Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

This Week in History: Reagan Targeted in Assassination Attempt

Photograph of President Reagan waving to crowds immediately before being shot in an assassination attempt

Photograph of President Reagan waving to crowds immediately before being shot in an assassination attempt, Washington Hilton Hotel, March 30, 1981. Photo Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

On March 30, 1981, barely two months into his presidency, President Ronald Reagan was the target of an assassination attempt, which left him and three others seriously wounded. Press Secretary James Brady suffered a gunshot wound to the head that would leave him permanently injured, while Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the chest and Washington, DC police officer Thomas Delahanty was hit near the spine. As Reagan was rushed to George Washington University Hospital for emergency surgery, administration aides downplayed the severity of the injuries. However, inside the operating room, the situation was anything but humorous as Reagan lost nearly half his blood supply and had to endure hours of surgery to remove a bullet lodged less than an inch from his heart.

The Reagan Oral History Project examined this event with each participant that was in the administration at the time of the shooting. Read on for excerpts of these officials' reactions to the assassination attempt and how each responded to the early phase of the crisis.

Calvin Coolidge: That Vision Thing

Official Presidential portrait of Calvin Coolidge

Official Presidential portrait of Calvin Coolidge by Charles Syndey Hopinknson, 1932. PD.

Amity Shlaes new book, Coolidge, has proven that it is vital to examine all the presidents, even the obscure, to fully appreciate historical developments we see today.  Shlaes asks why such a popular president in his own time became largely forgotten.  She argues two main points: his personality was not a big one, especially compared to the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson, and Coolidge’s presidency focused on economics, mainly reducing the federal debt after World War One.  There are other factors, as well.  Coolidge’s reputation got trashed when the Warren Harding administration faced many scandals and people blamed both Coolidge and Herbert Hoover for the Great Depression.  People wanted to forget that past. In his book, Calvin Coolidge, David Greenberg adds another important element to this discussion: Coolidge did not have much of a vision for his presidency.  Robert Sobel, in his 1998 book, Coolidge: An American Enigma, also argues that the popular perception of Coolidge is as an accidental president, someone who had no agenda. Coolidge was buried under a new active presidency that began with Theodore Roosevelt and was fully realized by his cousin Franklin. 

Sobel writes that Coolidge believed in a “passive executive branch” (pp. 14).  For Shlaes, “Coolidge is our great refrainer” (pp. 9).  For modern readers, this is hard to comprehend, a president who does not act or waits to act.  This usually means trouble for a modern president. 

Shlaes correctly draws our attention to the fact that Coolidge did do something. Coolidge wanted to balance the books.  He represented fiscal discipline in an environment where people around him, mainly members of Congress and Hoover, wanted to spend federal dollars.  Yes, you read correctly, Herbert Hoover.  Near the end of his term, Coolidge did not favor Hoover, because he worried that Hoover would ruin his budget legacy by spending money on the Colorado River dam project, among others.  By the time Coolidge left office in 1929, he had managed to cut over $10 billion of debt in eight years.  To do this, he had daily meetings with his budget director, Herbert Lord, held the line against Congressional spending, and spent a large amount of political capital on tax reductions with the help of Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon.

Rethinking the Triangle: Washington-Beijing-Taipei

This week, the Miller Center will host an international workshop on "Rethinking the Triangle: Washington-Beijing-Taipei.” The workshop is an attempt to bring the three sides of the Washington-Beijing-Taipei triangle together to discuss the possibility of moving from the Cold War model of an exclusive security triangle to a more realistic inclusive, opportunity-driven triangle. Public sessions on Thursday, March 28 will feature three perspectives from experts from China, Taiwan, and the United States in an attempt to explore a new paradigm for these interrelationships based on inclusiveness and opportunity rather than each hedging against increasingly unlikely crises.

