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tv   Lectures in History  CSPAN  March 20, 2016 12:00am-1:16am EDT

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for the country. i would encourage everyone to go out and support burning, if possible. -- support bernie, it possible. >> college tuition is important this year, as well as jobs. when college kids go to school, they know how to pay for it in afford it, as well as when they leave college, what their future is going to look like. who is trying to bring jobs back into the u.s. as president of the college democrats, i feel those of the two biggest issues for an election cycle. >> i was going to vote for bernie sanders, but i ended up going for hillary because she seems more knowledgeable and has been in the political environment before. she's met country leaders, she has been secretary of state. she has seen the inner workings of the white house and how the game goes. on "lectures in history,"
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david o'connell examines presidential legacies and what factors contributed to making a presidential term successful. he discusses several rankings of presidents over the years, and compares the criteria and results. his class is about an hour and 10 minutes. the brilliance of lincoln's words was not recognized at the time. he was not the featured speaker at gettysburg. it was actually edward everts from massachusetts, who spoke for 2hours while lincoln waited to give his poignant closing word. today of course we recognize the getty version address as perhaps the greatest presidential speech in history. the fact that people do not --
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did not see the speech that way at the time points to the fact of lincoln's influence was not recognized at the time in general. when the lincoln became president, he had not served in public office for 10 years. his self-education -- all that meant was lincoln was looked upon with some degree of condescension. perhaps not much was expected from his presidency. however today there is little dispute on lincoln's greatness. i encourage my students to see put all signs not as a science =--medical science not as a science -- political science not as a science, but -- we are going to look at 5 different ways of measuring
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presidential greatness. these polls, these academic studies that involve hundreds of historians that there is a consensus. today we may have some concerns about what lincoln did. he certainly took liberties with the constitution. he suspended in the right of habeas corpus. he forcibly closed some newspapers that were printing material critical of the union effort. he spent money that congress had not appropriated. he raised the size of the military without congress' approval. he did this for a great end, preserving the union at a time of maximum peril. he gave the civil war a moral impetus with the emancipation proclamation, which committed the government to free the slaves. sighter saw -- never lost of what the u.s. was fighting for. there was a lot of pressure to call of the election, that you could not go through with an election anytime of war and that
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lincoln would be justified to cancel this contest. what lincoln said and believed was that if the u.s. were to do so, then the rebellion would have succeeded because the character - -the country lost its character of the democratic people. let's think about presidential greatness. the whole class has been leading up to this point. we have tried to understand how president are or were not able to overcome these obstacles. the whole point of doing so is to become great, to achieve greatness. i want to think about how we might understand presidential greatness. then we will look at ways at different scholars have tried to rank the president, from 1-44. potentially greatness is more difficult to achieve. we may never see another person
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like abraham lincoln. the modern presidents have been weak. we want to understand why that might be. if there are systematic reasons-- in the hard work i have done as a professor- the definitive list of stpu -- of stupid people on twitter. the internet's 25 worst passwords. if your password is on that list, it already says enough. 25 football teams ranked by stupidity of fans.
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a ranking of every "big brother" system. the 26 best drake memes that have ever existed. that one is kind of cool. the message is, don't take selfies at funerals. americans also love ranking president. the most famous book ever , atten on the presidency guidebook how to successfully exercise executive authority. barack obama's presidency the day after his inauguration.
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that rating starts immediately. there are all these benchmarks set in a presidency. their 100 days. how does it compare to franklin roosevelt or any other president? all along you have pungent -- pundits who ask anything the president does affects their legacy and place in history. even though we like to do this, ranking the president is hard to do. reason whysystematic it's difficult to try-- number one, we are not neutral observers. we all have our own opinions. that's going to affect how we evaluate any president's
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performance. research has shown that ideology plays a role in assessment of presidential greatness. this i'm sure does not come as a surprise. conservatives will be more likely to think ronald reagan is a great president, and liberals will think john kennedy is a great president. the impact of our ideologies does not stop there. it impacts the criteria we to determine presidential greatness. what our standards are. research has shown that liberals are much more likely then conservatives to think that something like idealism is a standard of presidential greatness. biasesre two ways their are going to affect our evaluation of greatness. we know that contest matters. -- context matters. they face a different set of leadership challenges. that is going to be taken into account when we rate their performance. on one hand, we might give a president sympathy for taking
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office in difficult circumstances. we think about barack obama at the end of his presidency. we may want to step back and say, he took office at a time of a massive recession with the west engaged in two wars. because of all these challenges, even if you did not achieve quite as much as other presidents, that he deserves to be rated higher. the context in which he served was more difficult. we know voters are capable of doing this. at the time of his reelection, if voters-- people are willing to give residents leeway.
