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Command of Office: : How War, Secrecy, and Deception Transformed the Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush

Stephen Graubard (2004)


Europeans often ask, and Americans do not always explain, how it happens that this great office, the greatest in the world, unless we except the papacy, to which anyone can rise by his own merits, is not more frequently filled by great and striking men. In America, which is beyond all other countries the country of a “career open to talents,” a country, moreover, in which political life is unusually keen and political ambition widely diffused, it might be expected that the highest place would always be won by a man of brilliant gifts. But from the time when the heroes of the Revolution died out with Jefferson and Adams and Madison, no person except General Grant, had, down till the end of last century, reached the chair whose name would have been remembered had he not been president, and no president except Abraham Lincoln had displayed rare or striking qualities in the chair. Who now knows or cares to know anything about the personality of James K. Polk or Franklin Pierce? The only thing remarkable about them is that being so commonplace they should have climbed so high. (Frontis.; from James Bryce, The American Commonwealth (1888))

It is impossible to know whether Carter's slim majority of a million and a half would have been secured in the absence of the immensely wounding primary battles waged by Reagan against Ford. (22)

Command of Office

Four presidents in the nineteenth century died in office, two of natural causes, two by assassination. Of the four vice presidents who succeeded them, not a single one managed to win a second term—only one made the effort, fighting the election as the Know-Nothing candidate—and their names resonate not even for historians. In the twentieth century, there were again four presidential deaths, two by assassin's bullets, and two as the result of illness. All four vice presidents who succeeded them fought to secure a term of their own and every one of them succeeded, winning sometimes by substantially larger majorities than those enjoyed by the men they succeeded. (33)

Kennedy, once assured of the nomination, recognized the need to mollify Johnson and imagined it might be done by appealing to his well-known vanity. In an election expected to be close, not least because of the religious issue, Kennedy knew that the retention of Texas in the Democratic fold could mean the difference between victory and defeat. He settled on a scheme that seemed foolproof; he would offer Johnson the vice presidency, knowing that the gift would flatter him, confident he would never accept so insignificant a post in exchange for the more considerable one he enjoyed in the Senate. Still, Johnson could not fail to be flattered by the offer, and this would certainly bring him to campaign actively for Kennedy in Texas. The possibility of his accepting the offer, exchanging his powerful position in the Senate for the insignificant role of presiding over that body, was unthinkable. In this instance, Kennedy guessed wrongly. Johnson, enigmatic even to those who pretended to know him, confounded the presidential nominee by accepting his offer. When Robert Kennedy, the candidate's brother and closest confidant, appalled by the prospect of a Kennedy-Johnson ticket, sought to retract the invitation, Johnson refused to go along. The Kennedys had no choice but to accept his decision, knowing his name would almost certainly secure Texas for the Democrats even if it brought on to their team a man they neither cared for nor respected. (39)

In the past, for thirty-eight years in all, following the death of a president or the resignation of a vice president—never, as in Agnew's case, brought on by charges of criminal behavior and corruption—the vice presidency was left vacant till the next quadrennial election. The 1967 constitutional amendment prohibited such lapses, and Nixon nominated Ford, the House Minority Leader from Michigan, to fill the post vacated by the disgraced Agnew. (41)

With so many contenders, and none in obvious ascent, Carter pursued the McGovern strategy that became standard for all Democrats after 1976: declaring his presidential intentions early, giving special attention to the early primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa, knowing his performances there would be carefully observed by the media, and that their judgment would be influential in determining whether his candidacy survived or fell to the ground. For a candidate to have any hope of success, entering many primaries became essential. The Kennedy strategy in 1960 would never again succeed: The primaries were now the sole route to the nomination, and everyone accepted this new fact of American political life. (61)

While individual candidates, as different as Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972, raised substantial amounts from small donors impressed by their messages, such contributions could never sustain a political campaign, certainly none that entailed both primary and presidential election expenses. The large donors remained the important ones, and they, together with the growing number of political action committees, provided the funding that candidates for both the presidency and Congress relied on. (64)

