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Hail to the Chief: U.S. Presidents

February 17


George Washington: The Father of American Intelligence?

"George Washington, father of our country, is also considered by those of us in this discipline the father of American intelligence," explains Peter Earnest, executive director of the International Spy Museum. "He had an acute sense of the need for accurate and timely intelligence. He did not want secondhand information."

Gordon Wood: Why George Washington Didn't End Slavery

American historian Gordon Wood describes how George Washinton's ego and reputation as a war hero made the president hesitate to emancipate his slaves.

Abraham Lincoln: Unqualified President to National Hero

Focusing on his innovative public letters, Professor and author Douglas Wilson discusses Abraham Lincoln's rise from rural politician to President of the United States to national icon.

Meacham: Why Jefferson Gave Up the Fight Against Slavery

Author Jon Meacham details how Thomas Jefferson fought to change slavery in the United States early in his political career. Following a series of defeats on the issue, however, he failed to take it up again.

Is the Comparison Between Lincoln and Obama Useful?

TV writer and producer Rob Long discusses the comparison of Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln. "If he's compared to Lincoln," Long says, "it's more like the mini-Lincoln, because these are like mini-problems; they're not that big."

Henry Louis Gates: Lincoln for Abolishment, not Equality

Henry Louis Gates Jr. says though Lincoln "never wavered about slavery," he did not view blacks and white as equals.

Gates reads a Lincoln quote from 1858: "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about, in any way, the social and political equality of the white and black races."

Burton & McPherson on Abe Lincoln's Leadership Style

O. Vernon Burton and James McPherson believe Abraham Lincoln's sensitivity, compassion, and "ability to get along with people he disagreed with" set him apart as a leader.

Jon Meacham: Andrew Jackson Was Capable of 'Great Evil'

According to Newsweek editor and author Jon Meacham, Andrew Jackson was simultaneously capable of "great good" and "great evil."

Although Jackson was an "unrepentant slave holder," Meacham contextualizes Jackson in his time, and says "one generation's acknowledged fact is another generation's clear evil."

Ronald Reagan: How an 'Amiable Dunce' Changed America

Professor Vernon Bogdanor traces Ronald Reagan's rise from movie star to influential US president.

While Reagan wasn't as intellectual as other presidents, Bogdanor says, "His ideas made the weather."

Bill Clinton: Using Strength in Numbers to Problem-Solve

Citing Edward Wilson's book, "The Social Conquest of Earth," President Clinton explains why creative cooperators are often the most successful in coming together to solve problems, in both government and in the private sector.

Reflecting on George W Bush: Similar to Truman or Reagan?

Land of Lincoln author Andrew Ferguson and TV writer and producer Rob Long discuss the comparison of George W. Bush to Harry Truman and also address the difficulty conservatives have talking about the former President.

Henry Louis Gates on Lincoln, Obama,and Race

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. thinks Abraham Lincoln would have a "heart attack" if he came back to life and found America had elected a black president, though Gates believes the former President would find the two men have much in common.

Gates says, "Both are committed to transcending ideology and bringing people together."

Is the President's Power to Kill Enemies Limited?

Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, argues that presidential orders to kill enemy citizens abroad go beyond the law.  Law professor Michael Lewis claims that Pakistan cannot police some regions of the country so the U.S. has to.

About this series

Who'd want to be president, anyway? Being the leader of the free world is by far the most taxing, unforgiving job in America, and even the renowned and well-respected presidents, the faces on money, have led turbulent terms in office. On Presidents' Day, we honor the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln, and those brave enough to do the work of being president. Hail to the Chief.

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