Thursday, October 23, 2008

What We're Reading - The Failures of the Presidents.

With our current Presidential election quickly approaching, the publication of Failures of the presidents : from the Whiskey Rebellion and War of 1812 to the Bay of Pigs and war in Iraq by Thomas J. Craughwell with M. William Phelps arrives as a timely reminder of good intentions with bad results. Chronologically arranged, the authors move through 20 Presidential decisions that, upon reflection and historical context, leave their maker with a bit of egg upon their face. Concise chapters are around 15 pages in length and provide an overview of the circumstances that led to the fateful decisions, the decision that was made and the consequences and effects of the decisions.

Decisions chosen include many that one can easily guess [Watergate, Internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and the Bay of Pigs Invasion] to some lesser known, yet equally bad decisions [Cleveland and the Pullman strike and Grant's attempt at annexing Santo Domingo]. Another interesting item was how many of our better Presidents are among those who made poor decisions; Washington, F.D.R, and Jefferson are represented along with those who generally make the short list of poor Presidents [Grant, Hoover and Pierce]. Special kudos to both Nixon and Carter for being the only two Presidents to receive two chapters apiece.

The saying, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it" seems apt for this interesting book and hopefully our soon-to-be elected President will read this and avoid any decisions that will be included in the next edition!

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