Expressing little regard for Thomas Jefferson, who in his view had failed to prepare the country for the war that endangered the life of the infant republic, he [Theodore Roosevelt] reserved his praise for Alexander Hamilton, the advocate of a strong central government. (70)

A New Yorker himself, Roosevelt refused to identify with those whose "warped, perverse, and silly morality" led them to argue for preserving the vast tracts of Western land for its original Indian settlers. In his mind, the natives' lives were "but a few degrees less meaningless, squalid, and ferocious than that of the wild beasts with whom they held joint ownership," and he insisted that only the arrival of white settlers had brought civilization to a world of virgin forests. Roosevelt celebrated what he termed "the spread of the English-speaking peoples over the world's waste places," and denying any racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice, felt no incongruity in declaring that it was "of incalculable importance that America, Australia, and Siberia should pass out of the hands of their red, black, and yellow aboriginal owners, and become the heritage of the dominant world races." (74)

Roosevelt's exaggerated appetite for publicity, never easily sated, led him as in the past to go too far in his search for wrongdoing. Giving scarce thought to the mayor who had appointed him police commissioner, a politically inexperienced businessman, Roosevelt decided to increase his already glowing reputation by enforcing the so-called blue laws that required bars and saloons to close on the Sabbath. He knew, of course, that these regulations had been flouted for years by those who understood that the police had no interest in enforcing such antiquated social and religious controls, but he saw the opportunity to strike a blow for law and morality, reminding workingmen of their Christian obligation to join their wives and children in church on Sunday. (75)

Roosevelt, as early as August 1897, wrote Lodge of the need to take "firm action on behalf of the wretched Cubans," and in an even more explicit letter to Lieutenant Commander W.W. Kimball, author of the Navy's original war plan, recommended war against Spain in the name of humanity, but also to give the American people something to think about other than material gain. (78)

TR's anger subsided in time, but Holmes sometimes recalled what a senator had once said about the president: "What the boys like about Roosevelt is that he doesn't care a damn for the law." As Francis Biddle, one of Holmes's law clerks and later attorney general under Franklin Roosevelt, wrote, "The truth was that he [Theodore Roosevelt] could never forgive anyone who stood in his way." Biddle knew that Holmes secretly "despised the Sherman [Antitrust] Act," believing it was "humbug, based on ignorance and incompetence, an absurd statute." In Biddle's words, "The theory of the act was that you must compete but you mustn't win the competition." (84-5)

Had Roosevelt been determined to win [Congress] over, to spend days, weeks, or even months cultivating them, negotiating deals with them, he might have enjoyed greater success. Lacking that interest, and openly contemptuous of a good many of those he would have had to propitiate, he came to rely increasingly on executive orders to achieve objectives Congress would never assent to. (91-2)

Roosevelt, an international celebrity, made many in Europe and Asia aware that the United States had become a world power. Given that he derived his authority wholly from what he insisted was the will of the people—ordinary folk, in his mind—it is not surprising that he never accepted, as Tocqueville did, that there could be a tyranny of the majority and that this represented the most serious threat to the American democracy. Though he made a great deal of his hostility to bosses and rings, both were as conspicuous in the United States after he left office in 1909 as on the day he arrived in 1901. (100)

The fat was in the fire, and Lodge as chairman of the Committee on the Philippines, pressured by adverse newspaper publicity, found it advisable to publish the Gardener report on April 11. The nation, profoundly shocked by its revelations, received even more startling news two days later when Major C. M. Waller, on trial in Samar, reported he had been ordered to "kill and burn" by the commanding general, Jacob Smith. A written order from General Smith included the words: "The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness." Other witnesses told of American soldiers using the so-called water cure on Filipino prisoners, bound and gagged, with water poured down their throats, a cruel punishment devised originally by Spanish priests in the seventeenth century to chastise sinners who had failed to show sufficient reverence or the Holy Ghost. (107)

