History, Politics and Policy....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Bush library dedication

    DALLAS — All the living American presidents past and present are gathering in Dallas, a rare reunion to salute one of their own at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.Profound ideological differences and a bitter history of blaming each other for the nation’s woes will give way — if just for a day — to pomp and pleasantries Thursday as the five members of the most exclusive club in the world appear publicly together for the first time in years. For Bush, 66, the ceremony also marks his unofficial return to the public eye four years after the end of his deeply polarizing presidency.Bush will be feted by his father, George H.W. Bush, and the two surviving Democratic former presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. President Barack Obama, fresh off a fundraiser for Democrats the night before, will also speak at the event at the sprawling, 23-acre complex housing the presidential library, museum and policy institute....

  • Originally published 04/24/2013

    Bernard von Bothmer: Review of Ron Reagan's "My Father at 100" (Viking Penguin, 2011)

    Bernard von Bothmer is an adjunct professor of history at the University of San Francisco and Dominican University. He is the author of "Framing the Sixties: The Use and Abuse of a Decade from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush" (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010).Ron Reagan, one of only twenty-seven living children of American presidents, has written a fascinating portrait of the nation’s fortieth president. My Father at 100 is a moving tribute to the eternal, and complicated, bonds between fathers and sons and between children and aging or deceased parents. It also offers detailed insight into the character and personality of the enigmatic Ronald Reagan.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Julian Zelizer: History's Jury is Still Out on George W. Bush

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America."(CNN) -- On Thursday, President Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are due to attend the grand opening of President George W. Bush's presidential library and archive in Dallas, Texas.The opening of the library offers an opportunity to think again about the legacy of the Bush presidency. As Obama and the former presidents look around the museum, they will see many exhibits that symbolize how the jury is still out on most of the major issues. Events in the coming years will play a huge role in how history is likely to remember Bush's White House.There are four big questions about his presidency.1. How effective and how just were Bush's counterterrorism policies? Bush came into office much more concerned about domestic issues like education and taxation, but after the 9/11 terror attacks, he invested a great deal of his power in the counterterrorism program.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Bush popularity hits 7-year high

    Days before the official opening of his presidential library, George W. Bush is experiencing something of a comeback when it comes to his public image.Almost as many people (47 percent) approve of how Bush handled his eight years in office as disapprove (50 percent), according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. That’s the highest approval rating for Bush since December 2005.  Bush’s approval dipped all the way to 23 percent in Post-ABC polling in October 2008 and was just 33 percent in January 2009 when he left office. (His approval rating was below 40 percent for 26 consecutive months before his term ended, the longest streak of sub-40 presidential ratings since polling began in the 1930s.)

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    President Barack Obama: The First Draft of History

    Kathryn Moore

    The following is excerpted from The American President by Kathryn Moore, published by Barnes & Noble Books in 2013 (678 pages, $19.95).  It covers the life of Barack H. Obama and his presidency through his election to a second term in 2012.  For more information, go to: TheAmericanPresident.US. President Barack Obama on December 6, 2012. Credit: Wiki Commons.Table of Contents•Childhood •Hawaii •College •Community Organizing in Chicago •Africa •Harvard •Marriage •Launch of Political Career •State Politics •Senator •Campaign for the Presidency

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Hacker releases paintings by GWB

    Guccifer, the notorious hacker who shared George W. Bush’s magnificent nude portraits with the rest of the world, is at it again, having released six more paintings in Bush’s seemingly expanding collection. Since images of the paintings first surfaced, the nation has learned that the former president is also an accomplished dog painter, having painted more than 50 dogs....

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    Obama's Second Inaugural Loaded with History

    Ian Reifowitz

    Barack Obama at his inauguration. Credit: Flickr/afagen.Barack Obama has always had a keen sense of history, both how to make it and to talk about it. He consistently offers an inclusive, unifying narrative of our country’s past that helps explain his conception of our national identity. We can see this clearly in his second inaugural address.

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    Nate Silver: Contemplating Obama’s Place in History, Statistically

    Nate Silver blogs at the NYT's 538.With President Obama’s second term under way, we have begun to see more reflections on how he might come to be regarded historically.As common sense might dictate — and as the statistics will also reveal — it is far too soon to conclude very much about this. Second-term presidents may be derided as lame ducks, but it is often in the second term when reputations are won or lost.Still, we can say this much: Mr. Obama ran for and won a second term, something only about half of the men to serve as president have done (the tally is 20 or 21 out of 43, depending on how you count Grover Cleveland). We can also note, however, that Mr. Obama’s re-election margin was relatively narrow. Do these simple facts provide any insight at all into how he might be regarded 20, 50 or 100 years from now?In fact, winning a second term is something of a prerequisite for presidential greatness, at least as historians have evaluated the question. It is also no guarantee of it, as the case of Richard M. Nixon might attest. But the eight presidents who are currently regarded most favorably by historians were all two-termers (or four-termers, in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s case)....

