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Unformatted text preview: The Presidency What Makes a Great President? The historian's view: Great accomplishments George Washington (1790-1797) -- made us believe the America experiment in government could survive in a troubled world Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) -- purchased the Louisiana Purchase, gave us a buffer against European powers on the American frontier Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) -- ended the institution of slavery, held the union together Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945) -- led us through the Great Depression and to victory in WWII Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) -- passed Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts Great Accomplishments
Great Accomplishments Leadership Timing Personality/ Character Political Intelligence Political Experience The American Presidents: The Best and Worst Presidential Leadership What makes a great accomplishment? Leadership -- requires the ability to take big risks to try to change the direction of the country But it usually comes with a high price Examples of 18th and 19th Century Leadership The Jay Treaty (1795) George Washington formed an economic alliance with Britain The price: The country split into 2 factions, pro-French and proBritish...John Adams took the brunt of the fallout, fought a Quasi War with France (1798-1799) Resolution of the Nullification Crisis (1832) -- Jackson threatened to send troops to South Carolina...federal law supersedes state law The price: Jackson hated vehemently; an opposition party to Jackson formed (the Whig Party) Emancipation of the slaves (1863) -- Lincoln sent a message: the South will never return to its old ways The price: Lincoln assassinated...the South became solidly Democratic for more than 100 years, hated Lincoln's Republican Party Presidential Leadership Examples of 20th Century Leadership 14 Points to End WWI (1919) -- Wilson promoted self-determination (i.e., an end to imperialism and colonialism), free trade, and an international governing body (the League of Nations) The price: Wilson destroyed politically at home, Treaty of Versailles rejected by US Senate, Europe rejected proposal to end colonialism, League of Nations failed Civil Rights Act (1965) -- LBJ (Lyndon B. Johnson) pushed through civil rights over the objections of conservative democrats The price: LBJ split the democratic party; over the next 25 years, conservative democrats switched to the Republican Party Reducing the Size of Government (1981) -- Reagan cut $35 billion in 1981, targeted failing housing projects The price: Reagan accused of being mean and hateful to the poor, Republicans have since rarely tried to cut spending What Produces Leadership? If great accomplishments are the result of presidential leadership, then what is it that makes great leadership possible? Good Timing -- some presidents come to power at a time that is ripe for big changes; there is an old adage: "great crises make great presidents" Personality/Character -- some presidents have the right temperament for the job; some are more credible, giving them more persuasive power Political Intelligence -- some presidents are good politicians; their skills enable them to be accomplished Experience -- 4 of the last 5 presidents were former state governors; many war veterans have also been elected president Timing and Leadership Timing produces leadership opportunities - Opportunities for changing the direction of the country on social, economic and foreign policy issues tend to follow failed presidents Jefferson (1801-1809) followed John Adams (failed president) Jackson (1829-1837) followed J.Q. Adams (failed president) Lincoln (1861-1865) followed a series of failed presidents FDR (1933-1945) followed Herbert Hoover (failed president) Reagan (1981-1989) followed Jimmy Carter (failed president) The small v. big government struggle is not new in American history Jefferson, Jackson, Reagan took advantage of their leadership opportunities by pushing for smaller government Lincoln and FDR used their leadership opportunities to push for a greater role for government Presidential Personality/Character There is something about a reassuring (or comforting) personality Restoration of Sound Banking (1933) -- FDR averted a run on the banks in 1933 by assuring the public that government would guarantee bank deposits FDR's comforting personality calmed the public Resurgence of American pride (1980s) -- Reagan made America proud again at a time when it appeared that the US was becoming a 3rd rate economic power Japan and W. Germany perceived as #1 and #2...this was never true Reagan's optimism had a positive psychological effect on the public, and his promise of deregulation of the economy instilled confidence in the business community Contrast FDR and Reagan to Bush41 The Economy and Presidential Election (1992) -- Bush41 tried and failed to reassure the public to the fact that the economy was growing in 1992 Candidate Clinton portrayed the 1992 economy as the worst in 50 years Presidential Personality/Character Character equates to credibility End of Korean War (1953) -- Ike threatened to use nuclear weapons to end the Korean War Was Eisenhower's threat for real? Probably not. It is unlikely Ike would have used nuclear weapons Why did the North Koreans take the threat seriously? Ike's threat was highly credible