While Roosevelt recognized hat he "did and caused to be done many things not previously done by the President," he never believed that he had usurped power; all that he would acknowledge was that he had greatly broadened its use. Taft, in his 1915 book, The Presidency, characterized this as an "unsafe doctrine" that could "lead, , under emergencies, to results of an arbitrary character." Believing this, he never knew how to deal with Congress, when to resist and when to give way. (109-110)

Interestingly, Woodrow Wilson, who succeeded Taft, understood what Roosevelt had done to increase the power of the presidency and reflected constantly on policies he might pursue to make his own presidency more distinguished and distinctive. Taft never entertained such grandiose ambitions, almost instinctively understanding why they would be difficult to realize. He lacked, as did his lawyer-dominated Cabinet, those qualities of mind that made it possible for his predecessor so greatly to expand the prerogatives of the president. In the end, Taft saw no need to do so, believing that many of Roosevelt's initiatives expressed nothing so much as vanity, an almost contemptuous disregard for the constitutional provisions that limited the power of the presidency. (119)

While unable to persuade the legislature to ratify the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that thirty other states had approved, allowing for the institution of a federal income tax, this was [Wilson's] only significant defeat. (127)

Wilson in his electoral campaign, in outlining the principles of what he called the New Freedom, stressed the importance of creating a more elastic currency. (134)

Wilson, a firm believer in the value of publicity, imagined that most businesses would never risk their being charged with illicit behavior. The act to establish the Federal Trade Commission, introduced on April 14, 1914, again in response to Wilson's urging, gave that newly created body authority to investigate corporate and business activity that violated the antitrust laws. Section 5 of the bill required the commission, modeled after the Interstate Commerce Commission, to investigate and prevent unfair competition, with the power to issue cease-and-desist orders, enforceable by the federal district courts; this provoked yet another massive resistance by conservative Republicans in Congress. Representative Frank Brandegee of Connecticut called it a "socialistic program," to be administered by an irresponsible agency with despotic powers, and others spoke derisively of the "inquisitorial powers" created by the legislation. The bill, in the end, with amendments, passed easily in both the House and the Senate, and many saw it as the "beginning of a new era in constructive federal regulation of economic life." (136)

When the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were finally announced on May 7, 1919, those who had once believed in Wilson's Fourteen Points were profoundly shocked. Many thought the treaty harsh, unworkable, and vindictive—a denial of all the principles the president purportedly supported. Wilson defended the treaty, pretending it in no way violated promises he had made. (158)

By the terms of article X, League members were obliged to take action, including the use of military force should that prove necessary, to deter such aggression. Had the United States accepted article X, it would have repudiated its long-standing policy not to intervene in disputes outside the Western Hemisphere and committed the country to maintain peace throughout the world. (159-60)

[Elihu] Root characterized the article as "not an essential or even an appropriate part of the provisions for a League of Nations to preserve peace" and feared it would "commit Americans to enter into foreign wars in faraway places where they would almost certainly not want to fight."(160)

Contemptuous of too many in the State Department and in Congress, believing himself morally superior to the European leaders he felt obliged to deal with, his ideas about the international system were based on abstract principles. They found little resonance with leaders abroad, attentive to public opinion in their own countries. The absence of interlocutors and colleagues at home able to correct him, to question his foreign policy strategies and tactics, greatly handicapped him. He had no greater help from those abroad who viewed the world—its military, diplomatic, and moral history—in ways he never could. An isolated, self-absorbed, and vain scholar, greatly indebted to Tocqueville, Wilson failed to heed what he had read in the latter's nineteenth-century observations about the likely consequences of war for a democracy. Wilson courted democratic public opinion, helped create it, and in the end was destroyed by it. (164)