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the biggest crazies that america has seen. civil war and world war ii and the great depression. that gives them the opportunity to do something other presidents might not have had the chance to do. could something they potentially do that others could not. this is something that clinton had lamented after 9/11. she is said to have -- he is aid to have privately wished he could have been president at the time. you need a signature moment of leadership, and he never had the opportunity to do so. a third problem is that greatness is not set in stone. when we rate presidents, those ratings are going to change over time as new information emerges and as our own values change. an example of resident whose ranking has gone down will be
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john kennedy. when john kennedy died, he was extremely popular. he died under tragic circumstances. and the first appraisals of his presidency were written by people hwo had worked in kennedy's presidency and held him in high regard and did not criticize anything that he has done. over time, we learned new things about kennedy that has affected our opinion of him. we've learned about his chronic womanizing. he was involved in prostitutes and other women that his death procured for him. -- his staff procured for him. his affair with the girlfriend of a chicago mob boss. things that we would consider today to be sexual harassment. has someearned that he responsibility to the u.s.
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involvement in vietnam. and we learned that a lot of the new frontier is more of a show than anything else kennedy did not have much of an interest in domestic policy, and all his talk about the culture were not things that were personally important to him. showsyour president that more courage in his book title. in the last ranking of political wasntists, john kennedy rated as the most historically overrated president. two president in the other direction are truman and eisenhower. when truman left office, he was phenomenally unpopular, approaching the nixon levels when he left from the watergate scandal. in my duty to, harry truman had hadn 1952, harry truman
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52% approval. since then, we have seen that a lot of his foreign policies have had wisdom. establishing nato, shepherding the marshall plan through congress. these were seen as essential. at the same time, truman"s demeanor, we green greater appreciation for that when he was succeeded by those like lyndon johnson, who repeatedly lied about u.s. involvement in vietnam, and richard nixon, who was not a crook when he actually was a crook. eisenhower, another president who has improved rankings over time. people thought he was generally a nice guy. but he had not worked hard as presidency and spend more time golfing van leaving. thatrchival evidence shows that is a image eisenhower just
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allow people to have. he pushed himself to the point of heart attack. he worked extremely well behind the scenes. he manipulated people left and right. we also value some of the decisions eisenhower made as president that did not seem significant. 19 the french fall in vietnam65. the french fall in vietnam. there is a call to intervene. we have ater, decade-long conflict that doesn't work out international interest.
