Tag Archives: president

The American Founders made sure the president could never suspend Congress



The signing of the U.S. Constitution.
Architect of the Capitol

Eliga Gould, University of New Hampshire

The British monarch has the right to determine when Parliament is in session – or, more to the point, when it is not.

Breaking with longstanding tradition, and possibly with the United Kingdom’s unwritten constitution, new Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth II to suspend, or “prorogue,” the national legislature for five weeks starting on Sept. 9, or shortly after. She agreed.

Freed from having to take pesky questions in the House of Commons, Johnson claims he will be able to concentrate on getting a better deal for Britain as it prepares to leave the European Union on Oct. 31. Many British lawmakers, including some in Johnson’s own party, are furious and fighting back. But if the ploy succeeds, it will be one of the longest parliamentary suspensions since the British last cut off their monarch’s head.

Given the similarities between the U.S. and U.K. political systems and the personal parallels – and affection – between Johnson and U.S. President Donald Trump, Americans might wonder whether the president has a similar power to suspend Congress.

The answer is a very clear no – thanks to the forethought, and strong historical knowledge, of the country’s Founders.

Johnson and Trump have similarities but differences too.
Erin Schaff, The New York Times, Pool

Breaking up, but still learning by example

On July 4, 1776, Congress severed all ties to Britain. The Declaration of Independence included a repudiation of George III, though Americans had initially admired him when he assumed the throne in 1760. They also rejected the monarchical form of government that King George embodied.

Initially admired: George III.
Allan Ramsay/Wikimedia Commons

Compared to other kingdoms in Europe, which were ruled by overbearing monarchs and aristocrats, the British monarchy was not that bad. In fact, the institution contained a number of features that Americans quite liked. One was the system of representative government. King George and his ministers could only enact laws, including laws that taxed the British people, with the consent of Parliament. The House of Commons, the legislature’s lower chamber, was an elective body, chosen in the 18th century by property-owning men – and occasionally property-owning women – in England, Scotland and Wales. Although Britain wasn’t a democracy, it wasn’t an absolute monarchy, and definitely not a dictatorship.

From the earliest days of English settlement, Americans held the legislative part of the British monarchy in high regard. They modeled their own colonial assemblies as far as possible on Parliament, especially the House of Commons. Each colony had a governor and a council, but the most important branch was the representative assembly. Only colonial assemblies could levy taxes, and all other laws required their approval as well.

After independence, the colonies became states. Americans, wrote David Ramsay of South Carolina in 1789, were now a “free people who collectively” had the right to rule themselves. If they were to have government based on “the consent of the governed,” as the Declaration proclaimed, they still needed legislatures, which needed to be as strong as possible. Parliament remained an example worth following.

Rejecting royalty

What Americans did not want was another king. The Founders admitted that even though the British monarchy had failed the colonists, it worked pretty well for the British, with the king’s ministers consulting Parliament on most matters of importance. But they knew that the “constitution” that required them to do so was an unwritten one based primarily in tradition, not legal statutes and documents.

A detail of a portrait of King Charles I, while his head was still attached.
Sir Anthony Van Dyck/Wikimedia Commons

They also knew that just over a century before, a different king, Charles I, had not been so accommodating. In 1629, when Parliament refused his request for taxes, Charles dissolved the legislature and governed as a personal monarch – not for five weeks, but for 11 years.

That didn’t go well for Parliament, the British people or the king. The civil war that ensued ended with Charles’ execution in 1649 on a balcony overlooking what is today Trafalgar Square. The crowd’s gasp as the axe severed his neck was a sound no one ever forgot. The kings and queens who followed him were mindful of it too. When Charles’s son, James II, suspended Parliament again, the British sent him packing, and gave the crown to William and Mary.

The lesson, however, was largely a matter of custom. During the 18th century, the king’s ministers knew how to get along with Parliament, but the law did not require them to. British monarchs still had enormous powers, and Parliament usually did what they wanted. Although it was Parliament, not George III, that sparked the American Revolution by taxing the colonists without their consent, Americans placed most of the blame on the king’s ministers, and on the king himself.

