Category Archives: Presidents

A brief history of presidential lethargy



A television set turned on in the West Wing of the White House.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Stacy A. Cordery, Iowa State University

No one doubts the job of president of the United States is stressful and demanding. The chief executive deserves downtime.

But how much is enough, and when is it too much?

These questions came into focus after Axios’ release of President Donald Trump’s schedule. The hours blocked off for nebulous “executive time” seem, to many critics, disproportionate to the number of scheduled working hours.

While Trump’s workdays may ultimately prove to be shorter than those of past presidents, he’s not the first to face criticism. For every president praised for his work ethic, there’s one disparaged for sleeping on the job.

Teddy Roosevelt, locomotive president

Before Theodore Roosevelt ascended to the presidency in 1901, the question of how hard a president toiled was of little concern to Americans.

Except in times of national crisis, his predecessors neither labored under the same expectations, nor faced the same level of popular scrutiny. Since the country’s founding, Congress had been the main engine for identifying national problems and outlining legislative solutions. Congressmen were generally more accessible to journalists than the president was.

Teddy Roosevelt’s activist approach to governing shifted the public’s expectations for the president.
Library of Congress

But when Roosevelt shifted the balance of power from Congress to the White House, he created the expectation that an activist president, consumed by affairs of state, would work endlessly in the best interests of the people.

Roosevelt, whom Sen. Joseph Foraker called a “steam engine in trousers,” personified the hard-working chief executive. He filled his days with official functions and unofficial gatherings. He asserted his personality on policy and stamped the presidency firmly on the nation’s consciousness.

Taft had a tough act to follow

His successor, William Howard Taft, suffered by comparison. While it’s fair to observe that nearly anyone would have looked like a slacker compared with Roosevelt, it didn’t help that Taft weighed 300 pounds, which his contemporaries equated with laziness.

Taft’s girth only added to the perception that he lacked Roosevelt’s vigor.
Library of Congress

Taft helped neither his cause nor his image when he snored through meetings, at evening entertainments and, as author Jeffrey Rosen noted, “even while standing at public events.” Watching Taft’s eyelids close, Sen. James Watson said to him, “Mr. President, you are the largest audience I ever put entirely to sleep.”

An early biographer called Taft “slow-moving, easy-going if not lazy” with “a placid nature.” Others have suggested that Taft’s obesity caused sleep apnea and daytime drowsiness, a finding not inconsistent with historian Lewis L. Gould’s conclusion that Taft was capable of work “at an intense pace” and “a high rate of efficiency.”

It seems that Taft could work quickly, but in short bursts.

Coolidge the snoozer

Other presidents were more intentional about their daytime sleeping. Calvin Coolidge’s penchant for hourlong naps after lunch earned him amused scorn from contemporaries. But when he missed his nap, he fell asleep at afternoon meetings. He even napped on vacation. Tourists stared in amazement as the president, blissfully unaware, swayed in a hammock on his front porch in Vermont.

This, for many Republicans, wasn’t a problem: The Republican Party of the 1920s was averse to an activist federal government, so the fact that Coolidge wasn’t seen as a hard-charging, incessantly busy president was fine.

Biographer Amity Shlaes wrote that “Coolidge made a virtue of inaction” while simultaneously exhibiting “a ferocious discipline in work.” Political scientist Robert Gilbert argued that after Coolidge’s son died during his first year as president, Coolidge’s “affinity for sleep became more extreme.” Grief, according to Gilbert, explained his growing penchant for slumbering, which expanded into a pre-lunch nap, a two- to four-hour post-lunch snooze and 11 hours of shut-eye nightly.

For Reagan, the jury’s out

Ronald Reagan may have had a tendency to nod off.

“I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of a national emergency – even if I’m in a cabinet meeting,” he joked. Word got out that he napped daily, and historian Michael Schaller wrote in 1994 that Reagan’s staff “released a false daily schedule that showed him working long hours,” labeling his afternoon nap “personal staff time.” But some family members denied that he napped in the White House.

Journalists were divided. Some found him “lazy, passive, stupid or even senile” and “intellectually lazy … without a constant curiosity,” while others claimed he was “a hard worker,” who put in long days and worked over lunch. Perhaps age played a role in Reagan’s naps – if they happened at all.

Clinton crams in the hours

One president not prone to napping was Bill Clinton. Frustrated that he could not find time to think, Clinton ordered a formal study of how he spent his days. His ideal was four hours in the afternoon “to talk to people, to read, to do whatever.” Sometimes he got half that much.