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another warning that seems prescient. not saying that bush is going to go down as a lincoln. the point is, we don't know where bush is going to go down. articles calling him as the worst president of all time. that was preposterous because he just finished his presidency. we won't know the true impact of his decisions until decades from now. if years from now, iraq and afghanistan become free democrats societies that are bellwethers of change that ultimately does away with one of the key national security threats facing the u.s., bush will go down as a great president. is that likely to happen? it does not seem that way, but we don't know. we have to wait to see. a little too early to see where bush will fall the pantheon of residence. another problem, do you get
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points for trying? a lot of presidents that identify key issues before the they become concerns for the public. they took moral stances, but did not do things to fix the problem. truman supports a strong civil rights pank in the democratic party platform. kennedy in 1963 finally comes comprehensiver civil rights reform. including ending public discrimination in public housing, which he could do with the stroke of a pen. nonetheless, they are on the right side of the issue, but they don't get the legislation through congress. it's not until lyndon johnson is president. how does that effect and evaluation of their greatness? do they get credit for being on the right side? or do we blame them for not
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fixing it? the issue of credit is a problem. via compliments we are willing -- the accomplishments we are willing to give are debatable accomplishments, whether they had to do with those are not. that is something discussion. a lot of times someone will say if president is great because the economy was great when they were in office. this is used to make an often for roosevelt. his greater, schmidt was that he accomplishment was that he entered the great depression. that certainly helped the u.s. on a long path for recovery. public works programs are needed in the immediately aftermath of the start of the great depression. his financial reform legislation set the context for more stable economies going forward. in 1937, it falls into a massive recession. polls the u.s. out of
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depression is world war ii. can we say that roosevelt ended the depression? many think he did, but it's a debatable claim. many scholars said that reagan winning the cold war is the greatest foreign-policy accompaniment in the cold war period. did he win the cold where? not really. did he do things to end the cold war? the strategic defense initiative, the star wars missile defense system, forced the soviet union in an arms race that they were not people of doing. -- not capable of doing. that created reforms in the soviet union that ultimately led to their downfall. but of the people had a role too.john the second, mckellar glover job-- you could argue that the soviet union had internal
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vulnerabilities that it would collapse someday anyway. two of the biggest accompaniments that these presidents are often given credit for. can -- to compare premodern and modern presidents? we are going to put in the same system, barack obama and george washington. but their tasks of leadership, the resources they had to lead were very different. presidents were more clerks than they were leaders. in the 19th century, the main job of the president was to distribute patronage. they would appoint people to government offices. it was an entirely thankless task. and indeed a president gets assassinated in this role, james
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garfield. there is a institutional support for the president until 1857. they wind up paying their own staffers out of their own pocket. george washington hires his nephews to copy his letters. they have to take loans, like thomas jefferson. it leads to andrew jackson saying that being president was dignified slavery. it may be very unfair to compare premodern presidents with modern president. often the challenges are different. not until teddy result to the present even leave the country. --teddy roosevelt did a president even leave the country. our morals have changed. we will have normative impressions of presidential greatness. that is how we interpret what they did in office. things that may not have been controversial then are controversial now.
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i call this the andrew jackson problem. by many standards, he is a great president. we define a whole age by him, jacksonian democracy. jackson himself is a simple, a frontiersman by reaching the presidency, sending a powerful message about what is possible in this new country. his common rhetorical support for regular people changes the tenor of our politics. he democratize is government service by entering the federal practice of treating government jobs as property that they would hang onto for their entire lives. the democratic party wins out of his own personal following. but he was a slave owner.
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when the cherokee nation is forced out of their lands in georgia, a fourth member will die on the so-called trail of tears in the midwest. this leads to a lot of problems in terms of how we interpret this. owning slaves and not treating native americans with respect was not uncontroversial. it is certainly controversial today. you see the jefferson-jackson dinner, and many have had to change their names because being associated with slaveowners is not projecting an image of losing his that they want today. -- of inclusiveness that they want today. can we understand what is like to be president? this is the monday morning quarterback problem. brian tannehill throws an interception, and i will blame him and get really upset. but i have no idea what i'm talking about. i never play quarterback in the nfl.
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i don't know why he threw that interception, if it was actually the receiver in the wrong place, or maybe defeasance disguised their coverage. the coaches need to be blamed? i can't win him for that interception. similarly, can we really blame a president for any of their failures? we don't know their pressures, we don't know how the decisions were made, we don't know the information they had at the time. it might be unfair of us to tax judgment on something we have no chance of understanding until we walk in those shoes ourselves. that is why someone like john kennedy, when talking with arthur/injured junior, about ranking presidents, was dismissive. he said, you don't know what's going on, i'm not even prepared to do this now. said can't have presidents,'t rank let us do it anyways. let's consider some theoretical
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ways of assessing greatness, the standard element of the problem. and milkis'ndy "presidential greatness" says a good president must be a democrat and republican. govern that they must within the constitutional system and abide by restrictions. accomplishhanism to these tasks is a political party. the great way to mobilize people, but also a natural check on the president's aristocratic tendencies. great presidential leadership, for him, required extraordinary partisanship. those great presidents are ones that build up their political party. this standard, why
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andrew jackson is a great president. building the modern democratic party out of his personal following. maybe it's not going to me that jackson is a great president. fdr achievedsince this level of greatness, according to them. the closest would be lyndon johnson and ronald reagan. he is more interested in protecting his personal popularity. and alternative way to think about greatness-- he argues the key to greatness is muscular moderation. that does not mean simply doing what is popular at the moment. that would be spineless
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centrism, what he attacks clinton for. instead it is boldly governing from the center, charting a leadership path between the extremes of american politics and building a consensus around your local position. this leads him to reinterpret the politics of fdr. fdr his seen as potentially the most liberal executive in the modern era. but according to troy, he was a moderate. on the left, he deals with those that want to create a socialist society in america. on the right, he's dealing with individuals that want to do nothing, that want to maintain a laissez-faire system of economics under coolidge and hoover. by charting a course between the two, he was quite moderate. something like social security, troy says, is a moderate policy. people on the right don't like it because it might destroy individual responsibility. people on the left don't like it because it's an a pay-as-you-go manner.
