From FDR to JFK through to Trump: the epoch-defining American presidents
With eight inches of snow from the previous night creating havoc in Washington and a wind chill temperature prompting worry of hypothermia, the just sworn-in president spoke about a tor
Voter anger: Obama, like Clinton, Bush and Trump, campaigned as Washington outsiders
Richard Nixon, who was elected twice (in 1968 and 1972), had to deal with the Watergate scandal and the prospect of impeachment and removal from office before resigning in 1974.
Reagan, the only two-term president between the 1950s and 1990s, was seriously injured in a 1981 assassination attempt and wounded politically by the Iran-Contra imbroglio during his second term, considered even more substantial as a scandal than Watergate by some observers.
Since FDR won his unprecedented four elections (in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944), 11 incumbent presidents have campaigned to continue as White House residents. Eight won, while three lost - each one of that unhappy trio coming from Kennedy's"new generation". The broadcaster and author Tom Brokaw identified the people who grew up during the Depression, fought in World War II, and then returned to the US to create an economic powerhouse in a superlative phrase he used as the title for a bestselling book: The Greatest Generation, asserting at one point,"It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced."
Interestingly, America had endured a similar era of presidential trauma, turbulence and turnover in the final decades of the 19th century. Again, as happened with Kennedy's"new generation," assassination triggered a cycle challenging occupants of America's highest office. Abraham Lincoln was elected twice - in 1860 and 1864 - but then murdered in April of 1865.
For the Kennedy"generation", what reasons stand out for all the travails and tribulations between 1961 and 1993? Were the presidents - three Democrats and four Republicans - seriously flawed as people, contributing to their own difficulties, or were they casualties of turbulent and tumultuous times?
By its nature and position, the White House is always at the centre of whatever storm is buffeting the nation and world at a particular time. International danger. Racial injustice. Economic malaise. Gender inequity. Sexual repression. The years spanning Kennedy to Bush senior encompassed revolution, war, and most everything in between - forcing those presidents to cope with problems they were dealt and never could have predicted.
Clinton, younger Bush, Obama and Trump all won on their first try for the Oval Office. All four of them ran for president by emphasising they were Washington outsiders - as did Reagan and Carter before them.
Donald Trump was born in 1946, the same birthday year as Clinton and junior Bush and the only time in US history when a single year produced three presidents. Starting with Clinton's victory in 1992, the presidential pendulum has swung between the Democratic Party to the Republican Party four times. Amid such change, three straight two-termers have won re-election and served the full eight years, raising questions concerning why - and whether Trump might be the fourth consecutive White House occupant to complete the allowable time to serve as set by the US constitution.
The 2020 election and the four-year term that follows will produce more pieces of the White House puzzle. Ultimately, Americans and people abroad will see where - and how - these new pieces fit together in the larger historical pattern of what's called, with definite reason, the"glorious burden" of the US presidency.Read more: Independent.ie
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