because, as Supreme Allied Commander during WWII, Ike ordered saturation bombing of German cities (in particular, Dresdin), killing women and children as well as German troops Ike demonstrated a willingness to order massive destruction Libya's Concessions on WMDs (2003) -- Quadhafi has agreed to end his WMD program Why would Quadhafi volunteer this concession? Perhaps he views Bush as a credible threat to his power, fears an American invasion Quadhafi's view: America attacked Iraq in 1991, then again in 2003...America bombed Libya in 1986; when will it happen again? The Moral Character Debate A case study of Bush41 v. Clinton: The character debate on morality in 1992 The conservative viewpoint: On Bush41: a war hero (WWII navy pilot), honorable and trustworthy, faithful to wife, strong family man On Clinton: an anti-war protester & draft-dodger (during Vietnam), a dope-head, an adulterer, and a habitual liar The liberal viewpoint: On Bush41: a liar and a phony (lied about Iran/Contra scandal + Clarence Thomas nomination to Supreme Court --and-- he broke his no-new-taxes pledge) On Clinton: has a higher purpose to serve: the best hope of ending the Reagan/Bush era...outweighs the downside of Clinton's moral flaws The Moral Character Debate Bush41 v. Clinton character campaign (cont.) The moderate viewpoint: On Bush41: Bush has been unable to revive the economy; despite his concession on tax cuts, he has not adequately addressed the deficit (reason for Ross Perot's 3rd party candidacy in `92); Cold War is over; it's time to try someone new On Clinton: Maybe he can revive the economy The result of the campaign? Clinton wins in `92 Does moral character matter? Perhaps, but only if there is a real contrast between the candidates Bush41 was hurt by breaking his "no new taxes" pledge...he lost his credibility, viewed as having no "political character" To moderate voters, Clinton had no moral character, but Bush had no political character...the character issue was a wash Political Intelligence Bill Clinton was a successful president because he was politically smart Co-opting the opposing party's issues is viewed as dirty by the opposition but it works politically Clinton co-opted issues that typically favor Republicans: Welfare reform, death penalty, discipline for children (advocated school uniforms), middle-class tax cut (campaign pledge in `92), anti-gay marriage (passed Defense of Marriage Act), use of the military (War in Kosovo) Cut loses when it became politically necessary Gave up on health care reform and on gays serving openly in the military, when those issues turned against him Politically out-maneuvered conservatives on Medicare reform Halted Newt Gingrich's conservative momentum to transform government Presided over a soaring economy and balanced budgets What about just plain intelligence? Does intellect matter? Not really. Intellectually smart presidents often make inexcusably dumb mistakes: Wilson, Nixon, Carter, Bush41, and Clinton A case study: Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) Highly intelligent nuclear engineer as a young man Took a speed reading course so that he could keep up with the 300 page/day reading load...completely overwhelmed by details Came to office wanting to fulfill a 30 item list...priorities always fluid...no clear focus Demonstrated political ineptitude Attacked his own party for wasteful spending -- lost credibility when he approved 10 of 19 water projects Postured himself as highly moral man -- looked hypocritical when his OMB director, Bert Lance, charged with cronyism and nepotism Waffled on human rights -- looked hypocritical when he defended the Shah of Iran as one of America's best allies Work Experience A president must first get elected before having the opportunity to become a great leader Most presidents have prior government experience: Governor Member of Congress (either House or Senate) Vice President Other types of government experience: John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) Adams served as Sec. of State under Monroe and later served 17 years in the U.S. House William H. Taft (1909-1913) Taft served as Sec. of War under T. Roosevelt and later as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Work Experience Other types of government experience Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) Hoover served 8 years as Sec. of Commerce under Harding and Coolidge Commanding generals have been elected president George Washington (1789-1797) William Henry Harrison (1841) Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) Dwight D Eisenhower (1953-1961) Of this group, only Washington had previous government experience, but each was a commanding general during major US wars War's Effect on Sitting Presidents Helped by War Lincoln??? Civil War (1861-1865) Helped only after victory was achieved Hurt by War J. Adams Quasi-War with France (17981799) Madison War of 1812 (1812-1815) McKinley Spanish-American War (1898) Polk Mexican-American War (1846-1848) FDR WWII (1941-1945) Bush41??? Persian Gulf War (1991) Did not help in his reelection run in 1992 Wilson WWI (1917-1918) Truman Korea (1950-1953) LBJ & Nixon Vietnam (1965-1973) Presidential Success Scores
The Effect of Divided Government Presidential Support Scores
The Effect of Partisanship Public Opinion: War, Economy, & Scandal The Rally Effect: Foreign Policy and Popularity ...
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- Spring '08