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result, it is a moderate policy. 's approach towards regulating banks another moderate policy. the left wanted it nationalized. the right wanted fewer regulation. it falls in the middle. moderation, according to troy, is not enough to achieve greatness. you have nixon and carter. but if offers best path presidential greatness. i think this illustrates the problem of even setting standards of presidential greatness. is are diametrically opposed standards. one scholar says, to be a great president, you have to be really partisan. says, you have to be in the middle.
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send questionnaires to about 2000-- these questionnaires were 19 pages, 180 questions. it took more than an hour to complete. they are asking people not only to assign a level of greatness to each presidency, but asking them pacific questions about -- specific questions about events and policies. was hoover right to control the federal deficit? why was kennedy successful, what skills were important? and by asking those additional questions, they want to determine why a president is great. not only if they are great. i won't necessarily look at that part of the argument.
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ultimately you have 846 surveys. this is not a representative sample. only 59 women actually participated in the survey. their ranking goes, abraham lincoln is one. franklin roosevelt is two. george washington is three. thomas jeffersonis four. the four presidents that had an average score of being a great president. the near greats were theodore roosevelt, woodrow wilson, andrew jackson, and harry truman. the bottom two are interesting, john adams and lyndon johnson. we won't see these presidents on other rankings. perhaps this is partly because in this study, scholars tend to more favorably rate the president's that served in the era in which they did their research. if you did research on
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colonial america and early american republic, you would be more likely to think john adams is a great president. we today perhaps criticize him partly for the criminalized dissent as the u.s. was gearing up were a potential war with france. on adams's opponents affiliated with jefferson. lyndon johnson, another president who is going to be controversial. they like his domestic policies but find a lot of desire in the vietnam war where he conceals the involvement from the public and makes decisions that undermine the chances of the united states. 1997, they take a poll of 719 people.
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97 of these individuals were professors of american history. others would be public officials, attorneys and so forth. they are asking to rate presidents on five different dimensions. leadership qualities, accomplishments and cop -- crisis management, appointments, character and integrity. they also asked to rank the importance of these five dimensions. if you think character is most important or leadership qualities, etc.. according to the system, lincoln is number one, roosevelt's 2. george washington is 3. thomas jefferson is 4. woodrow wilson is 6. harry truman is 7. andrew jackson is 8 three eisenhower 9. madison 10. roosevelt might have prevailed over lincoln if it weren't for
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concerns about his care. he was rated the 15th best presidents in terms of character. he is one of two on the other dimensions. andrew jackson would rate higher if the wasn't for those concerns about character and appointments , a reflection of the spoil system where garment officials were fired and people loyal to jackson or put in these positions. this leads to a lot of corruption in the long run. and eisenhower, you can see this was published in 1997. as we learn more about eisenhower you see his rating improve and he starts to emerge at the bottom of this list. he has taken a full of 32 experts and quotations. they are his friends.
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not that they are not experts but mostly they are prestigious historians. some practicing politicians. participants are allowed to develop their own criteria for greatness of the article. he uses justice potter stewart's definition of obscenity. you know it when you see it. the scholars will know greatness when they see it. people have to do is rate each great, average, below average or tell your they will be assigned the appropriate numerical score which allows us to come up with average. his father did an early study of ranking the presidents in 1948 published in life magazine. he is following in his father's house.
