The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton
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The American President is an enthralling account of American presidential actions from the assassination of William McKinley in 1901 to Bill Clinton's last night in office in January 2001. William Leuchtenburg, one of the great presidential historians of the century, portrays each of the presidents in a chronicle sparkling with anecdote and wit.
Leuchtenburg offers a nuanced assessment of their conduct in office, preoccupations, and temperament. His book presents countless moments of high drama: FDR hurling defiance at the "economic royalists" who exploited the poor; ratcheting tension for JFK as Soviet vessels approach an American naval blockade; a grievously wounded Reagan joking with nurses while fighting for his life.
This book charts the enormous growth of presidential power from its lowly state in the late nineteenth century to the imperial presidency of the twentieth. That striking change was manifested both at home in periods of progressive reform and abroad, notably in two world wars, Vietnam, and the war on terror.
Leuchtenburg sheds light on presidents battling with contradictory forces. Caught between maintaining their reputation and executing their goals, many practiced deceits that shape their image today. But he also reveals how the country's leaders pulled off magnificent achievements worthy of the nation's pride.
the greatest navy in the world,” as he signed on to an ambitious plan to give America a two-ocean fleet by adding six battleships, ten cruisers, fifty destroyers, and one hundred submarines. He also advocated a one-third increase in the regular army as well as creation of a “Continental Army”—a reserve auxiliary of four hundred thousand. “Force everywhere speaks out with a loud and imperious voice,” he declared. In this spirit, Wilson instructed the keynoter at the Democratic National Convention
“He first shook his fist and then his finger,” said Elihu Root. Theodore Roosevelt went much further. He likened the president to Pontius Pilate, then apologized to Pilate. Wilson, he maintained, was a “demagogue, adroit, tricky, false, without one spark of loftiness in him, without a touch of the heroic in his cold, selfish and timid soul.” Roosevelt, having abandoned progressivism for single-minded advocacy of an aggressive foreign policy, hoped for the Republican presidential nomination that
the date of his freedom to December 24, 1921, “because I want him to eat his Christmas dinner with his wife.” He required the longtime Socialist agitator to come to the White House to receive his pardon in person. “Well,” said the president as he bounded forward to welcome him, “I have heard so damned much about you, Mister Debs, that I am now very glad to meet you personally.” The Harding years saw, too, the only important institutional change in the executive branch in the 1920s: the
Congress, LC-USZ62-93597 Franklin Delano Roosevelt | 155 twelve miles from the Capitol, where, on condition that they would disperse at the end of a week, they were given cots, three square meals each day, electric lights, running water for showers, and, on FDR’s instructions, coffee. “There’s nothing that makes people feel as welcome as a steaming cup of coffee,” the president told an aide. Mrs. Roosevelt paid a visit to the camp, where she slogged through ankle-deep mud to shake hands
with the War Industries Board of 1917–18 brought about the capstone of the First Hundred Days: the National Industrial Recovery Act. The law, which delegated a huge amount of power to the president, allowed trade associations to plan output and set prices without fear of antitrust prosecution, but under the watchful eyes of the government. To balance this concession to business, Section 7(a) stipulated that these agreements must set minimum wages and maximum hours and guaranteed labor the right