Two years later, a second study found that, during Clinton’s 50-hour workweek, “regularly scheduled meetings” took up 29 percent of his time, “public events, etc.” made up 36 percent of his workday, while “thinking time – phone & office work” constituted 35 percent of his day. Unlike presidents whose somnolence drew sneers, Clinton was disparaged for working too much and driving his staff to exhaustion with all-nighters.

Partisanship at the heart of criticism?

The work of being president of the United States never ends. There is always more to be done. Personal time may be a myth, as whatever the president reads, watches or does can almost certainly be applied to some aspect of the job.

Trump’s “executive time” could be a rational response to the demands of the job or life circumstances. Trump, for example, only seems to get four or five hours of sleep a night, which seems to suggest that he has more time to tackle his daily duties than the rest of us.

But, like his predecessors, the appearance of taking time away from running the country will garner criticism. Though they can sometimes catch 40 winks, presidents can seldom catch a break.The Conversation

Stacy A. Cordery, Professor of History, Iowa State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Advertisements

A brief history of presidential lethargy



File 20190215 56240 1qpg97p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A television set turned on in the West Wing of the White House.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Stacy A. Cordery, Iowa State University

No one doubts the job of president of the United States is stressful and demanding. The chief executive deserves downtime.

But how much is enough, and when is it too much?

These questions came into focus after Axios’ release of President Donald Trump’s schedule. The hours blocked off for nebulous “executive time” seem, to many critics, disproportionate to the number of scheduled working hours.

While Trump’s workdays may ultimately prove to be shorter than those of past presidents, he’s not the first to face criticism. For every president praised for his work ethic, there’s one disparaged for sleeping on the job.

Teddy Roosevelt, locomotive president

Before Theodore Roosevelt ascended to the presidency in 1901, the question of how hard a president toiled was of little concern to Americans.

Except in times of national crisis, his predecessors neither labored under the same expectations, nor faced the same level of popular scrutiny. Since the country’s founding, Congress had been the main engine for identifying national problems and outlining legislative solutions. Congressmen were generally more accessible to journalists than the president was.

Teddy Roosevelt’s activist approach to governing shifted the public’s expectations for the president.
Library of Congress

But when Roosevelt shifted the balance of power from Congress to the White House, he created the expectation that an activist president, consumed by affairs of state, would work endlessly in the best interests of the people.

Roosevelt, whom Sen. Joseph Foraker called a “steam engine in trousers,” personified the hard-working chief executive. He filled his days with official functions and unofficial gatherings. He asserted his personality on policy and stamped the presidency firmly on the nation’s consciousness.

Taft had a tough act to follow

His successor, William Howard Taft, suffered by comparison. While it’s fair to observe that nearly anyone would have looked like a slacker compared with Roosevelt, it didn’t help that Taft weighed 300 pounds, which his contemporaries equated with laziness.

Taft’s girth only added to the perception that he lacked Roosevelt’s vigor.
Library of Congress

Taft helped neither his cause nor his image when he snored through meetings, at evening entertainments and, as author Jeffrey Rosen noted, “even while standing at public events.” Watching Taft’s eyelids close, Sen. James Watson said to him, “Mr. President, you are the largest audience I ever put entirely to sleep.”

An early biographer called Taft “slow-moving, easy-going if not lazy” with “a placid nature.” Others have suggested that Taft’s obesity caused sleep apnea and daytime drowsiness, a finding not inconsistent with historian Lewis L. Gould’s conclusion that Taft was capable of work “at an intense pace” and “a high rate of efficiency.”

It seems that Taft could work quickly, but in short bursts.

Coolidge the snoozer

Other presidents were more intentional about their daytime sleeping. Calvin Coolidge’s penchant for hourlong naps after lunch earned him amused scorn from contemporaries. But when he missed his nap, he fell asleep at afternoon meetings. He even napped on vacation. Tourists stared in amazement as the president, blissfully unaware, swayed in a hammock on his front porch in Vermont.

This, for many Republicans, wasn’t a problem: The Republican Party of the 1920s was averse to an activist federal government, so the fact that Coolidge wasn’t seen as a hard-charging, incessantly busy president was fine.

Biographer Amity Shlaes wrote that “Coolidge made a virtue of inaction” while simultaneously exhibiting “a ferocious discipline in work.” Political scientist Robert Gilbert argued that after Coolidge’s son died during his first year as president, Coolidge’s “affinity for sleep became more extreme.” Grief, according to Gilbert, explained his growing penchant for slumbering, which expanded into a pre-lunch nap, a two- to four-hour post-lunch snooze and 11 hours of shut-eye nightly.