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according to this study lincoln's 1. washington is 2. roosevelt is 3. they achieve greatness averages. all 32 individuals gave lincoln a score of 4. jefferson, jackson, roosevelt, wilson, truman, polk and thousand higher -- eisenhower. c-span did a presidential leadership survey in 2009. common sense them because they talk about the scholars ourselves in this class earlier in the semester. historians are asked to rate the president on 10 different attributes. public persuasion, prices, moral authority, international relations, administrative skill, relations with congress, vision and setting agenda. and their performance within the context of their time.
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you may be saying that is a lot. 10 different attributes of leadership is a lot for any scholar and it tests the limits of the knowledge of even experts . do people know enough about franklin pierce to assign him a score on all 10 of these dimensions? what happens is people wind up making a global judgment of greatness preset is going to affect their score on individual standards. if you think lincoln was a great overall you give him a great score on all 10 categories. participants sign a score. what will happen then is an average will be provided. if clinton was given an average of 8.2 for economic management that would be multiplied by 10. he will get 82 points. your total possible greatness for his 100 points for each category. according to the system, abraham
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lincoln is 1 fifth a score of 902. george washington is 2. franklin roosevelt 3. you can see the scores dropped off after that. kennedy 6. jefferson 7. reagan 10 for appearance -- his first appearance. finally, 2014 at 162 members of the american political science association. i participate in this survey. i can't tell you that much about it. it has not been published as far as i can tell.
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they've had newspaper stories about the research. they have e-mailed the participants in the study the final rankings but i don't really remember what it was like . it took me 45 minutes to an hour. i remember being surprised by decisions. i was more positive towards barack obama than i thought i would be when i was challenged to think about him and individual dimensions instead of a social judgment of his performance. some of the attributes that were measured would be diplomatic skill, integrity, military skill. that is somewhat reflecting a political scientist mindset when you include legislative skill. something we know clinical sciences have tried to address want of five. each president receives a score
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out of 100. the results, lincoln is 1. almost a perfect score. washington is numeral. roosevelt 3. the at our roosevelt 4. jefferson 5. truman 6. a first appearance for bill clinton. woodrow wilson 10. you see down here these for its much lower even though they are not afraid of that far in rankings. the scores are actually quite low. patterns we may have noticed, lincoln is number one in all five rankings. consensus. lincoln is the greatest president. they agreed the top three greatest presidents are lincoln, washington and fdr. washington and fdr alternated between 2 and three. evenly split. jefferson and roosevelt did
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well. they were commonly 4 and 5. neither president fell lower than 7 in these rankings. we didn't look at this i thought you should know there is rough agreement on the worst president. the two worst president would be warren harding, who spent his time writing love letters to his mistress in the white house while his friends rob the government blind. his most famous quotation, i am not famous for this office and i should not be here. and james buchanan. he did nothing as the country lurched towards the civil war out of a sense of constitutionalism. one of the other things, we are not seeing many modern
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many modern presidents post franklin roosevelt show up on these rankings. clinton shows up once. reagan shows up once. truman. eisenhower. they are at the bottom. it is not consistent. what i did is i took the president since roosevelt, then i averaged their score. these are taken at different times. the total number of presidents ranked is not constant throughout this. presidents, there are more than there were in 1988. that affects the average somewhat if great presidents came after that point. what we can see here is only 2 presidents had an average ranking in the top 10. harry truman and dwight eisenhower. both of them have enjoyed a renaissance of their reputation after they left office. even then rankings aren't that impressive.
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if you are the seventh greatest president of all time then you are not even in the top 20%. going down the list weekend seeing it gets pretty bad. nixon, 32. carter, 24.4. bush, 20.25. clinton 17. bush, 36. if we took the average ranking it is 19. why is that? is that the results of individual flaws? to some extent, sure. i have been critical of jimmy carter. not out of personal opposition to anything he tried to accomplish but out of a criticism of his understanding of executive authority and the use of the power of leadership. carter's ranking is not 25, 19, 27, 20. consistently mediocre we can identify specific reasons carter fell short of greatness that
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only he can be blamed for. is he under minding the for street of the presidency? -- is he undermining the prestige of the presidency? it is important. that is the targeting. president going to be able to convince people that what he wants is in their own interest? he did things like kerry's own luggage, ending the practice of playing hail to the chief. selling the presidential yacht. giving the national address in a cardigan sweater. business early understand these things make him seem more like a regular person instead of someone who was above the public. he made poor staffing choices.