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    In Defense of Transactional Presidents

    Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

    Five presidents: Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter. Taken in 1991.Many people assume that leaders with transformational objectives and an inspirational style are better or more ethical than leaders with more modest objectives and a transactional style. We tend to think of Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan as more impressive than Dwight Eisenhower or George H. W. Bush. Leadership theorists often dismiss transactional leaders as mere “managers.” But that is a mistake.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Stephen Prothero: Obama Delivers Lincoln's Third Inaugural

    Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.Equality. That's what today's inauguration was about. And we have Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to thank for it.President Obama took his oath of office on two Bibles: one used by Lincoln during his 1861 inauguration, the other the “traveling Bible” of Dr. King. And during his second inaugural address, Obama read U.S. history through the words and actions of these two men.In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln turned to Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence to argue that the United States was “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In his "I Have a Dream" speech, King argued that our national commitment to equality demanded that we emancipate ourselves from segregation as well as slavery.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Americans Want a Good Inauguration Show -- Corporate Funding or Not

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University and is currently teaching a three-week course at NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson walked from a nearby boardinghouse to the Capitol to be inaugurated as the third president of the United States. His two predecessors, George Washington and John Adams, had arrived at their own inaugurations by stagecoach, clad in elegant suits.But Jefferson went on foot, wearing the clothes “of a plain citizen without any distinctive badge of office,” as a Virginia newspaper reported. Jefferson swore his presidential oath, gave a brief speech, and then walked back to have dinner with his fellow boarders.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    The History of Inauguration Day

    Bradley Craig

    HNN Hot Topics: Presidential Inaugurations “So Help Me, God”: The History of the Presidential InaugurationOn Monday, January 21, 2013, President Barack Obama will be sworn in for his second presidential term. The inauguration has been a key event at the start of each presidency since George Washington first took office. Since then, certain features have remained fairly constant, such as the oath and the inaugural address. Other aspects, such as the date, have changed. Inauguration Day was originally March 4 until the ratification of the 20th Amendment, which switched the date to January 20, except in years such as this one when that date falls on a Sunday. In these cases, the president is sworn in with a private ceremony on Sunday and then takes a public oath on the next day. The event has changed with the times in some ways and held to tradition in others, not to mention the mishaps that have occurred along the way.

  • Originally published 08/08/2005

    Where Have All the Voters Gone?

    Thomas E. Patterson

    Where Have All the Voters Gone? Series by Thomas PattersonPart 1: Where Have All the Voters Gone?Part 2: Why Do So Many Americans Hate Politics?

  • Originally published 10/14/2003

    High-level leaking, for reasons good and bad, has long been part of U.S. political reality

    ...Every administration since Woodrow Wilson's has lambasted leakers. And every president since Wilson has made discreet but routine use of the practice themselves -- personally, or through their minions, giving the press information on the sly when circumstances merited some truth, or untruth, become known.But the sometimes noble, sometimes ignoble, history of leaks goes back much further.George Washington grew infuriated with Alexander Hamilton for leaking information to the British during the Jay Treaty negotiations in the summer and fall of 1794. James Madison was exasperated when his secretary of state leaked documents to his enemies in the Federalist Party.During James K. Polk's administration, in 1848, John Nugent, a journalist for the New York Herald, published, based on a leak, the secret treaty ending the war with Mexico. When he refused to disclose his sources to Senate investigators, he was arrested and held for a month in a Capitol committee room, continuing to write his column at double his normal salary and going home at night with the sergeant at arms, who fed and housed him.

  • Originally published 02/17/2003

    Which Presidents Do the Presidents Themselves Like?

    Thomas Fleming

    Calvin Coolidge called Herbert Hoover "the wonduh boy." Harry Truman summed up Lyndon Johnson with a curt:"No guts!" Richard Nixon thought Democrat Woodrow Wilson was the greatest president of the twentieth century. It is hardly surprising that presidents would have strong opinions about their predecessors and successors. The presidency of the United States is a unique job and the holders of the office have been acutely aware that they were members of a small extremely select society. John Adams put his finger on one secret of George Washington's success:"the gift of silence .... He had great self command." It was, alas, a gift that President Adams disastrously lacked. Adams's son, John Quincy Adams, considered Andrew Jackson, the man who kicked him out of the White House in 1828,"a barbarian who can barely sign his name." Adams had equally little use for Jackson's successor, Martin Van Buren, whom he saw as a player of"base and dirty tricks." On the other hand, Adams admired James Madison's"imperturbable patience" in the chaos of the War of 1812.

  • Originally published 03/06/2018

    Off With Their Heads! The Danger Extremists Pose.

    Steve Hochstadt

    A German film about the Hungarian revolt of 1956 has lessons for us today about the importance of defending democracy from a small far right minority who only see black and white. 

  • Originally published 01/28/2017


    There's No There There

    "A mean wind is blowing"--David Brooks, NY Times columnist.