The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama (Politically Incorrect Guides (Paperback))
Steven F. Hayward
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Academics, journalists, and popular historians agree. Our greatest presidents are the ones who confronted a national crisis and mobilized the entire nation to face it. That’s the conventional wisdom. The chief executives who are celebrated in textbooks and placed in the top echelon of presidents in surveys of experts are the “bold” leaders— the Woodrow Wilsons and Franklin Roosevelts— who reshaped the United States in line with their grand “vision” for America.
Unfortunately, along the way, these “great” presidents inevitably expanded government— and shrunk our liberties.
As the twentieth-century presidency has grown far beyond the bounds the Founders established for the office, the idea that our chief executive is responsible to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” has become a distant memory.
Historian and celebrated Reagan biographer Steven F. Hayward reminds us that the Founders had an entirely different idea of greatness in the presidential office. The personal ambitions, populist appeals, and bribes paid to the voters with their own money that most modern presidents engage in would strike them as instances of the demagoguery they most feared— one of the great dangers to the people’s liberty that they wrote the Constitution explicitly to guard against. The Founders, in contrast to today’s historians, expected great presidents to be champions of the limited government established by the Constitution.
Working from that almost forgotten standard of presidential greatness, Steven Hayward offers a fascinating off–the–beaten–track tour through the modern presidency, from the Progressive Era’s Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama. Along the way, he serves up fresh historical insights, recalls forgotten anecdotes, celebrates undervalued presidents who took important stands in defense of the Constitution— and points the way to a revival of truly constitutional government in America.
What you didn’t learn from your history teacher, but will find in The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Presidents:
Progressive hero Woodrow Wilson aired a pro–Ku Klux Klan movie at the White House
Calvin Coolidge, much mocked by liberal historians as a bland Babbitt, was the last president to write his own speeches, guided the country through years of prosperity and limited government, and was one of the most cultured men ever to live in the White House
Why Eisenhower’s two biggest mistakes as president were, in his own words “both sitting on the Supreme Court”
How as president JFK took mind–altering drugs, many of them prescribed by a physician he called “Dr. Feelgood,” who later lost his medical license for malpractice
Nixon’s hysterically vilified Christmas bombing of North Vietnam in 1972 caused very few civilian casualties and compelled North Vietnam to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War
The misunderestimated George W. Bush read 186 books during his presidency, mostly non–fiction, biography, and history
government to have a larger scope of action to promote it. This is why Wilson made the title of his 1912 campaign book The New Freedom. He wrote of “mature freedom”—by which he meant the positive fulfillment of individuals rather than just the absence of outside restraint. Wilson even used some very contemporary-sounding language to describe his new understanding of freedom, such as “self-liberation” and “man’s ability to make more of himself and to make more out of nature” (which really means
more than 1,500 arrests under this act, only ten were for actual sabotage. “Perhaps more than any other factor,” Blum writes, “this shocking record stimulated among men of good will an incipient disenchantment with Wilson. . . . The President turned his back on civil liberties not because he loved them less but because he loved his vision of eventual peace much more. . . . Did the conduct of government override the privacy and decency democracy demanded? No matter—there was coming a great day.”
economists * * * It was but a short step from this “re-defining” of individual rights to FDR’s later idea of, essentially, welfare state rights, whereby the government would provide for you instead of you providing for yourself. In his 1944 State of the Union speech, while the nation was still fighting Germany and Japan, Roosevelt extended the philosophy of the Commonwealth Club address. He talked again about how the Founders’ conception of individual rights—the guarantees against
Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt—that it is not clear whether he knew he was paraphrasing them. But the origin of the ideas Reagan was expressing is no mystery. In his first inaugural address in 1801, President Thomas Jefferson had said, “Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.” As president Reagan fought
re-enactors who showcased no ideas that had not been tried and found wanting. They found true reform difficult and left it untried. The Clinton administration is evidence that people can possess glittering academic qualifications and personal charisma yet remain professionally, psychologically, and morally unfit for public office, especially the nation’s highest office. The Clintons, in effect, came to Washington, dropped their drawers, and told the nation to “kiss it.” For the most part, the