Manual Imperfect Presidents: Tales of Presidential Misadventure and Triumph

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In this clever portrait of the American presidency, Jim Cullen takes ten presidents down from their pedestals by examining key missteps in their careers--and how they transcended them. Examples include Abraham Lincoln smearing a preacher and rediscovering his religious vision in emancipating slaves; Lyndon Johnson's electoral fraud in his Senate race and his role in the signing of the Voting Rights Act; and Ronald Reagan's subversion of the Constitution in the Iran-Contra affair and affirmation of world peace in helping bring about the end of the Cold War.

Targeting Republicans and Democrats alike, Cullen's insights are surprisingly timely and hugely entertaining. Toon meer Toon minder. Recensie s Jim Cullen has dared to write an old-fashioned book about the virtues of American presidents. But instead of wooden tales about cherry trees and log cabins, he has given us complex portraits of flawed men who performed acts of moral courage at critical moments in the nation's history.

Imperfect Presidents invites us to admire these leaders--and even to find lessons in their stories--without indulging in hero-worship. The ways that our presidents invariably disappoint us, and the more interesting ways that they occasionally rebound from that disappointment, combine to make this a deeply satisfying read about the world's most powerful office.

Imperfect Presidents: Tales of Misadventure and Triumph – By Jim Cullen

Great history for specialists and non-specialists alike. With keen analysis and telling anecdotes culled from presidential biographies, Cullen proves that even the most revered presidents weren't saints Cullen doesn't shy away from balanced appraisals of recent leaders and actions still deemed controversial. Lees de eerste pagina's. John Quincy Adams refusing to attend his successor's inauguration. Gerald Ford attending a meeting of questionable propriety about Richard Nixon. Far from random miscalculation, however, the actions of these people reflect important aspects of their characters—they represent a kind of honesty.

Imperfect Presidents: Tales of Presidential Misadventure and Triumph

Moreover, the same character traits that get them into trouble are also manifestations of an inner strength that ultimately serves the country well. So, for example, Chester Alan Arthur violated a cardinal rule of politics by forsaking loyalty to his cronies, but when he unexpectedly landed in the White House he realized he had a higher loyalty to the American people. It is also true, however, that the presidential triumph in each of these cases has sometimes come from a decision typically temporary to consciously act against type.

Thomas Jefferson, for instance, was able to consummate the most successful act of his presidency only by actively resisting powerful philosophical inclinations. At other times, success is simultaneously an affirmation and a refutation of a particular trait. Ronald Reagan's behavior toward the Soviet Union in his second term was both a reversal of his career-long hostility to that nation as well as the fulfillment of an overriding desire—one that had gotten him into some serious trouble—to bring the Cold War to a decisive close.

Some of the figures examined here are widely considered great, like Lincoln and the two Roosevelts. Others, like Arthur and Adams, are obscure to most Americans today. Still others, like Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, remain deeply controversial. Five of the subjects here are Republicans, three are Democrats, and two were president before the advent of the modern party system.

Many of the misadventures described here take place before the man in question became president, followed by a particular success in office. But sometimes both halves of the story occur in the White House, and in one case Adams both occur afterward. Even old men make foolish mistakes—and transcend them.

The core conviction animating this book is a belief that, like choosing a spouse, choosing the president we want is an affair of the heart no less than one of the head. To understand your president, however imperfectly, is, however imperfectly, to understand yourself.

The US President's Bulletproof Railcar

Sometime during the month of January , Thomas Jefferson made a fateful decision that would betray a friendship and destabilize a nation. Elected Vice President of the United States the previous November, he secretly resolved to decline an invitation to collaborate closely in the new government of President John Adams.

Instead, he would keep his distance and quietly aid the opposition. The Adams administration would in effect be doomed before it got underway. Even worse, Jefferson's decision would mean that the nation's first foreign policy crisis would spill over into domestic politics, rocking the country to its foundations.

The chief reason for Jefferson's decision to betray his friend was ideological.

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Adams, part of the so-called Federalist faction in the new political regime, favored a stronger central government and a foreign policy aligned with England. Jefferson, who belonged to the so-called Democratic-Republican faction, favored stronger state governments and a foreign policy aligned with France. Amid the tumult of the French Revolution, which careened between anarchy and authoritarianism, U. President-elect Adams thought he could heal the breach, at home and abroad, by sending Jefferson—who had once been U.

Even if Jefferson himself could not go, perhaps one of his allies, like Congressman James Madison, could. Adams would no doubt be excoriated by his Anglophile allies for such a move, but it was a risk he was willing to take—a bold act of solidarity in a fragile country that could ill afford internal squabbling. Jefferson's first instinct was to accept the offer, discreetly extended through mutual friends.

Imperfect Presidents: Tales of Presidential Misadventure and Triumph by Jim Cullen

Jefferson, disgusted with Washington's bias toward Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, left the nation's capitol in Philadelphia for his Virginia estate, Monticello, after the first term. When Washington stepped down after his second term, Adams and Jefferson were widely considered the leading candidates from their respective factions to run for president.

Adams won and became president, and as per the recently ratified Constitution, Jefferson, who came in second, became vice president. Not that Jefferson himself minded the outcome. In December , Madison wrote Jefferson that since Adams was the likely winner, you must prepare yourself therefore to be summoned to the place Mr.

Adams now fills. Jefferson wrote back on New Year's Day of to say that was just fine with him: I am his junior in life [Jefferson was nine years younger than Adams], was his junior in Congress, his junior in the diplomatic line, his junior lately in our civil government. Besides, as he had noted in a December 27 letter to his South Carolinian friend Edward Rutledge, this is certainly not the time to covet the helm.

Given the difficulty any man would face in filling Washington's shoes, and the severity of the nation's foreign policy challenges, Jefferson was shrewd as well as gracious.

Reward Yourself

The very next day, Jefferson went a step further, writing a warm letter to Adams himself, expressing satisfaction with the pending outcome. No one then will congratulate you with purer disinterestedness than myself, he told his longtime collaborator. Indeed, he expressed relief. The share indeed which I may have had in the late vote, I shall still value highly, as an evidence of the share I have in the esteem of my fellow citizens.


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It is a painful and thankless office. Jefferson went on to express the hope that Adams would be able to steer the nation away from a looming war with France. This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue? View Full Version of PW.


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