For Reagan, the jury’s out

Ronald Reagan may have had a tendency to nod off.

“I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of a national emergency – even if I’m in a cabinet meeting,” he joked. Word got out that he napped daily, and historian Michael Schaller wrote in 1994 that Reagan’s staff “released a false daily schedule that showed him working long hours,” labeling his afternoon nap “personal staff time.” But some family members denied that he napped in the White House.

Journalists were divided. Some found him “lazy, passive, stupid or even senile” and “intellectually lazy … without a constant curiosity,” while others claimed he was “a hard worker,” who put in long days and worked over lunch. Perhaps age played a role in Reagan’s naps – if they happened at all.

Clinton crams in the hours

One president not prone to napping was Bill Clinton. Frustrated that he could not find time to think, Clinton ordered a formal study of how he spent his days. His ideal was four hours in the afternoon “to talk to people, to read, to do whatever.” Sometimes he got half that much.

Two years later, a second study found that, during Clinton’s 50-hour workweek, “regularly scheduled meetings” took up 29 percent of his time, “public events, etc.” made up 36 percent of his workday, while “thinking time – phone & office work” constituted 35 percent of his day. Unlike presidents whose somnolence drew sneers, Clinton was disparaged for working too much and driving his staff to exhaustion with all-nighters.

Partisanship at the heart of criticism?

The work of being president of the United States never ends. There is always more to be done. Personal time may be a myth, as whatever the president reads, watches or does can almost certainly be applied to some aspect of the job.

Trump’s “executive time” could be a rational response to the demands of the job or life circumstances. Trump, for example, only seems to get four or five hours of sleep a night, which seems to suggest that he has more time to tackle his daily duties than the rest of us.

But, like his predecessors, the appearance of taking time away from running the country will garner criticism. Though they can sometimes catch 40 winks, presidents can seldom catch a break.The Conversation

Stacy A. Cordery, Professor of History, Iowa State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


As it celebrates its 25th birthday, how does the Clinton administration look today?



File 20180116 53310 18wfl0u.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com

Patrick Andelic, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Bill Clinton is about to mark the 25th anniversary of his inauguration as the 42nd US president. Until the night of November 8 2016, millions of voters and experts assumed that he would be celebrating that milestone as the First Gentleman in a second Clinton administration, and that when he returned, he would be welcomed by the party and country both.

On both fronts, they were wrong. Instead, Clinton’s quarter-century anniversary on January 20, 2017 is also Donald Trump’s first – and while once beloved of his country, Clinton’s star has apparently started to fall.

For years, Clinton was a popular figure both nationally and within the Democratic Party. His 2012 speech to the Democratic convention, backing Barack Obama’s reelection bid, was enthusiastically received both inside and outside the hall; Politico wrote that he “stated the case for the 44th president’s reelection in language that was crisper and more compelling than the case Obama so far has made for himself”.

But lately, Clinton’s scent seems to be turning fetid. For the first time since he left office in 2001, more Americans view Clinton unfavourably than do favourably. After peaking at 69% in 2013, Clinton’s favourability rating has slumped to 45%. This trend is unusual among retired presidents. Most can count on nostalgia to sanctify even the most benighted tenure; even the once heinously unpopular George W. Bush enjoyed favourability ratings of 59% as of late 2016.

Two major events kickstarted this unflattering reassessment. First came the 2016 presidential campaign, during which both the Democratic primary and the general election saw his legacy picked over without mercy. The Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders duel put Bill Clinton’s policies on welfare, financial regulation, and criminal justice reform under the microscope. Meanwhile, Donald Trump lambasted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed by Clinton in 1994, as the “worst trade deal ever made”.

More recently, the #MeToo movement has prompted a reassessment of Clinton’s personal history, particularly longstanding, unresolved and unproven allegations against him of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and even rape. New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a onetime protégé of Hillary Clinton, recently suggested that it would have been “appropriate” for Clinton to have resigned the presidency over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

These are the political and personal fissures that still cleave Clinton’s legacy 25 years after he took office, and they can seem impossible to close. Was he a pseudo-liberal who enacted watered-down Republicanism or the saviour who brought the Democrats out of the wilderness? A roguish lothario or a sexual predator?

A different kind of president

Clinton was an anomaly from the off. His election marked a transition between generations. He was the first Baby Boomer president and the first not to have served in World War II. He was also a profoundly unlikely president.

1992 was not supposed to be a Democratic year. The incumbent Republican president, George H.W. Bush, was still surfing a wave of popularity following the first Gulf War. Better-known Democratic contenders declined to run, leaving an opening for an obscure Arkansas governor to win the party’s presidential nomination.