Brantly Womack, the Miller Center’s C. K. Yen Chair, Professor of Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia and the workshop’s organizer, recently published an article in the Asia Times Online explaining the need to rethink the relationship between China, Taiwan and the United States. Although the Cold War defined the relationship between the three states for several decades, since 2008, the relationships have become fundamentally unstable and more complex. According to Womack:

The rivalry in the relationship between Washington and Beijing has become more global but also more cautious since each needs the other in many facets of global governance.

Meanwhile, the relationship across the Taiwan Strait has become a mainstay of Taiwan's economic prospects, and avoiding crisis is now vital to the careers of the leadership on both sides. The Washington-Taiwan relationship was strained by the brinksmanship of Chen Shui-bian, president of Taiwan from 2000 to 2008, and currently doubts are raised about continuing arms sales.

Meanwhile, China has developed the military capacity to render American military assistance to Taiwan either ineffective or too costly. Thus many American analysts consider "the Taiwan problem" the greatest strategic flashpoint in Asia.

Womack argues that the relationships between the states have been too focused on the security aspect and should instead shift to creating new opportunities. Womack asserts that the United States can take concrete steps to facility the transition from a security triangle to an opportunity triangle.

Friday Feature: Did you know?

In Barack Obama's biography, The Audacity of Hope, the figures he praised most, except for Franklin D. Roosevelt, were Republican icons: Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan.

Read more from a freshly-updated essay in American President.

Reagan’s Missile Defense Vision Lives On

Ronald Reagan Addresses the Nation on National Security, March 23, 1983

Thirty years ago, President Ronald Reagan delivered an address to the nation on national security. On March 23, 1983, President Reagan used the bully pulpit of the presidency to convince the American public that Congress was cutting too much from his proposed defense budget. Reagan asserted that his increased defense budget, which he had submitted to Congress the previous month, was designed as “part of a careful, long-term plan to make America strong again after too many years of neglect and mistakes.” He urged the public to lobby Congress to “restore” the nation’s military strength:

There is no logical way that you can say, let's spend x billion dollars less. You can only say, which part of our defense measures do we believe we can do without and still have security against all contingencies? Anyone in the Congress who advocates a percentage or a specific dollar cut in defense spending should be made to say what part of our defenses he would eliminate, and he should be candid enough to acknowledge that his cuts mean cutting our commitments to allies or inviting greater risk or both…

The calls for cutting back the defense budget come in nice, simple arithmetic. They're the same kind of talk that led the democracies to neglect their defenses in the 1930's and invited the tragedy of World War II. We must not let that grim chapter of history repeat itself through apathy or neglect.

In addition to outlining his budget to bolster defenses, Reagan announced a new major program, the Strategic Defense Initiative (also known as “Star Wars”), as part of the president’s broader efforts to build up America’s defense image. The president framed the need for SDI as providing defense from the threat posed by Soviet missiles. While Reagan believed that the United States should continue to negotiate with the former Soviet Union on the mutual reductions of nuclear weapons, he also believed that steps were necessary to deter aggression by means other than the promise of retaliation. President Reagan had come to abhor the policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD). He told the nation:

My predecessors in the Oval Office have appeared before you on other occasions to describe the threat posed by Soviet power and have proposed steps to address that threat. But since the advent of nuclear weapons, those steps have been increasingly directed toward deterrence of aggression through the promise of retaliation…

I've become more and more deeply convinced that the human spirit must be capable of rising above dealing with other nations and human beings by threatening their existence. Feeling this way, I believe we must thoroughly examine every opportunity for reducing tensions and for introducing greater stability into the strategic calculus on both sides.

This Day In History: The Cancer Close to the Presidency

Portrait of White House Counsel John Dean

Portrait of John Dean, counsel to the President, May 7, 1973. Photo courtsey of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Forty years ago today, White House Counsel John Dean told President Richard Nixon, “We have a cancer within-close to the presidency, that's growing.”  During a taped conversation, Dean recapped the history of the bungled bugging and burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters and the subsequent cover-up for the President. Dean advised Nixon to remove the cancer by coming clean to the public on the Watergate scandals, otherwise his presidency would be in danger. Instead, Nixon continued the cover-up and doled out hush money in attempts at damage control, and Dean’s warning proved painfully correct.