Protecting the legislature

When Americans started debating what sort of government they wanted for the United States, they knew they needed an executive with some of the vigor that they associated with a monarchy. What they had in mind, however, was different from the British crown. The monarch, as Alexander Hamilton wrote in the “Federalist” essays, was a “perpetual magistrate,” who had powers that were limited only by whatever rules he or she chose to observe.

The newly created role of U.S. president, by contrast, had clearly defined powers under the Constitution, as did Congress. Crucially, the power to summon or dismiss Congress belonged to the House of Representatives and the Senate, which together decided when to convene and when to adjourn. The position of president, in other words, was intentionally designed without the authority to reproduce the 11-year tyranny of King Charles – or the five-week suspension of Queen Elizabeth II and her current prime minister.The Conversation

Eliga Gould, Professor of History, University of New Hampshire

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


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.


FDR’s forest army: How the New Deal helped seed the modern environmental movement 85 years ago



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Bridge built by CCC workers, Shady Lake Recreation Area, Arkansas.
Jerry Turner, CC BY-SA

Benjamin Alexander, City University of New York

Eighty-five years ago, on April 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order allocating US$10 million for “Emergency Conservation Work.” This step launched one of the New Deal’s signature relief programs: the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC. Its mission was to put unemployed Americans to work improving the nation’s natural resources, especially forests and public parks.

Today, when Americans talk about “big government,” the connotation is almost always negative. But as I show in my history of the Corps, this agency infused money into the economy at a time when it was urgently needed, and its work had lasting value.

Corps workers planted trees, built dams and preserved historic battlefields. They left trail networks and lodges in state and national parks that are still widely used today. The CCC taught useful skills to thousands of unemployed young men, and inspired later generations to get outside and help conserve America’s public lands.

CCC recruits at work in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, 1936.

The spiritual value of outdoor work

Roosevelt had sketched out much of his concept for the CCC well before his inauguration on March 4, 1933. Proposing the corps on March 21, he asserted that it would be “of definite, practical value” to the nation and the men it enrolled:

“The overwhelming majority of unemployed Americans, who are now walking the streets and receiving private or public relief, would infinitely prefer to work. We can take a vast army of these unemployed out into healthful surroundings. We can eliminate to some extent at least the threat that enforced idleness brings to spiritual and moral stability.”

Congress enacted the bill on March 31, and Roosevelt signed it that day. Although there was no precedent for such a vast mobilization, enrollment started a week later in New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and other major cities, then fanned out across the country. By midsummer, some 250,000 men aged 18 to 25 had signed up. Their six-month term might be spent at one camp or several; it might be located across the continent or, rarely, just across town.

Poster by Albert M. Bender, Illinois WPA Art Project, Chicago, 1935.
Library of Congress

Another day, another dollar

CCC recruits came from families on relief. Agents from local welfare offices screened prospects, then passed them along to the Army for a physical examination and a final decision. The Army also managed the huge task of transporting successful applicants to hundreds of work camps. The corps established operations in all 48 states and the territories of Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands, as well as a separate American Indian division.

Most enrollees were young unmarried men, but the CCC also created special companies of war veterans. This policy was Roosevelt’s response to the 1932 Bonus March, in which thousands of World War I veterans camped out in Washington, D.C., demanding early payment on promised military service bonuses, only to be evicted at gunpoint by order of then-president Herbert Hoover. (Some scholars believe this debacle helped clinch Roosevelt’s election later that year.)

CCC recruits could only bring a single trunk; tools were provided on-site. Many Corps members packed musical instruments, and some brought their dogs, which became company mascots. At the start many recruits slept in tents and bathed in nearby rivers. Those without experience in the great outdoors learned key lessons fast, such as how to avoid using poison ivy for toilet paper. Some succumbed to homesickness and dropped out, but most adjusted, forming baseball teams, music combos and boxing leagues.

Although the CCC was a civilian organization, the camps were run by the Army and bore some of its hallmarks. Dining facilities were called mess halls, beds had to be made tightly enough to bounce a quarter off them, and workers woke to the sound of reveille and went to sleep with taps. Commanding officers had final say over most issues.