Clinton ran as a representative of the New Democrat movement, a faction that emerged in response to the party’s continued political misfortunes. The Democratic candidate had lost in every presidential election since 1976, and the New Democrats blamed the party’s leftward shift, which they claimed alienated Middle Americans. They sought to move the party to the centre by embracing market solutions and limited government, rejecting “identity politics”, and avoiding the appearance of dovishness in foreign policy.

Passing the torch: Bill Clinton takes over from George Bush Senior.
Smithsonian via Wikimedia Commons

Clinton pursued a New Democrat agenda in the White House, out of both choice and necessity (he had to contend with a Republican-controlled Congress after the 1994 midterms). This makes his legislative legacy a curious hybrid of liberal and conservative measures.

In his first year, Clinton signed a major gun control law, mandating background checks on most firearm purchases, and pushed unsuccessfully to enact sweeping healthcare reform. He also oversaw the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the law that kept commercial and investment banking separate, and signed the Defence of Marriage Act, prohibiting the federal government from recognising same-sex marriages.

But the Clinton presidency will always be defined by its most dramatic confrontation: the impeachment trial that resulted from the revelation that Clinton had conducted an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Though the conflict was ferocious, Clinton not only survived, but emerged politically strengthened. His approval ratings peaked at 73% in December 1998, at the end of the impeachment trial. Though dismissed by many at the time as an irrelevant foible, Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky, and the abuse of power that it entailed, are being reevaluated.

If Bill Clinton faces a personal reckoning, what about “Clintonism”? A comparison between Bill Clinton’s two presidential campaigns and that of Hillary Clinton in 2016 reveals a Democratic Party that has been moving leftwards since the 1990s, on both economic and social issues. Though still centrist in tone, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 platform was – to quote none other than Bernie Sanders himself – the “most progressive platform in party history”.

The ConversationAt one time, it seemed Bill Clinton represented the future of centre-left politics; the “Third Way” philosophy he pioneered was taken up by other leaders, most notably Tony Blair and New Labour. But now his first inauguration shares an anniversary not with his wife’s, but with Donald Trump’s – and even the party he once led seems to be turning away from his legacy.

Patrick Andelic, Lecturer in American History, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Chester Alan Arthur


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the 21st president of the United States – Chester Alan Arthur.

For more visit:
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/11/chester-arthur-presidency-donald-trump-215593


When image trumps ideology: How JFK created the template for the modern presidency



File 20170525 23279 1d42o23
President John F. Kennedy watches as planes conduct anti-sub operations during maneuvers off the North Carolina coast in April 1962.
Associated Press

Steven Watts, University of Missouri-Columbia

Even at John F. Kennedy’s centennial on May 29, 2017, the 35th president remains an enigma. We still struggle to come to a clear consensus about a leader frozen in time – a man who, in our mind’s eye, is forever young and vigorous, cool and witty.

While historians have portrayed him as everything from a nascent social justice warrior to a proto-Reaganite, his political record actually offers little insight into his legacy. A standard “Cold War liberal,” he endorsed the basic tenets of the New Deal at home and projected a stern, anti-Communist foreign policy. In fact, from an ideological standpoint, he differed little from countless other elected officials in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party or the liberal wing of the Republican Party.

Much greater understanding comes from adopting an altogether different strategy: approaching Kennedy as a cultural figure. From the beginning of his career, JFK’s appeal was always more about image than ideology, the emotions he channeled than the policies he advanced.

Generating an enthusiasm more akin to that of a popular entertainer than a candidate for national office, he was arguably America’s first “modern” president. Many subsequent presidents would follow the template he created, from Republicans Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump to Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

A cultural icon

JFK pioneered the modern notion of the president as celebrity. The scion of a wealthy family, he became a national figure as a young congressman for his good looks, high-society diversions and status as an “eligible bachelor.”

He hobnobbed with Hollywood actors such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis, hung out with models and befriended singers. He became a fixture in the big national magazines – Life, Look, Time, The Saturday Evening Post – which were more interested in his personal life than his political positions.

Later, Ronald Reagan, the movie actor turned politician, and Donald Trump, the tabloid fixture and star of “The Apprentice,” would translate their celebrity impulses into electoral success. Meanwhile, the saxophone-playing Bill Clinton and the smooth, “no drama” Obama – ever at ease on the talk show circuit – teased out variations of the celebrity role on the Democratic stage.

After Kennedy, it was the candidate with the most celebrity appeal who often triumphed in the presidential sweepstakes.