For the years before his illness he showed the same appetite for power that Roosevelt had demonstrated and an even greater capacity to extend the powers of the presidential office, using the crisis created by war as his ultimate defense. Wilson left a legacy that a second Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, could never think to disparage or ignore, giving the presidency an authority and prestige FDR recognized to be invaluable. The office could never wholly revert to what it had been before Wilson entered the White House, though his immediate Republican Party successors seemed at times to yearn for a restoration of the more modest presidency that had existed in the time of McKinley. (163)

Many began to acknowledge, though much more tentatively, that the Volstead Act, passed in January 1920 to enforce the provisions of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, forbidding the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquors, was being systematically flouted, and that the police and court measures put in place to prevent such infractions were wholly inadequate. While neither the president nor Congress dared admit this openly, fearing the wrath of the Prohibitionists, as ardent for their social experiment as ever, the growing disillusion with this unworkable system of social control could not be denied. The flouting of the law by millions, and the rumors circulating that the White House itself served liquor surreptitiously, did nothing to increase respect for Prohibition. Hypocrisy appeared to be in the saddle; neither the administration nor its critics knew how to cope with a situation where bootleggers and speakeasies were everywhere and the consumption of prohibited substances by growing numbers of men and women became the fashionable thing to do. (172-3)

William Allen White recalled what Harding had once said to him: "This is a hell of a job. I have no trouble with my enemies. . . . But my damn friends, my God-damn friends, White, they're the ones that keep me walking the floors nights." (174)

No one ever left Coolidge's presence feeling inferior to him; there was no dissembling or pretense. (175)

Harding's press conference rules required questions to be submitted in advance, with direct quotation prohibited. The phrase according to a White House spokesman originated with Harding, and Coolidge followed him in many of these innovations. (176)

Coolidge scored a remarkable victory, winning all the major states in the East and all in the West except for Wisconsin. His policy, predicated on an uncritical admiration for private initiative and a distrust of excessive federal intervention or expenditure—his federal outlays were only half those of Harding—expressed a philosophy of government fundamentally different from that of the man who had inaugurated the Republican Party's twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt. In his military and naval policy, as in foreign policy, he showed neither the belligerence nor the enthusiasm that made Roosevelt appear the leader of a new world power Europe would do well to take note of. (180)

Whatever evidence [Coolidge] showed of being old-fashioned, he greatly enjoyed movies and frequently entertained guests with previews. Though obviously dour and shy, as one of the few surviving members of his press corps said of him in 1967, "we kinda liked the old coot," and others felt the same way about him. (181)

Subjected to intense questioning on May 20, 1920, Roosevelt was asked, "Mr. Secretary, did you know that in nine instances, between the 18th of March and the 14th of April that certain naval [operatives] had permitted sexual perverts in the naval service to suck their penis for the purpose of obtaining evidence?" Roosevelt responded: "The answer is no." He knew nothing of the methods used by the men attached to his office for securing the evidence they sought, and he had never asked about them. "Why not?" was the next question, to which Roosevelt answered, "Because I was interested merely in getting results. I was not concerned any more in finding out about their methods than I am concerned in finding out out how the commanding officer of a fleet takes the fleet from New York to Newport. What I want to know is that he gets the fleet to Newport." (204)

Hopkins reported to Churchill, following the visit of Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, to Washington in the spring of 1942, the president projected a vision of a disarmed world, protected by "Four Policemen," all armed, and charged with enforcing the peace. Hopkins told Churchill: "Roosevelt had spoken to Molotov of a system allowing only the great powers—Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and possibly China—to have arms. These policemen would work together to preserve the peace." There is no record of what Churchill thought of the proposal. (231)

Roosevelt, like Wilson, imagined he was creating a new world order, fundamentally different from the one that carried the seeds of war. (240)

