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presidential history


  • Biden's Inaugural and the Return of History

    by Paul J. Welch Behringer

    Joseph Biden's inaugural address signals a willingness to return to learning from history that may encourage the empathy and humilty elected officials need to solve the nation's problems. 


  • George Washington Resisted the Siren Call of Absolute Power

    by Jan-Benedict Steenkamp

    George Washington is celebrated for his refusal to continue past two terms as President. But his earlier actions in refusing the leadership of a military coup against the Continental Congress in 1783 put the new nation on track to have civilian leadership under law. 


  • Kamala Harris and the Modern Vice Presidency

    by Richard Moe

    Kamala Harris seems poised to exert influence over policy and legislation as vice president. In this sense, she will carry forward the evolution of the office, according to a former vice presidential chief of staff who contributed to the development of the "modern vice presidency." 



  • The Lessons of the Nixon Pardon

    Isaac Chotiner interviews Rick Perlstein on the nature of presidential misconduct and accountability. 



  • The Worst President in History

    by Tim Naftali

    Previously condemned presidents have failed in some aspect of their oaths of office, whether by abusing power, failing to confront national crises, or putting self-interest over the nation. Trump has done all of this, argues the first director of the Nixon Library.



  • What Will Trump's Presidency Mean to History?

    by David Greenberg

    Above all else, a pattern of rule-breaking and a determination not to be bound by rules are the characteristics of Trumpism, and inseparable from the policies the 45th president pursued. 



  • Trump's Last Year In Office Will Define His Legacy, Historians Say

    A group of presidential historians including Timothy Naftali, Jeff Engel, Julian Zelizer, Laura Belmonte, Kathryn Brownell, H.W. Brands, Lindsay Chervinsky, Martha Jones, and Barbara Perry discuss what results of the Trump presidency – from resurgent white nationalism to battered norms of governing – will prove to be the most historically consequential.


  • The Politics of an Inauguration Unlike Any Other

    by Michael A. Genovese

    Joe Biden's inauguration will be unlike any other, but he will need to draw on inaugural traditions of declaring purpose and invoking solidarity if he is to begin to repair national division.


  • The History of Skipping a Successor's Inauguration

    by Michael Patrick Cullinane

    Trump's decision to skip Biden's inauguration might seem like a mere petty gesture. But it harkens back to previous episodes that reflected times of deep division and political conflict.


  • The Problem with a Self-Pardon

    by Robert J. Spitzer

    It is likely that the issue of a president's ability to pardon himself will be contested in short order. A constitutional scholar of the presidency explains why such an action cannot be countenanced in a society of law. 


  • Teddy Roosevelt and Josh Hawley's History Lessons

    by David Goldfischer

    Josh Hawley wrote a 2008 biography of Theodore Roosevelt balancing praise of the former president's vision of democracy with condemnation of his grasping for power. One wonders how the author of this book could have acted as the Senator did on January 6. 



  • The False Promise of Obama's 'Promised Land'

    by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins

    A critique of the first volume of Obama's presidential memoir argues that the 44th President was unwilling to acknowledge the limits of the centrist liberal politics of the 1990s and unable to consider more progressive alternatives. 



  • Wrestling With Woodrow Wilson’s Complicated Legacy

    A longtime Virginia political observer suggests that there is more to learn by considering Woodrow Wilson's complex social views and political legacy than by taking his clear racism as reason to hide him from sight. 



  • Cleaning House: Watergate and the Limits of Reform

    by John A. Lawrence

    The reform agenda of the "Watergate Babies" class elected to Congress in 1974 achieved important successes but failed to prevent either the rise of the imperial presidency or increased partisan polarization.