Listen to the “Cancer Close to the Presidency” conversation in the Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Program archives here.

Reflecting on Iraq at Ten Years

Montage of Iraq War Images.

Clockwise from top: Delta Force of Task Force 20 alongside troops of 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, at Uday Hussain and Qusay Hussein’s hideout.; Iraqi insurgents in northern Iraq; an Iraqi insurgent firing a MANPADS; the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue in Firdos Square. PD.

Today’s guest post is by Nicholas Sparks, a Miller Center Student Ambassador and intern in the Presidential Recording Program. Sparks is a fourth year student studying History, Political Philosophy, Policy and Law at the University of Virginia.

This week marks the tenth anniversary Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 20, 2003, a U.S.-led invasion force entered Iraq through the Persian Gulf and began to secure southern port cities and oil fields in a quick and decisive operation. By April 9, Baghdad had fallen and Saddam Hussein’s 24-year reign was over. The Iraq War, however, would not end until late 2011, by which time it had claimed countless Iraqi lives, over 4,400 American lives, and cost the U.S. economy trillions of dollars, not to mention other geopolitical side effects.

For good or for bad, the War in Iraq will forever be tied to the legacy of President George W. Bush. In his last year in office, Bush marked the ongoing war’s fifth anniversary by praising the coalitions forces that had “removed a tyrant, liberated a country, and rescued millions from unspeakable horrors.” Explaining broad, long-term strategic goals, Bush argued that by nurturing democracy in Iraq, “we will help free societies take root [in the Middle East].” He had stressed similar themes in his 2004 State of the Union address, framing the mission as a means of building goodwill and defeating seeds of terrorism in the region. “As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny and despair and anger,” Bush explained, “it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends.”

Ten years later, Operation Iraqi Freedom leaves a complicated legacy for many Americans. Liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman remembers the lack of critical media coverage during the initial months of the invasion in 2003. To oppose the war in the media ten years ago, Krugman writes, was a “career-ending” decision. International news outlets continue to grapple with the ramifications of the Iraq War as well. This month, for instance, London-based The Guardian reported a public inquiry regarding the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by British and American forces in 2004. More noticeable, though, is the general lack of intense media coverage of the anniversary. Krugman calls it suspect. Perhaps it is the product of a people that is eager to move on.

Leffler Assesses Bush Administration’s History and Legacy Ten Years after the Invasion of Iraq

President George W. Bush addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House Wednesday evening, March 19, 2003

President George W. Bush addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House Wednesday evening, March 19, 2003, announcing the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. PD-USGOV-POTUS

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq. In a new article for Diplomatic History, Melvyn P. Leffler, Faculty Associate in the Miller Center’s GAGE Program and Edward Stettinius Professor of American History in the History Department at the University of Virginia, reviews what officials from the George W. Bush administration have written about selective key foreign policy events during the administration. Leffler acknowledges that while memoirs can be self-serving, they can also offer “valuable insights into the motives, thoughts hopes, fears and personal relationships within an administration.” In the article, Leffler highlights areas of agreement and disagreement between the officials. He also assesses the foreign policy decision-making process in the administration and the leadership style of the president.

According to Leffler, Bush administration officials generally agree that foreign policy was not a top priority when they entered office. Rather, the Bush administration’s main agenda focused on tax cuts and education reform. With regards to national security, the main focus centered on accelerating the ballistic missile defense program and transforming the Pentagon. “Nowhere in these memoirs,” writes Leffler, “is there any indication that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Ashcroft or Rice assigned high priority to a prospective terrorist attack, an omission that would come to haunt administration officials, and no one more than Rice.” After the September 11, 2011 attacks, the overriding concern of President Bush and officials in his administration was to prevent another attack. The memoirs also reveal that after the attack, the administration operated under fear and deep uncertainty.