The president found more wounding the opinion proferred by William Fulbright, a young Democratic congressman from Arkansas who recommended that he appoint Senator Arthur Vandenberg secretary of state and then resign, making Vandenberg the new president (By the succession legislation then in effect, in the absence of a vice president, the presidential office, following the death or resignation of the incumbent, would pass to the secretary of state, the head of the most senior department.) Truman, rightly offended, from that moment referred to Fulbright as "Halfbright," an epithet revived decades later to describe Madeleine Albright, Clinton's secretary of state. (259-60)

Years later, in retirement, Truman claimed that "I never had any thought when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations." The president, disingenuously, concealed his very early approval of covert action in Italy that allowed the Christian Democrats to defeat the Communists, retaining power there for more than a generation. (268)

Truman, in these matters, exercised an authority no previous president had considered necessary in time of peace. Covert action had become a major option for presidents to consider. (269)

Truman created institutions that survived: the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency. The atom bomb had contributed to the creation of a new state, what Peter Hennessy, the English historian, looking at his own country, described as the "secret state." That state gave vast new authority to the president, and though Truman used the CIA and covert action less than his successors did, war and secrecy greatly enhanced presidential power. (281)

Anxious to be posted overseas but denied the opportunity, and assigned to be the commander at Camp Colt in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Eisenhower felt he missed out on the greatest war in history through no fault of his own and envied his more fortunate classmates. (284)

In 1928 Eisenhower was offered the chance either to join the general staff or to go to France as a member of the Battle Monuments Commission. He opted for the latter, mostly because Mamie insisted on it. Again, their friends were other U.S. Army officers, stationed in France or passing through; they associated little with the French, learning neither their language nor anything of their culture. (285)

Eisenhower, observing [MacArthur's] performance in putting down the bonus-marchers, dismissed as Communist agents and dupes, knew he could do nothing to control him. In a bombastic press conference, MacArthur justified the whole operation with the words: "That mob down there was a bad-looking mob. It was animated by the essence of revolution." Eisenhower knew this was nonsense but said nothing, accepting the unwritten rules of his profession. (285)

Theodore Roosevelt's ascent to the presidency would have been unlikely in the absence of the Spanish-American War; Eisenhower's elevation would have been inconceivable without World War II. (287)

A man capable of concealing so much scarcely resembled the president he had followed into the White House who showed no comparable restraint. Truman, interviewed many years later by Merle Miller, when asked what he thought of Eisenhower's memoirs, gave no answer, and Miller wrote: "That was the only time in all our conversations that Mr. Truman didn't respond at all to a question." Asked whether he had read Bradley's A Soldier's Story, Truman replied, "Yes, I have, and that is a very good book," going on to say: "Bradley was perhaps our greatest field general in the Second World War, and in his book . . . so far as I can make out, he hasn't told a single lie. Of course he's a Missourian, so maybe I'm prejudiced." No one reading those passages could fail to understand Truman's meaning. Bradley was an honest man; Eisenhower was not. (295)

Truman then continued: "But I wouldn't have ever supported Eisenhower under any circumstances for President even if I . . . hadn't known about his personal life." To that, Miller responded: ''I'm sorry, sir. What do you mean about his personal life?" Truman replied: "Why, right after the war was over, he wrote a letter to General Marshall saying that he wanted to be relieved of duty, saying that he wanted to come back to the United States and divorce Mrs. Eisenhower so that he could marry this Englishwoman." Miller, remarking that "it took me a moment to recover from that one," then said: "Do you mean Kay Summersby, who I believe was his jeep driver?" Truman replied: "I think that was her name, yes. But I don't care what her name was. It was a very, very shocking thing to have done, for a man who was a general in the Army of the United States." (296-7)

Truman's plans were unconstitutional, Taft argued; the president had no right to send U.S. troops abroad in time of peace without the explicit prior approval of Congress. (298)

On January 7, 1958, speaking before the Democratic caucus, [Lyndon] Johnson declared an effective space program to be imperative. "Control of space means control of the world," he said, and described Sputnik as the greatest challenge to America's national security in its history, hyperbole characteristic of that day. (314)

