• Revision:Presidents of the United States of America

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Democrat


Politics:

Political Aims:

  • Federal Assistance to public schools;
  • Hospital insurance for the aged;
  • Legislation for housing;
  • Aid to depressed areas;
  • Increase in the minimum wage.

New Frontier: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”

Political Advantages:

  • Seemingly favourable congress, majorities in both House and Senate.
  • TV age – America’s Royal Family, Camelot.
  • People wanted more decisive, interventionist Gov’t after the leave alone years of Eik’s.
  • Had the support of Sam Rayburn (House Speaker) and LBJ.

Political Achievements:

  • Won crucial battle to increase House Rules Committee from 12 to 15. Helped Liberal/progressive legislation & LBJ’s Great Society.
  • Successful legislative record: 1961: 33/53; 1962: 40/54; 1963 35/58.
  • The creation of the Peace Corps (14,500) – linking of foreign and domestic policies.

Political Limitations:

  1. Narrow mandate, beat RN by just over 100,000 – but did have a larger electoral college victory.
  2. Foreign Policy was his main concern and causes distractions (Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis).
  3. Conservatism of the times (vs. Civil Rights).
  4. Congress, despite Democrat majorities the SD/Republican Conservative Coalition – stopped Progressive legislation & Filibusters etc.
  5. He was a Roman Catholic.
  6. His selections for top posts were hardly liberal – many (McNamara & Bundy) were both Republicans – but this helped create a more balanced cabinet and was very good, especially in relation to his limited mandate.

Historians:

  • “His Presidency fell short … but did embody Roosevelt and Truman legacies.” – Giglio.
  • “An unfinished Presidency.” – Dallek.
  • “The Boy Wonder” / “His thousand days were largely barren of legislative accomplishments.” – Graubard.

Conclusions:

  • Style or substance?
  • JFK aroused Liberal expectations but failed to overcome the entrenched power of the Conservative coalition in congress – Patterson.



Economics:

Economic Aims:

  • Economic policy was his number 1 domestic priority.
  • Wanted to appear pro-business, to promote investment and so economic growth above the 2.3% under Eik.
  • Believed (Republican-esqe) that unemployment was second to inflation – and inflation was much more politically dangerous (seemingly, RN thought differently).
  • Walter Heller Chair of the CEA – suggestion of corporate tax cuts (72% of Americans against this) – Heller believed in tax cuts, to promote spending and so, in effect bring in greater taxes – as well as economic expansion.
  • Disappointed Liberals such as Galbraith, calling it ‘reactionary Keynesianism’.

Economic Achievements:

  1. Effective handling of the Steel crisis (Heller – greatest threat to economic stability of his Presidency). Blough (Steel) McDonald (Unions). Managed to turn public opinion vs. Steel – worked in the short term.
  2. Minimum wage raised to $1.25, covered an additional 4 million workers.
  3. Trade Expansion Act (1962): First major bill since 1934. Expanded President’s ability to reduce tariffs to promote trade.
  4. 20% increase in spending in defence and space programmes – not deliberate, but promoted internal prosperity.

Economic Limitations:

  • Tax cuts not achieved. Revenue Bill passed the House in September 1963, but LBJ held them off in the Senate, possibly waiting for a more favourable congress – passed under him.

Conclusions:

  • Economy was strong, so the ‘Great Society’ could be paid for.
  • Economic legacy – short run deficits could stimulate economic growth, hence the reasons for his tax cuts.



Social:

Social Achievements:

  1. Omnibus 1963 Education Act – only improved Higher Education.
  2. Civil Rights – took a stand in 1963, after Birmingham – made televised address – first of its kind, totally devoted to the civil rights cause. RFK and Justice became involved in voting struggles in 145 counties, compared with 30 under Eik. Set up Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities – LBJ in charge.
  3. Poverty addressed in the minimum wage act, but laundry and 350,000 other workers were not covered. Depressed Areas Bill, four year programme for areas plagued by chronic unemployment. Soon ran out of money and impetus. Man power Development and Training Act (1962), established the retraining of workers with obsolete/inadequate skills.
  4. Women’s Rights – Equal Pay Act, 1963. Resulted in Executive order that ended sexual discrimination in the Civil Service.
  5. Housing Act, 1961. $4.88 billion to fund venture. Helped with homes for the elderly; college students and public housing for the poor.
  6. Mental Health Bill, 1962/3. Congress was very favourable towards it - $329 million in grants for facilities etc.
  7. Juvenile Delinquency (1961): Committee set up, gave £30 million to finance local projects, first incarnation of Community Action.

