What makes war interesting for Americans is that we don’t fight war on our soil, we don’t have direct experience of it, so there’s an openness about the meanings we give to it.
Despite all the public hand-wringing about negative advertising, political veterans will tell you that it persists because, more often than not, it works. But tearing down the other guy has another attraction: It can be a substitute for building much of a case for what the mudslinger will do once in office.
During the 1937 congressional election campaign, Johnson’s group probably paid $5,000 to Elliott Roosevelt, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s sons, for a telegram in which Elliott suggested that the Roosevelt family favored Lyndon Johnson.
The consequence of the Bay of Pigs failure wasn’t an acceptance of Castro and his control of Cuba but, rather, a renewed determination to bring him down by stealth.
Truman is now seen as a near-great president because he put in place the containment doctrine boosted by the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and NATO, which historians now see as having been at the center of American success in the cold war.
Theodore Roosevelt had drawn public attention to his attractive family in order to create a bond with ordinary Americans. Eleanor Roosevelt had successfully broached the idea that a First Lady could be nearly as much a public figure as her husband.
John Kennedy had so many different medical problems that began when he was a boy. He started out with intestinal problems… spastic colitis.
Obama is cutting back on the idea that we’re going to have Jeffersonian democracy in Pakistan or anywhere else.
True, most Americans give lip service to the proposition that even the most exalted among us have their flaws, but we are eager to believe that presidents manage to rise above the limitations that beset the rest of us.
To be sure, Kennedy did not discount the importance of words in rallying the nation to meet its foreign and domestic challenges. Winston Churchill’s powerful exhortations during World War II set a standard he had long admired. Kennedy was hardly unmindful of how important a great inaugural address could be.