De Gaulle, praising the young Kennedy for his energy, drive, intelligence, and courage, in a dinner to honor the president and his wife, expressed views not repeated to his colleagues later, where he spoke of Kennedy "suffering the drawbacks of a novice." While the discussions ranged over many subjects, including NATO, Berlin, Laos, and Vietnam, De Gaulle warned Kennedy against any intervention in Southeast Asia, claiming it would be "a bottomless military and political quagmire." (336)

What, then, did [Kennedy] propose to do? In the next week, he promised to ask Congress to make a firm commitment to the proposition that "race has no place in American life or law." (347)

[Historian James] Patterson reported Kennedy as once having said to Nixon, "Foreign affairs is the only important issue for a President to handle, isn't it. . . . I mean, who gives a shit if the minimum wage is $1.15 or $1.25, compared to something like Cuba?" (348)

[LBJ's] principal plea—to sponsor an educational revolution that would see the federal government become actively involved in a domain once exclusively within the jurisdiction of the states—would require Congress to appropriate funds for the building of schools in every part of the country. (363)

From the time he used the attacks on the U.S. destroyer as the excuse for securing the Tonkin Gulf Resolution from Congress, which authorized him to take "all necessary measures" to "repel armed attacks against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression," the president told only very partial truths. Senator Wayne Morse, one of only two senators to vote against the resolution, insisted that the Maddox, the destroyer in question, had been escorting South Vietnamese patrol boats in their raids on North Vietnam, but Senator Fulbright categorically denied the truth of the allegation, as did McNamara. In fact, it was true. So, also, a reported second North Vietnamese attack on the destroyer never occurred, and the president knew this but said nothing; it was acknowledged decades later, in 1995, by Robert McNamara. (369)

Secretive, scheming, devious, and insecure, Nixon excelled in all these unattractive attributes, and it is scarcely surprising that he is often seen as the presidential villain of the century. (379)

His so-called Kitchen debate with Nikita Khrushchev in the Summer of 1959 at an American exhibition in Moscow, a slugfest that began in the Kremlin with the Soviet leader denouncing Congress for its Captive Nations Resolution, saying: "It stinks like fresh horse shit, and nothing smells worse than that," found Nixon responding with, "I am afraid the Chairman is mistaken. There is something that smells worse than horse shit, and that is pig shit." (382-3)

When, over the protest of hecklers, [Nixon] promised some sort of withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam in late 1968 or early 1969, both the president and the secretary of state, in effect, repudiated him, with Johnson, speaking to the American Legion, suggesting that "no one can predict" when Americans could begin to leave Vietnam. (387)

As the situation deteriorated, and the president wrestled with having to ask Haldeman and Ehrlichman to leave, he became more preoccupied with whether he would be able to save himself, whether the country realized what would be lost if he was impeached and Agnew came into the presidency. No one could wish that, he said, alluding often to his crucial importance for the peace of the world. With Ron Ziegler, his press secretary, on April 27, he spoke of himself as the man on whom "the whole hopes of the whole Goddamn world of peace . . . rest right in this damn chair." (404)

On January 27, 1975, the Senate had established its Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, under the chairmanship of Frank Church, and the House created its own Select Committee on Intelligence a month later. Both initiatives coincided with a serious gaffe made by the president at a meeting with the publishers and editors of the New York Times on January 16. Ford spoke then of intelligence files that contained material it was not in the national interest to reveal; in his words, it would "blacken the reputation of every President since Truman." When the editors asked, "like what," the answer came, "like assassinations," which the president indicated immediately should be treated as an off-the-record comment. (416)

Ford's appointment of James Baker as his new chief of staff, to succeed Rumsfeld, and of Richard Cheney as his deputy, brought two other new faces into his administration, men who would assume far greater responsibility under President Reagan, going on then to serve the Bushes, father and son. Those who had served earlier Democratic presidents, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson, had not remained in the federal service for long; those chosen by Ford in 1975 were destined to remain powerful for the next quarter of a century and longer. This was as much Ford's legacy as anything he accomplished in foreign or domestic policy. (423-4)

The Republicans around Ford were not equally forbearing. Arthur Fletcher, one of the few blacks in the White House who had served as deputy assistant for urban affairs, called the comment "race-baiting" and went on to say: "The votes in Indiana and Michigan are so important that Carter felt he had to say to middle-class blue collar voters that 'I won't let the blacks break your neighborhood up."' The comment, offered at a time when Wallace was virtually eliminated from the race, and when the Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, Indiana, and Missouri primaries loomed, revealed the undeniable fact that Carter could not fail to be interested in securing the votes of white citizens who might otherwise have voted for Wallace. Udall believed the Carter statement was not a slip of the tongue, that it was intended to win support from white Southerners and Northern ethnics hostile to blacks. A Republican pollster estimated that the comment, intentional or not, had achieved its purpose: For every black vote lost, Carter gained four white votes. (428-9)

Like Woodrow Wilson, Carter was self-righteous, concealing his arrogance by pretending to be concerned only with others. A consummate actor, he offered himself as an ordinary American resembling millions of others. (430)

Believing he understood foreign policy issues, greatly exaggerating his competence in this as in the economic sphere, neither his national security adviser nor his secretary of state exercised a decisive influence on him. His greatest success, bringing Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat together at Camp David to sign what became the first peace treaty between two major Middle East combatants, Israel and Egypt, seemed for a moment to augur further comparable developments in relations between the Jewish state and other Muslim governments in the Arab world, but this promise never materialized. Carter showed exemplary patience in these negotiations, but his knowledge of the Middle East, which owed so much to his Christian beliefs, made him only very superficially familiar with a world that scarcely resembled that of ancient Babylon or Persia. He knew less about twentieth-century Islam than he pretended and never saw the need to learn more. (436)

[Reagan] owed his triumph principally to a capacity, honed over many years, to simplify issues, reiterating a single patriotic message that resonated for Americans wishing to believe in their national virtue and uniqueness. (460)

Reagan won in 1984 less for his concrete accomplishments and more for his ability to make light of his defeats—indeed never mentioning them—dwelling only on a perpetual celebration of the remarkable American people. An accomplished actor who pretended to be an activist, in fact a laid-back politician, cautious and crafty, indolent and aged, he understood the game of American politics as few others did. (461)

While no firm decision was made on whether to continue to use Israel as the conduit, or whether to ship the arms directly, both actions were illegal, violating the terms of the Arms Export Control Act. That technicality scarcely worried [Oliver] North, who, like everyone else in the White House, knew the president's wishes in the matter and cared only to gratify them. Weinberger continued to doubt the reasonableness of the policy and became "Dr. No," while Shultz, more aloof, though hostile to the plan, chose a path that made him "Dr. I Don't Want to Know." (465-6)

Again, neither success nor failure accounted for the presidential summons that brought him back to Washington in November 1975 to become CIA director. Bush received the appointment because Donald Rumsfeld, Ford's chief of staff, recommended it. (475)

With the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being black, the administration felt it had a compelling answer to the son of the assassinated Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who urged black soldiers not to fight, arguing that "every black soldier ought to say: 'You all do what you want to. I'm not going to fight. This is not my war.''' (490)

In Hillary Rodham, who became his wife, one of the first women to graduate from Yale Law School, he courted someone as ambitious as himself, thought to be no less articulate and, as events increasingly showed, no less devious. Indeed, their passionate commitment to politics separated them from the greatest number of their contemporaries; both were political junkies in the most literal sense of the term, addicted to politics as others were to wealth or work. (499)

Given Stephanopoulos's age and limited acquaintance with politicians, the accolade counted for little, but his other comment, about the man he saw "with flaws as profound as his gifts," showed a certain prescience; he wrote that Clinton "had more ideas than anyone in the race, his heart was in the right place, and he refused to quit." The third was true; the second, believed by many who knew Clinton less well, was a useful myth; the first was false. (508)