At work sites, the Agriculture and Interior departments – custodians of U.S. public lands – were in charge. CCC members planted 3 billion trees, earning the nickname “Roosevelt’s tree army.” This work revitalized U.S. national forests and created shelter belts across the Great Plains to reduce the risk of dust storms. The corps also surveyed and treated forests to control insect pests and created forest fire prevention systems. Over its decade of operation, 42 enrollees and five supervisors died fighting forest fires.

Major planting areas for the Shelterbelt Project, 1933-42.
U.S. Forest Service

Corps members created and landscaped 711 state parks, and built lodges and hiking trails in dozens of national parks and monument areas. Many of these facilities are still in use today. Attractions including the Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, and Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg and Shiloh bear signatures of CCC work.

For their labors, corps members received $30 a month – but as a condition of enrollment, the CCC sent $22 to $25 each pay period home to their families. Still, at Depression prices, $5 was enough to visit nearby dance halls and meet girls once or twice a week. These forays sometimes ended in fights with jealous local men, but also led to many lifelong marriages.

Ripple effects

In total, close to 3 million workers and their families received support from the CCC between 1933 and 1942. The corps also provided jobs for well over 250,000 salaried employees, including reserve military officers who ran the camps and so-called “local experienced men” – unemployed foresters who lived near the camps and were hired mainly to help supervise enrollees on the job.

Camps also hired unemployed teachers to offer informal evening classes. Some 57,000 enrollees learned to read and write during their CCC stints. Camps offered many other classes, from standard subjects like history and arithmetic to vocational skills such as radio, carpentry and auto repair.

Like other New Deal programs, the CCC had flaws. Party patronage heavily influenced hiring of salaried personnel. Although the law creating the CCC banned racial discrimination, black enrollment was capped. Many African-American enrollees were housed in “colored camps” and could only go into town for recreation and romance if black communities existed to serve them.

A racially mixed CCC Company in Pineland, Texas in 1933, with African-American members grouped at far right.
University of North Texas Libraries., CC BY-ND

The CCC also discriminated socially, enrolling young men with families but excluding rootless transients who wandered from town to town in search of work and food. These men could have reaped great benefits from the CCC, but its leaders imagined an unbridgeable cultural gap between young men who came from families and others who came from the byroads. And the corps only enrolled men, although Eleanor Roosevelt convinced her husband to let her and Labor Secretary Frances Perkins organize a smaller network of “She-She-She” camps for jobless women.

Congress terminated funding for the CCC in 1942, after the United States entered World War II, although Roosevelt argued that it still played an essential role. Many men who had gained physical strength and learned to handle Army discipline in the CCC later entered the armed forces.

The tree army’s legacy

Beyond its physical impact, the corps helped to broaden public support for conservation. In the 1940s and 1950s, youth groups such as the Oregon-based Green Guards volunteered in local forests clearing flammable underbrush, cutting fire breaks and serving as fire lookouts. Others, such as the Student Conservation Association, advocated for wilderness protection and conservation education. Hundreds of former CCC enrollees helped lead these efforts. Today many teenagers work in national parks, forests and wildlife refuges every summer.

The ConversationAlthough it is hard to picture a CCC-style initiative winning political support today, some of its ideas still resonate. Notably, the Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan and some proposals for upgrading U.S. infrastructure present federal spending on projects that benefit society as a legitimate way to stimulate economic growth. The CCC combined that strategy with the idea that America’s natural resources should be protected so that everyone could enjoy them.

Benjamin Alexander, Lecturer in social science, New York City College of Technology, City University of New York

This article was originally published on The Conversation. 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



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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.


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: WWI – Raymond Poincare takes Office in France


The link below is to an article that looks at the lead up to World War I. In this article Raymond Poincare becomes the French president.

For more visit:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/48987/world-war-i-centennial-poincar%C3%A9-takes-office-coup-mexico


Article: A President’s Toilet


The link below is to an article that looks at the toilet of US President Martin Van Buren.

For more visit:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/31798/martin-van-buren-had-really-nice-toilet


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