A master of the media

Kennedy also forged a new path with his skillful utilization of media technology. With his movie-star good looks, understated wit and graceful demeanor, he was a perfect fit for the new medium of television.

He was applauded for his televised speeches at the 1956 Democratic convention, and he later prevailed in the famous television debates of the 1960 presidential election. His televised presidential press conferences became media works of art as he deftly answered complex questions, handled reporters with aplomb and laced his responses with wit, quoting literary figures like the Frenchwoman Madame de Staël.

Two decades later, Reagan proved equally adept with television, using his acting skills to convey an earnest patriotism, while the lip-biting Clinton projected the natural empathy and communication skills of a born politician. Obama’s eloquence before the cameras became legendary, while he also became an early adopter of social media to reach and organize his followers.

Trump, of course, emerged from a background in reality television and adroitly employed Twitter to circumvent a hostile media establishment, generate attention and reach his followers.

The vigorous male

Finally, JFK reshaped public leadership by exuding a powerful, masculine ideal. As I explore in my book, “JFK and the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier,” he emerged in a postwar era colored by mounting concern over the degeneration of the American male. Some blamed the shifting labor market for turning men from independent, manual laborers into corpulent, desk-bound drones within sprawling bureaucracies. Others pointed to suburban abundance for transforming men into diaper-changing denizens of the easy chair and backyard barbecue. And many thought that the advancement of women in the workplace would emasculate their male coworkers.

John F. Kennedy smokes a cigar and reads The New York Times on his boat off the coast of Hyannisport.
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Enter Jack Kennedy, who promised a bracing revival of American manhood as youthful and vigorous, cool and sophisticated.

In his famous “New Frontier” speech, he announced that “young men are coming to power – men who are not bound by the traditions of the past – young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.”

In a Sports Illustrated article titled “The Soft American,” he advocated a national physical fitness crusade. He endorsed a tough-minded realism to shape the counterinsurgency strategies that were deployed to combat Communism, and he embraced the buccaneering style of the CIA and the Green Berets. He championed the Mercury Seven astronauts as sturdy, courageous males who ventured out to conquer the new frontier of space.

JFK’s successors adopted many of these same masculine themes. Reagan positioned himself as a manly, tough-minded alternative to a weak, vacillating Jimmy Carter. Clinton presented himself as a pragmatic, assertive, virile young man whose hardscrabble road to success contrasted with the privileged, preppy George H.W. Bush. Obama impressed voters as a vigorous, athletic young man who scrimmaged with college basketball teams – a contrast to the cranky, geriatric John McCain and a stiff, pampered Mitt Romney.

More recently, of course, Trump’s outlandish masculinity appealed to many traditionalists unsettled by a wave of gender confusion, women in combat, weeping millennial “snowflakes” and declining numbers of physically challenging manufacturing jobs in the country’s post-industrial economy. No matter how crudely, the theatrically male businessman promised a remedy.

So as we look back at John F. Kennedy a century after his birth, it seems ever clearer that he ascended the national stage as our first modern president. Removed from an American political tradition of grassroots electioneering, sober-minded experience and bourgeois morality, this youthful, charismatic leader reflected a new political atmosphere that favored celebrity appeal, media savvy and masculine vigor. He was the first American president whose place in the cultural imagination dwarfed his political positions and policies.

The ConversationJust as style made the man with Kennedy, it also remade the American presidency. It continues to do so today.

Steven Watts, Professor of History, University of Missouri-Columbia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


The List of Presidential Assassination Attempts Is Shockingly Longer than Anyone Thought


TIME

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

In 2014 my book, Hunting the President, was published. It included previously unknown assassination attempts against American presidents from the time of FDR to President Obama. (HNN ran articles based on my research here and here.) My latest book, Hunting the President II, examines attempts to assassinate U.S. presidents from George Washington to Herbert Hoover.

My research has revealed numerous never-before-told incidents when the president’s life was put in danger, including stories of attempted stabbings, shootings and bombings. Many of the assassination plots and assassination attempts I write about have been well-chronicled. Others, however, have remained largely hidden from the public; some buried in newspaper archives and others in government reports, presidential memoirs, bodyguard memoirs, Secret…

View original post 1,214 more words


USA: The Day Kennedy Died



USA: Presidents – Washington to Lincoln


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the US presidents from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln.

For more visit:
http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/02/american-presidents-washington-lincoln.html


Article: USA – Final Words of the Presidents


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the final words and moments of the US presidents.

For more visit:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/51449/last-words-and-final-moments-38-presidents


%d bloggers like this: