Presidential Ambition: Gaining Power At Any Cost
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In this timely, illuminating, and often shocking book, Richard Shenkman reveals that it is not just recent presidents but all presidents who have been ambitious--and at times frighteningly so, willing to sacrifice their health, family, loyalty, and values. Presidential Ambition is a book that will permanently alter the way we think about past, present, and future American presidents.
that he was strong and they were weak. Many of the men who came to sit in his place were equally as strong—Jackson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts—these men were as strong as men anywhere have ever been. The difference was that Washington could afford to stand against history, and they could not. Indeed, the more he leaned against history the stronger he became. Americans expected Washington to do the right thing as he saw it, even if they disagreed with him. His power derived from their sense that in
closer to the people, it also shone an unrelenting spotlight on his weaknesses. Once upon a time a president’s weaknesses could be hidden. Now they no longer could. Now because of all the lies and tricks and deceitfulness journalists no longer trusted presidents. And after the presidents lost the journalists, they lost the people, too. Things did not necessarily have to turn out this way. If there had been no Cold War, no bomb. If governing hadn’t gotten so damned complicated that presidents
convention, the bosses settled on Harrison, no one was surprised. Harrison would be the Whigs’ answer to Old Hickory. Hell, he even had a nickname like Old Hickory: Tippecanoe, which he had earned in 1811 in a grisly battle with the Shawnee near Tippecanoe Creek (in present-day Indiana). Unlike Jackson, Harrison did not seem to hold any firm views about government. Nobody at the convention knew what he believed. Harrison himself didn’t seem to know what Harrison believed. But nobody cared. He
Government cannot last.” He then argued that the only way to make sure the government did last would be to instill in “every American, every lover of liberty” a “reverence for the laws”: “Let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father.” The second part of the address, however, was pure Lincoln. Compelling as the recent events of violence were, in this second part Lincoln could not resist addressing another subject, one more immediate to him even than
of his vice presidents were implicated in fraud. Schuyler Colfax, his first vice president, was a very typical politician, deal making, compromising, and appealingly friendly. An old pol, in short. Just what Grant wasn’t. Which was good, because Grant was in need of someone who knew his way around politics, knew his way around Washington. Colfax, Speaker of the House, knew his way around as well as anybody. So in a way they were a good fit. But Colfax, too, it turned out, was corrupt. Like more