EXAMINING a PRESIDENT

Of WOODROW WILSON, historian Thomas Bailey (1957) said:

“Wilson… had emerged as the moral arbiter of the world and the hope of all peoples for a better tomorrow. But regrettably his wartime sureness of touch began to desert him, and he made a series of costly fumbles. He was so preoccupied with reordering the world…that he reminded one of the baseball player who knocks the ball into the bleachers and then forgets to touch home plate.”
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Of HERBERT HOOVER, historian T.H. Watkins (1993) said:

“…if President Hoover believed in anything more profoundly than the virtues of self-reliance and individual initiative, it has not been recorded... Hard work, honesty, and independence… had brought this country to the forefront of nations, had built a breed of men… who had taken the institutions of the founding fathers and made them the wonder of the world. Anything that might weaken the strength of that tradition would weaken the very character of America and was, by definition, evil.”

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Of DWIGHT EISENHOWER, historian Michael R. Beschloss (1999) said:

"He was the most popular human being in America and probably the most popular human being in the world. But he was also a much more intelligent man than people understood at the time… When you take Ike off the public platform and put him in a small room where he’s talking candidly to his aides and friends, you find a leader much in command of complex issues – very different from the caricature of the time.”

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Of JOHN KENNEDY, historian Michael Beschloss (1999) said:

"JFK came to the presidency devoid of executive experience. The biggest organizations he had ever run were his Senate office and the PT-109 he commanded during World War II. What’s more, he had been seeking the presidency for so long that he had only vague instincts about where he wanted to take the country.”

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Of LYNDON JOHNSON, journalist and historian Larry King (1980) said:

“There were certain thoroughly American traits – as LBJ saw them – which constituted the foundation stone upon which the Republic, and his own dream castle, had been built… If America was so wonderful (and it was; he had the evidence of himself to prove it), then he had the obligation to export its goodness and greatness to the less fortunate.”

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Of RICHARD NIXON, historian Otto Friedrich (1994) said:

“These were fiercely contentious times, and Nixon was partly to blame for that. He had always been the fighter rather than the conciliator, and though he had millions of supporters among what he like to call the ‘silent majority’ in ‘middle America,’ the increasing conflicts in American politics made it difficult to govern at all. Nixon…brought to the White House an extraordinarily permanent anger and resentment.”

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Of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, historian Stephen Oates (1978) said:

“The real Lincoln was not a saintly emancipator, and he was not an unswerving racist either. To understand him and the liberation of the slaves, one must…focus on the man as he lived, on the flesh-and-blood Lincoln, on that flawed and fatalistic individual who struggles with himself and his countrymen over the profound moral paradox of slavery in a nation based on the Declaration of Independence.”

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Of RONALD REAGAN, historian Peter Schweitzer (1994) said:

“Two canons of Reagan thinking drove [his] strategy. The first was the President’s well-known anti-Communism, expressed in moral terms of good and evil… When the words “evil empire” rolled from his lips, Reagan meant it….the other important ingredient in his thinking… was his belief in the profound weakness of the Soviet Union.”

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Of FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (1994) said:

He never seemed to lose his faith that the right solution to a vexing problem would eventually turn up. When he made up his mind to do something… he did it to the best of his ability, but if it went sour, he simply started in all over again and did something else… Those who wanted ideological consistency or even policy coherence, were rightly exasperated with Roosevelt.  ‘He understood,’ Garry Wills noted, ‘the importance of psychology – the people have to have the courage to keep seeking a cure, no matter what the cure is. He switched economic plans as often as he changed treatments for polio.’ And while the New Deal did not overcome the Depression…the multiplicity of government programs kept the people going, and in the process preserved the system of democracy at a time when so many other countries in similar despair were turning to fascism or communism.

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