History Buzz January 20, 2013: David McCullough: Leading the Way: Presidential Leadership & History


History Buzz


Leading the way: Presidential leadership

Source: CBS News, This Morning, 1-20-13

LEADING THE WAY is what we expect of our presidents. How successful any individual president has actually BEEN is a matter of debate historically, as is the entire question of what constitutes great leadership in the first place. 

We laugh with them, we cry with them . . . and with Hollywood’s help from movies like “The American President,” we heap on them our greatest expectations.

Presidential leadership is Colorado College professor Thomas Cronin’s specialty, and he is struck by America’s perhaps too-perfect wish list for a president.

“It seems like an amalgam of wanting Mother Teresa, Mandela, Rambo, the Terminator and Spider-Man all wrapped into one,” he said. “It’s a pretty outlandish job description.”

David McCullough has written extensively on our greatest presidents, among them, John Adams….READ MORE

William E. Leuchtenburg: Obama like FDR? Not at all, it turns out


History Buzz

Source: WaPo, 7-22-11

Remember when Barack Obama was supposed to be the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt?

As the president took office, historians and columnists reveled in the comparison. Historian William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal,” told NPR that he heard echoes of FDR in Obama’s inaugural address. Before that, Time magazine featured the president-elect on its cover, smiling and, FDR-like, smoking a cigarette in a 1930s roadster. “The New New Deal,” the headline proclaimed. And in the essay inside, “The New Liberal Order,” journalist Peter Beinart likened Obama’s coalition to FDR’s and posited that “if [Obama] can do what F.D.R. did — make American capitalism stabler and less savage — he will establish a Democratic majority that dominates U.S. politics for a generation.” Just like FDR.

We still don’t know exactly which former president Obama will most closely resemble. But now, after he has putcuts to Social Security on the table as part of debt negotiations with the GOP, we can finally and definitively nix Roosevelt, the liberal lion of the 20th century, from the list of parallels. Our 44th president is not a champion of liberal reform a la FDR, nor does he live in a political universe in which “bold and persistent experimentation,” as FDR promised in 1932, is even possible. Obama may turn out to be like any of his 43 predecessors — just not Roosevelt.

Not convinced? Begin with FDR’s record.

From his first day in office, Roosevelt was the father of reform. In his portrait of the period, Leuchtenburg, a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, defined FDR’s New Deal as a critical turning point in American history. It offered, as Leuchtenburg describes, “deficit spending, a gigantic federal works program, federal housing and slum clearance, the NRA, the TVA, sharply increased income taxes on the wealthy, massive and imaginative relief programs, [and] a national labor relations board with federal sanctions to enforce collective bargaining” — not to mention Social Security.

Until the pendulum swung back during the Reagan revolution and the George W. Bush presidency, FDR’s efforts transformed citizens’ convictions in and expectations of their government. As Leuchtenburg writes, Roosevelt’s tenure “marked a radical departure” from unchecked capitalism by providing every American with at least the minimum standard to live decently.

And then there’s our current president….READ MORE

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