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segregation in the united states. he comes into office, he have a democratic congress. dick bove neil, that is a relationship he needs to cultivate. he says give me priorities and we will work on them. carter says here is 12. we will do all of them. carter says no, i will do what worked with me in georgia. he ends up being aggravated by little slides. even nixon gave them breakfast. what winds up happening is gets primary by ted kennedy. a sitting president who has to fight for his own renomination within his party. that is a direct consequence of the way carter failed to nurture those relationships with democratic leaders in congress. he overestimated his speaking
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powers. he did try to govern over the head of congress on the subject of energy. he gave five national addresses. each to a smaller and smaller audience. speaking power grossly underestimated. the move issues opinions. carter didn't recognize that. who are the great quarterbacks? i imagine you are going to say modern quarterbacks. tom brady. peyton manning. someone would have said dan marino. they would have tried to suck up to me and that would have been a good answer. he was clearly the best. he would have been the greatest president. these are modern presidents.
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modern quarterbacks. that is reasonable thing when you look at statistics. these are the top 10 quarterbacks in terms of yards in a season. what we see is all of them besides dan marino for he threw for 5084 yards, besides that one year, they have all happened since 2008. great season in terms of yardage. he quarterbacks that simply are not going to go down as great quarterbacks. matthew stafford, ben roethlisberger. what was happening here? the game has changed to health quarterbacks. -- help quarterbacks. an emphasis to make it easier to throw the ball. they are going to police contact over the middle of the yield.
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brian dawkins, he said this is one of the reasons why. he could no longer play the position because he had to consular be worried about getting a penalty. you can't touch a quarterback. you can't hit him high, you can't make contact with a helmet. he hit at the knees. that makes quarterbacks more comfortable in the pockets. it makes it easier to rack up yards. you are seen quarterbacks get to the nfl with more preparation. colleges have adopted sophisticated often system. they are better prepared to read defenses when they reach that level theories you see a change in the personnel. he's the size of the defensive end and he can run like a wide receiver. all this has made it easier for quarterbacks to achieve greatness.
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troy aikman has lower rating than the backup of the tampa bay buccaneers if we look at those changes, when it comes to presidency, things have changed to make it more difficult for presidents to achieve greatness. one, congress has polarized. that is the roots of congressional polarization. you can data back to the 1960's as the democratic party embraces civil rights. you see a migration of those southern democrats to the republican harding and ultimately that is going to leave the party left with liberals. and in republican party left
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more conservative. you increase gerrymandering, you have these districts that mean a radical republican or democrat can win a seat of a wooden win if it was fairly drawn. you see congressional rules and procedures that create polarized outcomes when they may not naturally exist. all of this means it is more difficult to what they want out of congress. polarization may speed up action in a majoritarian house that slows it down. we have seen an increase in filibusters over time. the senate is the burial ground for any major presidential these of legislation. there is no possibility of compromise. if you want to be a moderate, who are you going to negotiate with? the affordable care act passes with zero republican votes. zero republican votes in the senate. how is obama going to get legislation through congress now that he doesn't have those huge democratic majority when he had in 2009? a divided government. when you have the president of one party in congress on the
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other, that is the norm. what we have seen is a divided government two thirds of the time since 1952. there is a debate about what this means. some argue it doesn't actually have an effect on legislation. david mayhew has categorize laws in terms of significance by looking at if they were significance the time they were passed and if they were judged significant later over history. you see that about 11-12 laws are going to the adopted every two years. even if that is true, there is strong research that shows legislation is more likely to fail under conditions of divided government. 6.7 potentially significant flaws fail. divided government increases the odds of seeing legislation failing by 45%.