[George W. Bush] ranked 114th in a class of 238 at Phillips Andover Academy and excelled in no sport, but he elected himself High Commissioner of Stickball, rare evidence of intentional humor. (535)

[Bob] Woodward, who had done so much to bring down Nixon, wrote Bush at War and Plan of Attack as eulogies of a president who knew his mind, controlled those he had appointed to high places, and never wavered in his conviction that he had pursued the right policy in seeking to overthrow a hated dictator who oppressed his people and was preparing to attack the United States. Woodward, delighted to have been given so much time with the president, never considered the possibility that he had been taken in, sold a bill of goods, and used for White House propaganda purposes, or that his portrayals of all the president's seconds-in-command, his loyal courtiers—Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice—were partial, incomplete, and self-serving in the best sense of the word. (548-9)

If memories of the Civil War created a party able to assert political supremacy for over half a century, why should the threat of terrorism not do the same? (554)

War, in [Tocqueville's] mind, always put freedom at risk, not so much in creating the possibility of victorious generals establishing their rule over the people, as Caesar and other of the ancients did, but in its tendency to increase the prerogatives of civil government which "inevitably centralizes the direction of all men and the employment of all things in its hands." Though never a pacifist himself, he thought war an exceedingly dangerous pursuit for democratic societies. As he explained, "All those who seek to destroy freedom within a democratic nation ought to know that the surest and shortest method of succeeding at this is war. This is the first axiom of the science." (564)

Five years after the publication of his first volume of Democracy in America, Tocqueville wrote a second, thought by many to be inferior to his 1835 study. Meditating always on his chosen theme, the "tyranny of the majority," he acknowledged that though his fears on that subject had in no way diminished, he had come to see the matter in a new light. While he saw no possibility of a despotism like that of ancient Rome coming to America or to any other modern democracy, he feared another kind of domination that neither of the traditional terms—tyranny or despotism—adequately described.
This new control, he wrote, would be "more extensive and milder," and "would degrade men without tormenting them." This "tutelary power," different from any that had previously existed, would guarantee citizens their enjoyments while watching over them and infantilizing them. In a memorable passage, Tocqueville wrote:
"It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble the paternal power if like that, it had for its object to prepare man for manhood; but on be contrary, it seeks only to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood. It likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves. It willingly works for their happiness, but it wants to be the unique agent and arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?" (564-5)

In 1835, Tocqueville wrote:
"What I most reproach in democratic government, as it has been organized in the United States is not, as many people in Europe claim, its weakness, but on the contrary, its irresistible force. And what is most repugnant to me in America is not the extreme freedom that reigns there; it is the lack of a guarantee against tyranny. (565)

Tocqueville noted that the philosophers of the eighteenth century imagined that religious zeal would weaken as freedom and enlightenment grew; America, he said, both enlightened and free, disproved that theory. Already impressed by the "religious aspect" of the country, he dwelled on the "great political consequences that flowed from these new acts" and wrote:
"Christianity has therefore preserved a great empire over the American mind, and what I especially want to note is that it reigns not only as a philosophy that is adopted after examination, but as a religion that is believed without discussion. In the United States, Christian sects vary infinitely and are constantly modified, but Christianity itself is an established and irresistible fact that no one undertakes either to attack or defend."
Believing Christianity to be central to American culture, he returned to his favorite theme, the tyranny of the majority, giving it yet another dimension, saying:
"In the United States, the majority takes charge of furnishing individuals with a host of ready-made opinions, and it thus relieves them of the obligation to form their own. There are a great number of theories on matters of philosophy, morality or politics that everyone thus adopts without examination, on the faith of the public; and if one looks very closely, one will see that religion itself reigns there much less as revealed doctrine than as common opinion." (567)

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