Social Limitations:

  • Education: Problem with lack of investment over previous years. Little achievement due to 3 R’s. School Assistance Bill, 1961 failed. JFK secretly favoured support for parochial schools, but could not come out in favour because of his religion. Cardinal Spellman called the bill ‘not fair and equitable’.
  • Civil Rights: He needed SD support (Richard J. Daley for instance). Was against Eik’s intervention in Little Rock 1957. Appointed four ardently segregationist Federal Judges in the Deep South, one called William Harold Cox called black people in the court room ‘niggers’ and openly compared them to Chimpanzees.
  • Medical Insurance: Failed due to opposition for the A.M.A.
  • Rural Areas Development (1962): Some effort, rural American remained practically unchanged during the JFK Presidency.

Conclusions:

  • Piecemeal actions only – but public arguably more aware of poverty and more liberal towards it.
  • ‘He was a little too conservative for my tastes’ – LBJ
  • ‘No new frontier’s’ – Patterson.

Lyndon Baines Johnson

Democrat

Image:Lyndon.jpg

Richard Milhous Nixon

Republican

Politics:

Political Aims:

  • Build a new Republican Majority – Southern Strategy.
  • Tough on crime.
  • Reluctant on Civil Rights.
  • Gain Support from sunbelt/suburbs – ‘silent Americans’.
  • New Federalism vs. Big Government of LBJ.
  • Vs. High taxes, bureaucracy, federal regulations, bussing.

Political Advantages:

  • Democrats divided over Vietnam.
  • LBJ did not stand for re-election.
  • RFK assassinated.

Political Achievements:

  • The 1972 Victory – 60% of popular vote.
  • Able to appeal to ‘silent majority’.
  • Some successes with ‘New Federalism’. The State and Local Assistance Act, 1972, $30billion spend as they wish.

Political Limitations:

  1. His character – Goldwater “most dishonest man I ever met.” Secret & suspicious. Sensitive to criticism and press.
  2. His team: Ehrlichman/Haldeman. The ‘Berlin Wall’. V.P. Spiro Agnew (1973 – Tax evasion/pay offs). Attorney General Mitchell - controversial, all attacked by press.
  3. Foreign Policy was his focus. Leaving Vietnam and establishing Détente. ‘Imperial Presidency’ – acted without consulting Congress. Secrecy and paranoia were the cause (critics). Blum: Centralised authority in White House beyond any precedent.
  4. Narrow Mandate in 1968. Won by only 1%, lowest share of the vote since Wilson, 1912. Did not gain HofR at the same time!
  5. Congress = bad relationship – used power of impounding funds more than any previous president.
  6. Watergate: CREEP / Pentagon Papers. Democrat HQ break-in, cover-ups, payments, tapes. Resigned August 1974 to avoid Impeachment – as well as keeping his tapes as a private individual! Approval ratings fell from 70% 1972, to 25% 1974.

Conclusions:Spiller: Significance of Watergate = not damage done to RN but damage to Presidency – imperilled presidency. Congress reassert its position. 1974 Mid-terms had a 38% turn out!



Economics:

Economic Aims:

  • Transition to more conservative economics (Morgan), mainly post 1972.

Nixonomics:

  • Grew more Conservative in response to increasing inflation. Stein, Chairman of CEA ‘Conservative men with Liberal ideas’. Pre-1972, key to RN’s economic policy was the need for re-election.
  • Stage I: Reduce inflation, without pushing unemployment above 4%, with moderate reductions in Gov’t expenditure. “I am a *Stage II: (1971) New Economic Policy, 90 day wage-price freeze, suspended dollars convertibility to gold. Did not particularly help as problems were mains structural. 1972, every effort made to create an economic boom for the election. Unemployment fell to just about 5%.
  • Stage III: Conservative stage, election won, inflation now the primary goal at the cost of unemployment. Impounded funds for social programs, seen as unconstitutional – made the case, when Watergate arose, stronger.