Despite accounts otherwise, Leffler shows that the memoirs reveal that planning for the war in Iraq only began in the wake of 9/11, the anthrax scares and signs that al Qeada might have been seeking WMD. Leffler finds that not all administration officials believed that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 or even necessarily to al Qaeda. While Vice President Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz did believe it, President Bush did not and Donald Rumsfeld was uncertain. Meanwhile CIA analyst Paul Pillar, Richard Clarke and Colin Powell thought it was nonsense. However, the Bush administration was convinced that they had reason to act and they were impelled by a sense of power to do so. According to Leffler, the memoirs inadvertently illuminate:

the hubris and self-confidence of officials who believed the country had been savagely attacked, and who felt they had the power and right to wage war, wreak revenge, topple defiant (and much weaker) regimes, and spread American values and institutions – values and institutions that in their view had proven their vitality and appeal in the victories over communism, fascism and Nazism.

This Day in History: LBJ Proposes Voting Rights Legislation

Lyndon B. Johnson, Speech Before Congress on Voting Rights, March 15, 1965

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress and called for new legislation to guarantee every American’s right to vote. LBJ delivered the address on March 15 in response to events in Selma, Alabama that were the political and emotional peak of the civil rights movement. Just eight days earlier on March 7, 1965, also known as Bloody Sunday, some 600 civil rights demonstrators had set out to march from Selma. They were stopped after just six blocks and violently suppressed by state and local lawmen who attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas. In separate episodes around Selma, two demonstrators – a young black man and white minister – were also killed by white men. On March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a “symbolic” march to the bridge where the march had been suppressed. Then, civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third march from Selma to Montgomery. Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. ruled:

The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups … and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.

On March 21, about 3,200 demonstrators set out for Montgomery and by the time they reached the capitol four days later, some 22,000 had joined them.

In his speech on March 15, 1965, President Johnson referred to the significance of Selma:

At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem. Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have the right to vote...Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes... No law that we now have on the books...can insure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it... There is no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong--deadly wrong--to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of States' rights or National rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.

Christopher P. Loss: Keep LBJ’s ‘Door to Education’ Open

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week, former Miller Center National Fellow and assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University Christopher P. Loss makes the case for keeping the door to education open. The Higher Education Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, is up for reauthorization this year. When he signed the bill, LBJ remarked:

The president's signature upon this legislation passed by this Congress will swing open a new door for the young people of America. For them, and for this entire land of ours, it is the most important door that will ever open — the door to education.

The landmark $3 billion act provided aid for land grant urban extension programs; assistance for construction projects; created the Teachers Corps; lent support to historically black colleges; and provided student assistance in the form of work study, loans and grants that revolutionized college-going in the U.S.

According Loss, this year, for the first time in recent memory there exists genuine concern that the door the act opened is starting to shut:

The "cost crisis" in higher education, now more than four decades in the making, has finally come home to roost.

Loss argues that various plans to “reform” higher education aid by tying aid to cost, value and quality — that is, to outcomes and accountability rather than access and opportunity — will not only hurt poor students but the entire higher education system. Instead, Loss proposes:

[W]e should mine the past for approaches that we know will keep "the door to education" open. The Pell Grant should be expanded and restored to its full purchasing power. To pay for it, regressive education tax credits favoring high earners should be abandoned and along with it financial aid to for-profit education providers, where the dropout, debt and default rates are highest and always have been. Colleges should be required to provide applicants with easy access to real pricing information to help with the choice process. And the income-based loan repayment program should be streamlined and a national service program created to put college graduates to work. After all, we don’t just need doctors, lawyers, engineers, and scientists; we also need teachers, artists, historians, and community organizers.

Read the entire article at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Immigration Federalism: Why It Matters for National Reform

In the wake of the 2012 election, immigration reform is one of the seemingly most critical priorities for both Republicans and the Obama administration. Yet, immigration remains one of the most divisive issues in politics today. Given the partisan differences over approaches to immigration reform and ongoing divisions within both parties, it is unclear what, if any, major federal reforms can actually be achieved in Barack Obama’s second term. While the nation waits for a breakthrough on immigration reform, states and local governments have increasingly taken on responsibilities pertaining to immigration in response to the failure of the federal government to act. Last week, the Miller Center hosted a GAGE colloquium featuring Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University, who discussed immigration federalism and the prospects for policy innovation and change as a result of state and local involvement. Swain argued that “state invention can be a positive force for change because it offers new possibilities for innovative policy solutions” and that “state action can become the needed boost that Congress needs to stop kicking the can down the road and begin to exercise its power under the Supremacy Clause to reform the policy.”

Swain argued that the rise in state action on immigration has been the result of a growing incentive to be involved as states respond to the necessity of local enforcement, the lack of federal enforcement, and the need to integrate new immigrants into their societies. According to Swain, changes in immigration patterns have brought noncitizens into new regions of the country and the cost of unauthorized immigration has fallen unevenly across levels of government. Furthermore, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal government has increasingly relied on states to assist with immigration law enforcement.

This Day in History: Roosevelt Delivers First Fireside Chat

Title 	Franklin D. Roosevelt having a fireside chat in Washington, D.C.

Title Franklin D. Roosevelt having a fireside chat in Washington, D.C., April 28, 1935. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration. PD.

Eighty years ago today, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the first “fireside chat” evening radio address to the nation. By the time of his inauguration the week before, nearly all of the banks in the nation had temporarily closed in response to mass withdrawals by a panicked public. In the March 12, 1933 “fireside chat,” Roosevelt sought to calm the nation’s fears and outlined his plan to restore confidence in the banking system. As he would in future addresses, FDR used common language to explain the complex problem that had developed and what the administration was doing about it. Roosevelt told the nation:

I want to tell you what has been done in the last few days, why it was done, and what the next steps are going to be. I recognize that the many proclamations from State Capitols and from Washington, the legislation, the Treasury regulations, etc., couched for the most part in banking and legal terms should be explained for the benefit of the average citizen. I owe this in particular because of the fortitude and good temper with which everybody has accepted the inconvenience and hardships of the banking holiday. I know that when you understand what we in Washington have been about I shall continue to have your cooperation as fully as I have had your sympathy and help during the past week.

After explaining the problem and the administration’s actions, FDR made an appeal for the public’s sympathy and support, soliciting trust and contributing to a sense of national unity in confronting the crisis:

After all there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work.
It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail.

In all, Roosevelt delivered thirty “fireside chat” radio addresses between 1933 and 1944. FDR used the new form of communication to reshape the presidency and the chats were a significant development in building a direct and intimate bond between the president and the public.

This Day in History: Reagan Delivers “Evil Empire” Speech

President Ronald Rean delivers “Evil Empire” Speech, March 8, 1983

Thirty years ago today, Ronald Reagan delivered one of his most influential addresses to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, referring to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and calling the Soviets “the focus of evil in the modern world.” In the decades before his presidency, Reagan had read and thought deeply about American foreign policy and brought with him to the White House a number of strong convictions. He regarded Communism as an immoral and destructive ideology and believed that the Soviet Union was bent on world domination. Reagan told the audience on March 8, 1983:

They preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth. They are the focus of evil in the modern world....

Reagan used the speech to lobby the evangelical group to support the administration’s peace through strength approach to negotiating with the Soviet Union and to oppose a “nuclear freeze” that Congress was debating at the time. The Congressional resolution in support of a "nuclear freeze” would have prevented the deployment of U.S. cruise and Pershing II Missiles in Europe. Reagan made the case for deploying NATO nuclear-armed missiles in Western Europe as a response to the Soviets installing new nuclear-armed missiles in Eastern Europe.

Using the bully pulpit of the presidency, Reagan told the crowd:

The truth is that a freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength…

So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.

Carl Hayden: From County Sheriff to U.S. Senator

Carl Hayden, Sheriff of Maricopa County

Carl Hayden, pictured here as sheriff of Maricopa County. PD.

On a recent trip to Mesa, Arizona, I found myself at the Natural History Museum.  Most of the museum is in the old city hall building where one exhibit was the territorial jail, an intimidating series of metal prison cells.  A sign hanging on the wall read that Carl Hayden was once sheriff of Maricopa County from 1907-1912.  Wait…I know that name as my political history brain began to click.  After some quick digging, I was impressed by the fact that Hayden and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii were the only 20th century politicians who saw their territory become a state, became their state’s first Representative in the House, and served long terms in Congress. 

Hayden’s state-wide political career took off, in part, because he was sheriff.  He got to know the law enforcement and court officials who would help him win a seat in the House of Representatives in 1912.  Hayden then served as Senator from 1927 until his retirement in 1969 – 56 consecutive years.  It is unusual to have such longevity, but also to experience the vast changes in the country while serving in Congress.  When he left the sheriff’s office, Maricopa County was a quiet farming community.  By the time he departed the Senate, Hayden left a considerable legacy, mainly from the federal highway system and the Central Arizona Project that brought water to Arizona from the Colorado River, thus creating modern Arizona as we know it. Both of these issues are back in the headlines today as the state’s population nearly doubled in the last two decades, now at over 6 million people.  Traffic congestion and air pollution remain a concern, especially in the state’s population center, Maricopa County. Furthermore, Arizona could face water shortages due to climate change and growing demand.

In our Presidential Recordings series at the Miller Center, we hear a couple of interactions between Senator Hayden and President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.  This was a crucial year as Johnson was facing Arizona’s junior senator, Barry Goldwater, in the 1964 presidential election.  In one conversation, Johnson asked Hayden for help in Arizona, but Goldwater won the state anyway.  However, Goldwater managed to win only five other states in the wake of Johnson’s landslide.

Hitchcock: Obama’s National Security Policy Resembles Eisenhower’s

General Dwight Eisenhower during his visit in Warsaw

General Dwight Eisenhower during his visit in Warsaw, capital of Poland. Picture taken on the Old Town Square, destroyed in 1944 by German forces after supression of Warsaw Uprising (1944). Photo by the Central Photographic Agency (CAF) in Warsaw. PD

Will Hitchcock, the Miller Center’s new director of research and scholarship, was interviewed by CNN this week for an article comparing Barack Obama’s national security policy to that of Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to Hitchcock, Obama would like to keep the United States out of war, “pursue peace through strength and cut defense spending. Those are all things that Eisenhower would have approved.” Eisenhower also understood the devastating effects of war. According to Hitchcock, the former general “didn't want to be drawn into a conflict whose outcome he couldn't predict. He is not a guy who says avoid war at all costs; he would say pick your fights and make sure you can win them completely.” Although he has not had any military experience, Obama has turned to people, such as Chuck Hagel and John Kerry, with similar beliefs and positions as Eisenhower.

One of the biggest differences between Eisenhower and Obama is in their approach to cutting military spending. Hitchcock noted that Eisenhower entered the White House as an expert in world affairs and knew the military establishment well. According to Hitchcock:

That is a big deal. Eisenhower almost felt that he knew how to push around the military establishment. He told them he was going to cut the military budget and he did and they complained, but he wouldn't let them boss him around.

But Obama has yet to follow suit, Hitchcock said:

Obama is not a budget hawk; maybe his hands are tied, but he hasn't been a budget hawk. He wants to cut the defense budgets now that the wars are coming to an end, but it is not as if the defense spending is driving the war strategy.

Read the full article, “Obama's national security policy resembles Eisenhower’s,” on CNN.com. For more on Eisenhower’s foreign and national security policy, be sure to join us at the Miller Center on March 21st for The Gordon and Mary Beth Smyth Forum on American History featuring Evan Thomas, who will discuss his book, Ike’s Bluff.