Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today

Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today

by James M. Banner (Editor)


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Named a best book of the year by The Economist and Foreign Affairs

“A whole book devoted exclusively to the misconduct of American presidents and their responses to charges of misconduct is without precedent.” —from the introduction to the 1974 edition by C. Vann Woodward, Pulitzer Prize–winning Yale historian

The historic 1974 report for the House Committee on the Judiciary, updated for today by leading presidential historians

In May 1974, as President Richard Nixon faced impeachment following the Watergate scandal, the House Judiciary Committee commissioned a historical account of the misdeeds of past presidents. The account, compiled by leading presidential historians of the day, reached back to George Washington’s administration and was designed to provide a benchmark against which Nixon’s misdeeds could be measured.

What the report found was that, with the exception of William Henry Harrison (who served less than a month), every American president has been accused of misconduct: James Buchanan was charged with rigging the election of 1856; Ulysses S. Grant was reprimanded for not firing his corrupt staffer, Orville Babcock, in the “Whiskey Ring” bribery scandal; and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration faced repeated charges of malfeasance in the Works Progress Administration.

Now, as another president and his subordinates face an array of charges on a wide range of legal and constitutional offenses, a group of presidential historians has come together under the leadership of James M. Banner, Jr.—one of the historians who contributed to the original report—to bring the 1974 account up to date through Barack Obama’s presidency. Based on current scholarship, this new material covers such well-known episodes as Nixon’s Watergate crisis, Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal, Clinton’s impeachment, and George W. Bush’s connection to the exposure of intelligence secrets. But oft-forgotten events also take the stage: Carter’s troubles with advisor Bert Lance, Reagan’s savings and loan crisis, George H.W. Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and Obama’s Solyndra loan controversy.

The only comprehensive study of American presidents’ misconduct and the ways in which chief executives and members of their official families have responded to the charges brought against them, this new edition is designed to serve the same purpose as the original 1974 report: to provide the historical context and metric against which the actions of the current administration may be assessed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620975497
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 75,439
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

A Guggenheim Award–winning historian, James M. Banner, Jr., was on the Princeton faculty in 1974 when he contributed to the presidential misconduct report and is now an independent historian in Washington, DC. He was a co-founder of the History News Service, a moving spirit behind the National History Center, the author of many books, including Being a Historian, and the editor of Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today (The New Press).

Table of Contents

A Measure of Executive Misdeeds James M. Banner, Jr. ix

Acknowledgments xxi

The Conscience of the White House C. Vann Woodward xxiii

A Note on the Text xxxix

George Washington (1789-1797) Lance Banning 1

John Adams (1797-1801) Lance Banning 21

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) James M. Banner, Jr. 29

James Madison (1809-1817) James M. Banner, Jr. 43

James Monroe (1817-1825) James M. Banner, Jr. 45

John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) Richard E. Ellis 53

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) Richard E. Ellis 59

Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) Richard E. Ellis 67

William Henry Harrison (March-April, 1841) and John Tyler (1841-1845) Michael F. Holt 69

James K. Polk (1845-1849) Michael F. Holt 81

Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) Michael F. Holt 83

Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) Michael F. Holt 87

Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) Michael F. Holt 89

James Buchanan (1857-1861) Michael F. Holt 93

Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) Stephen B. Oates 105

Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) William S. McFeely 117

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) William S. McFeely 125

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) John G. Sproat 153

James A. Garfield (1881) John G. Sproat 165

Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) John G. Sproat 169

Grover Cleveland (first term: 1885-1889) R. Hal Williams 175

Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) R. Hal Williams 179

Grover Cleveland (second term: 1893-1897) R. Hal Williams 185

William McKinley (1897-1901) John G. Sproat 189

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) John W. Chambers 195

William Howard Taft (1909-1913) John W. Chambers 223

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) John W. Chambers 233

Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) Robert P. Ingalls 247

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) Robert P. Ingalls 261

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) Robert P. Ingalls 275

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) James Boylan 283

Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) James Boylan 301

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) Mark I. Gelfand 323

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) Mark I. Gelfand 347

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) Mark I. Gelfand 359

Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974) Kathryn S. Olmsted Eric Rauchway 371

Gerald R. Ford, Jr. (1974-1977) Joan Hoff 389

James E. Carter, Jr. (1977-1981) Kevin M. Kruse 395

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) Jeremi Suri 405

George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) Kathryn S. Olmsted Eric Rauchway 421

William J. Clinton (1993-2001) Kathryn Cramer Brownell 431

George W. Bush (2001-2009) Kathryn S. Olmsted Eric Rauchway 451

Barack Obaina (2009-2017) Allan J. Lichtman 465

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