Economic Disadvantages:

  • Economy in decline, US share of world trade fallen from 25% (1948) – 10% (1970).
  • Heavy reliance upon foreign oil (38%). Energy crisis of 1973/4 – ‘Energy Pearl Harbour’. OPEC increases 400%.
  • Strong investment in plant modernisation in Japan, W. Germany, UK etc. creating higher rates of output – none in U.S.
  • U.S. spent more on defence than any of its trading competitors.
  • Foreign crop failures raise demand for US agricultural products, less for domestic, causing cycle of inflation, increase of two-thirds.
  • Periods of economic recession – 1969-70 / 1974-5. Unemployment very high in the Midwest/NE due to investment in the sunbelt in new areas such as plastics/electronics etc.
  • American companies forgot the importance of long term investment.

Economic Limitations:

  1. The Vietnam War – inherited inflationary pressures it caused.
  2. Stagflation – Recession of 1970, much worse than in 1973/4, once wage/price controls removed inflation rose to 11% (1974).
  3. Unemployment – 3.8% under LBJ, 5.4% 1970-4, 7% 1974-9.

Conclusions:

  • By early 1970, economic consensus disappearing, ideological divisions emerging (Dem. Unemployment / Rep. Inflation).
  • Real median family income down by 6%, it had doubled between 1947-73.
  • Partially due to domestic/international factors beyond RN control. Also, down to his short-sightedness and misjudgements.



Social:

Social context:

  • Social changes accelerated rapidly in the early 1960s, reshaping public policies of the mid 1960s.
  • Drugs, SDS, Environment, Feminism, Changes in sexual behaviour, rise in Conservative backlash against violence and social disorder, TV showed social divisions.

Social Aims:

  • Inaugural address: RN said he would ask for no further Civil Rights legislation. Favoured a retreat and slow down of desegregation of schools.
  • Denounced The Great Society – no desire to expand it.
  • Realised the only way to change his policies on crime/civil rights was to change the Supreme Court.

Social Achievements:

  1. School integration. Deserves some credit, but mainly forced into this position by the Supreme Court. Appointed a Cabinet Level Committee.
  2. Affirmative Action. (Philadelphia Plan).
  3. Changed the composition of the Supreme Court – Warren Burger.
  4. Native Americans.
  5. Environment. 1970 created the Environmental Protection Agency.
  6. Some Welfare progress: Despite FAP, Food Stamps up from 1million in 1968 to 17.1 million in 1975. Aid to the non-controversial blind, disabled, elderly etc.

Social Limitations:

  1. Delayed School Integration. Forced by the Supreme Court.
  2. Opposition to bussing. ‘A New evil…’ Wanted Ehrlichman to ‘jump all over’ HEW/Justice who were helping Civil Rights. “Do what the law requires and not one bit more.”
  3. Failure to pass the Family Assistance Plan (F.A.P.): Due to the Vietnam war, would have been extremely successful had it passed.
  4. Failure to create a comprehensive National Health Insurance: Called for a plan to cover all.

Conclusions:Social spending under RN increased 700%, making his the last of the big domestic spenders.

Gerald Ford

Republican

Politics:

  • To restore trust in the U.S. Gov’t, to demonstrate the new regime was respectable.
  • Ford: “I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances.”
  • Inaugural Speech tried to distance himself from Nixon/Watergate – “Our long nightmare is over.”
  • He saw himself as a moderate in domestic affairs, conservative in fiscal affairs and a ‘dyed-in-wool internationalist.”

Political Advantages:

  • He was respected and was willing to compromise.
  • He was trusted and respected by Congress.

Political Achievements:

  1. Restored Trust.
  2. The Nixon Pardon: Initially controversial, then seem as compassionate – ended the crisis quicker, but probably lost Ford the 1976 election.
  3. The 1976 Election: Given the Nixon inheritance, Ford must have done well to lose by only 49.9% to 47.9%.

Political Limitations:

  1. Had no mandate: Never elected to President/V.P. A reactive, imperilled Presidency, an illegitimate President.
  2. Politics was tainted: Watergate. Little trust in politicians or big Government. He was a Nixon appointee.
  3. Controversy over the Nixon Pardon (September 8th): Mistake? Lost him the election. “It was the right thing to do.” Media and Congress controversy – cover-up?
  4. Rockefeller as V.P.: Not liked by many in the GOP, seen as an Eastern Liberal Republican – a rich Plutocrat. Post the ‘Halloween Massacre’ – Bush Snr. (CIA); Dick Cheney (Chief of Staff) & Donald Rumsfeld (Defense) – shaped next generation of the GOP.
  5. Congress: Mid-term relations were marred by further Nixon information and CIA cover-ups. GOP share of the House fell to 139. Because opposing parties now controlled the Congress and the Executive – it was legislative gridlock. Ford also vetoed 66 bills – not the most – but many were important!
  6. Bungling mistakes: “a loser, a bumbler, a misfit.” Confused Iowa State University with Ohio. Stated in 1976 television debate, there is no Soviet Domination over Easter Europe…!
  7. Failed to continue the building of a new GOP majority in the sunbelt and suburbs: Could not speak the language of popular conservatism (he was moderate on abortion, ERA etc.) He also had a Liberal as VP! Graubard – ‘The Republican Party was split and Ford did not know how to bring it together!”
  8. Foreign Policy: Embarrassments, 1975, Fall of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos to Communism. Mayaguez and the comeback on that ship.
  9. The Media: Were more critical of Presidents post LBJ.