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presidents have to deal with a divided government with a congress controlled by the opposite party and polarized to make it difficult to get your agenda through congress. the president had the worst relationship with the media. think of the things they covered up for john kennedy? they covered up his affairs, his health problems. they would have shocked the public if they had known at the time. he didn't write his books. it was only a bestseller because his dad bought thousands of copies which he stored in an attic. i have been unable to persuade my dad to buy thousands of copies of my book to make it a bestseller. that changes. you have things like the pentagon papers, a study about the extent of the night is his involvement in vietnam that
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shows residents had consistently misrepresent u.s. policy. you have the aftermath of watergate. nixon's lies about his involvement in a cover-up. his press secretary is going to have to later say all previous statements were an operative. you see them because of the impact of exposing watergate, reporters want to be bob woodward. he want to break the next scandal. the media has become more hostile. if we look statistically we see the amount of negative news it present has to face has gone out. and the total share of news coverage has gone down. it makes it more difficult to lead publicly. that is related to this point problem. people paying less attention to presidential addresses. we may think that you watch a speech on so many different
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platforms, broadcast, cable, on your phone, on your tablet, on your computer, you will see higher ratings for speeches. that is not what has happened. presidents used to benefit by having a captive audience where there were a few channels. if the president comes on, people would watch because what else are they going to do? talk with their families? i don't think so. but now you can opt out. if you are not interested you change the channel, fire the xbox, netflix, whatever you want to do. obama's recent state of the union had the lowest ratings in 20 years. 31 million people decided to tune in. i like to remind people of this problem with bill clinton in 2000 preparing to give a national address. coming on after who wants to be a millionaire, the hottest show of the time. i auditioned for it.
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19 million people are watching. clinton comes on and 10 million people changed the channel. another problem is the campaign is a permanent distraction. running for office today, it is expensive. it costs money. these are billion-dollar campaigns. the president has to constantly raise money. barack obama has the fundraisers every 7.5 days. bill clinton attended his first fundraiser 12 days into his administration. however president supposed to govern when they are so busy raising money and engaging in political activities? they are too busy trying to keep their job to do their job. there are powerful fiscal pressures. 70% of the budget today goes to four things.
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medicare, medicaid, social security and payments on the national debt. throw in defense spending, something that can't be ingested all that much, especially in light of recent events. that leaves little money for the president to fund new domestic policy initiatives. we are running this year if we are lucky a $400 billion deficit. those problems are only going to get worse unless we get control over the entitlement programs that threaten to submerge the budget. presidents threaten to deal with their administration. they can't get appointments confirmed. in way of confirmation has gone down over time. president like eisenhower would get every appointment confirmed. now you are going to be lucky to
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get 50-60% confirmed. and the time it takes to confirm a justice has gone up dramatically. the new york times had an editorial criticizing republicans for not acting more quickly on the nominations obama has made since these seats are judicial emergencies where they have been vacant for years. if we look at the executive branch they have run into obstacles numeral -- also. things like recess appointments, czars and so forth. we are talking about their staff. we can't get them to stick around. 30% of the white house staff is going to change jobs. if you add them together, you have a government of strangers. individuals who are not in their office long enough to learn the things necessary to do their
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jobs, to learn who they need to work with to get things done. they can't be an effective team when they serve such a short time. people say the way around this, to achieve greatness is to act on your own. unilateral presidential power. this is a fallacy. they are consistently overrated. govern by executive order. only 15% of executive orders are significant. there are exceptions. truman desegregated the military. stem cell research. we know new presence can come in and change these things, sometimes they are durable like clinton changing the arsenic standards in drinking water.
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when bush was to go back to the previous standard because he thinks it is cost ineffective it looks like he wants more arsenic in drinking water. sometimes they are a good way to make policy. only 15% are significant. presidents are more likely governed at the inn of their administration and when they are unpopular. it makes perfect sense. think of obama example. now his immigration plans are tied up in the court system and the outcome of all that remains to be seen. if you're talking about our, only according to studies, 80% of these are symbolic. 12% are significant. they tend to be on things like parks and trade and nothing else. we are talking about executive agreements. these are much less useful than treaties which are much more binding. so i would ask you is first, if we take a step back amount what are your standards
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of presidential greatness? see how scholars have tried to define greatness. building political parties.
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