The Race for President

By Ellis, Joseph J. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 6, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Race for President


Ellis, Joseph J., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The first time an American president's policies defied all the promises made during his campaign occurred in 1800.

Thomas Jefferson's platform called for a reduction of federal (especially executive) power, fiscal austerity aimed at reducing the national debt and strict interpretation of the Constitution. The opportunity to purchase the Louisiana Territory in 1803 threw all of these Jeffersonian principles into the proverbial cocked hat.

As it turned out, in order to acquire an empire, one had to become an imperial president. Jefferson, albeit reluctantly, did just that.

The same paradoxical pattern repeated itself on several notable occasions in the 20th century. Woodrow Wilson promised to keep the United States out of World War I in 1912 but took us to war in 1917.

Lyndon Johnson vowed that American boys would never be sent to Vietnam but reversed himself in 1965.

Ronald Reagan described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" that could not be trusted, then proceeded to negotiate the greatest reduction in nuclear weapons of all time.

Although the 21st century is just getting started, already the paradoxical pattern has continued. George W. Bush campaigned as an opponent of any sustained American role as global policeman. But his response to Sept. 11, 2001, made the United States a pre-emptive, unilateral world power with boundless global ambitions and responsibilities.

If you look at this pattern squarely, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, as often as not, what presidential candidates say to get elected has absolutely no predictive power about what they will actually do as president.

If you push the pattern to its outer limits, it suggests that presidential policies often end up contradicting campaign promises. And if you apply this logic to the current presidential campaigns, voters who regard American withdrawal from Iraq as their highest priority should not vote for any of the three leading Democrat candidates -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards - - but instead for Republican John McCain.

There is something perverse about this way of thinking and the pattern itself, though disarmingly frequent, is not surefire through history. But the reasons for its prevalence are rooted in two political realities that go all the way back to Jefferson's election.

First, campaigns are inherently exercises in propaganda and posturing, the posing of melodramatic choices usually defined by candidates' contorted exercises against stereotypical versions of the opposition. The real-world choices facing a president seldom fit into these operatic campaign categories. So picking a president is a little like picking a long-distance runner exclusively on the basis of his (or her) talent at running wind sprints.

A corollary is that it is almost impossible to know who can make the transition from candidate to president brilliantly, let alone successfully. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Race for President
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.