Economics:

Economic Aims:

  1. Curb inflation, now at 7% (WIN).
  2. Balance the budget – saw the social expenditures of the Great Society as having grown excessive and was responsible for the destabilising of the economy.
  3. Reduce Government.

Economic Advantages:

According to Iwan Morgan, he was the most knowledgeable President on economics, after spending much time on the Appropriations Committee.

Economic Disadvantages:

  • Unlucky, faced insurmountable economic problems, mastering inflation, reviving a depressed economy, solving the chronic energy shortages and ensuring world peace. Recession became the biggest problem within months.
  1. Increased fuel prices, 400% by OPEC in 1973.
  2. The world economic slowdown, as a result of the OPEC situation.
  3. Competitors: Japan, Germany & Common Market entering into US Trade.

Economic Limitations:

  1. Ford launched the WIN (Whip Inflation Now) campaign on TV to raised awareness of inflation. “The State of the Union is not good!”. Ford did the opposite to what many Liberals wanted – raised taxes and reduced Gov’t expenditure.
  2. The result? Recession! Ford had to go against his instincts, he allowed Congress to pass a multi-million dollar tax cut – this did not help balance the budget. Stagflation was now chronic – the worst since 1930s.
  3. Due to inflation the cost of living had doubled in the years 1968-78.
  4. Interest rates were at record heights.
  5. Foreign competitors threatened the US, even the car industry, Japanese Cars were more efficient, which in the current climate meant that they sold more! Detroit etc. = bad.

Conclusions:

  • By 1976, the two candidates were furthest apart on the economy.
  • GOP: Inflation as the No. 1 destroyer of jobs. Wanted to reduce Gov’t expenditure.
  • Democrats: Full employment was the solution, promised to enact the Humphrey-Hawkins bill – for full employment. Popular with unions and workers.
  • Times were changing, Ford’s success with inflation nearly carried him into office, many also supported his view that inflation was more important than unemployment.



Social:

Social Achievements:

  1. Greater spending in Medicaid and Food Stamps, as a consequence poor rates fell.
  2. Civil Rights: A greater black middle class was appearing , although much of this would have been due to LBJ’s work during the 1960s.
  3. Health:
    1. The death rate fell from 9.5 per 1000 in 1970, to 8.6 in 1983.
    2. Congress increased appropriations for Social security, particularly helping the disabled and OAPs.
  4. Women entered different professions.

Social Limitations:

  1. Due to inflation, the cost of living had doubled between 1968-78.
  2. Decline of the nuclear family, with high divorce rates, 50% of A.A. familes were female headed (20% of white families were) and abortion and promiscuity were rising. As a result of the ‘swinging sixties?’
  3. He showed little interest in racial/urban problems – used his veto to block important legislation on housing, health and education.
  4. The ‘ME’ decade – little interest in social reforms or cultural reforms – narcissism. – Conservatism of the age; -Campuses quiet; People did not want major change to their lives.
  5. Female incomes were still 2/3 their male counterparts.
  6. There was an increase in violent crime – what the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, called ‘An American Epidemic’.


Key:

GOP: Grand Old Party (The Republican Party) A.A. African Americans. R.N. Richard Nixon. Eik Dwight Eisenhower, President prior to JFK. VP Vice President WIN Ford slogan - 'Whip Inflation Now'. CEA Committee of Economic Advisers. RFK Robert (Bobby) Fitzgerald Kennedy (Brother of JFK). AMA American Medical Association. ERA Equal Rights Act.

Names randomly quoted (i.e. Morgan; Giglio; Graubard; etc.) are those of Historian and their interpretations.

Comments

Revision notes for A2 study of Domestic Policies of the USA (specifically for AQA - but applicable to other boards).

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