American Presidents

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  1. Franklin Roosevelt
    Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) was president from 1933 until 1945, he was a Democrat.

    • Domestic policy:
    • -Extended power of the president, was also the longest serving president ever, face WW2 and the Great Depression. He also started Imperial Presidency.
    • -Started the New Deal program to bring social welfare into America. 
    • -Created the Executive office to control the many agencies working for the White House.
    • -The first President ever to be seen on Television and to use public radio. 
  2. Harry Truman
    Harry S Truman was Vice President to FDR, he was a strong leader, sympathized with the poor and had simple tastes. He was president from 1945-1953

    • Domestic policy:
    • -Truman had problems in congress, the Dixiecrat (southern democrats) disagreed with his social reform plan.
    • -The 1948 Presidential election saw Truman take on Dewey, Truman gained the support of the normal Americans and the civil-rights activists.
    • -The Fair Deal policy built on the new deal policy. It improved wage, healthcare, public works schemes, public housing and slum clearance. Further involvement in education was rejected.
    • -Economy was prosperous, Truman also set up the GI bill of rights to help War veterans get housing and education.
    • -Truman ended racial discrimination in federal employment and ended segregation of the US army.
    • -With the growth of communist fears senator McCarthy created a "red scare" sparking HUAC and the Federal Loyalty boards to ensure no communists were part of government.
  3. Foreign policy:
    • Soviet Union
    • -Truman dropped the atomic bomb in WW2. This led to the policy of deterrence in America, the policy was to have a large nuclear arsenal to deter soviet attack.
    • -The policy against the soviet union was brought about by Truman's weakness at foreign policy, Kennan's long telegram and Churchill's speech.
    • The Marshal plan and Truman doctrine: This was Truman's response to communism. The Truman doctrine gave military aid to countries fighting communism and the Marshal plan gave aid and loans to European countries to help them re-build. This led to further tension between US and USSR bringing the Cold War to life.
    • Berlin
    • -In June 1948 Stalin Blockaded West Berlin in order to stop the US supplying it. This began the Berlin Airlift. This Also created NATO resulting in many countries being involved in the Airlift until may 1949. The soviet's then built the Berlin wall during the time of JFK.
    • Korea
    • -In 1950 north Korea backed by soviets attacked American backed south Korea. Truman bypassed congress and committed troops to the fight. This increase in power would be used again by later presidents. South Korea pushed the invasion back to its border but also invaded the South, the resulting counterattack by China re-invaded North Korea but in 1953 the war ended and the border was fixed.
    • -The war increased American involvement in Asia, seeing treaties with Japan and Australia. It worsened relations with China and communists but strengthened NATO.
    • Vietnam
    • -After WW2 Truman became increasingly involved in Vietnam. He backed the French in their war against Ho Chi Minh believing he was following containment. 
  4. Dwight Eisenhower
    -Eisenhower also known as Ike had been chief commander of the D-day landings in WW2. He was president from 1953 until 1961 and was a republican.

    • Domestic policy:
    • -Eisenhower believed in less government intervention in economy but continued the previous policies of social welfare. He had a very business orientated cabinet who granted tax reductions to businesses and gave control of oil deposits to the states.
    • -As previously stated Eisenhower continued the policy of social welfare and he was largely popular among congress and never had many problems getting bills passed.
    • -However Eisenhower's popularity declined in his second term due to a recession, the civil rights movement, the success of sputnik, corruption among officials and the shooting down of a U2 spy plane by the soviets.
  5. Foreign policy:
    • -Eisenhower followed the same policies of is predecessors of containment based on the domino theory, that if one country fell to communism more would follow. He also followed the policy of deterrence using the threat of nuclear weapons while still hoping to create peaceful co-existence with the new soviet leader Khrushchev.
    • Vietnam
    • -Eisenhower continued American involvement in Vietnam based on the bases of the Domino theory. America still feared that communism would be more popular in south Vietnam and so refused to hold elections there but instead backed Ngo Dinh Deim in South Vietnam. America failed to realize that this was not a communist take-over but a civil uprising which pulled them deeper into Vietnam and the Cold war.
  6. John F Kennedy
    Kennedy was the youngest ever president and served from 1961 - 1931 when he was assassinated. He imitated the New Deal and Fair Deal plans previously used, wanting to tackle poverty etc. He pumped more money into NASA due to the success of the soviets in space.

    • Domestic policy:
    • -Kennedy didn't want to seem weak so he never tried to pass and controversial bills through congress.
    • -He also fought a fight against US steel who raised steel prices when Kennedy tried to control inflation. He threatened to withdraw government contracts and US steel were forced to submit resulting in an increase in federal and government power.
    • -Poverty was a huge problem in Kennedy's time and he tackled it by introducing a job-based training but many of his other proposals were rejected.
    • -He introduced a Civil rights bill but it wasn't passed before his assassination.
  7. Foreign policy:
    • The Cuban Missile Crisis
    • -In the early 60's many things heightened cold war tensions. first there was talk of a missile gap or a number of missing US missiles. Then Castro made a communist take over of Cuba and Kennedy became president. Kennedy was willing to pay any price to stop communism ans he told the public this which raised the tensions that existed. 
    • -He believed that the US was too reliant on Nuclear weapons and he adopted a policy of flexible response to defense matters. Kennedy attempted to overthrow Castro through an invasion at the Bay if Pigs but this was an embarrassment and a failure.
    • -Kennedy met with Khrushchev who though he would be a weak leader however Kennedy presented a strong face and did not back down. The soviets then built the Berlin wall and began backing Castro in Cuba including backing their missile bases capable of striking inside America.
    • -Kennedy set up an executive order and over 13 days the world was on the bring of WW3. some advised invasion others air strikes and moderates said to demilitarize Cuba. Kennedy agreed with none and decided to blockage the entire country. In the end Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed to dismantle their missile basses in Cuba and Turkey along with a lift on the ban.
    • -The Cuban missile crisis was a huge diplomatic victory, one of the greatest in fact. it led to a hotline from Washington to Moscow to improve relations and the Test ban treaty banning the testing of nuclear weapons in the air, space or sea.

    • Vietnam 
    • -Kennedy strongly supported containment and the domino theory and so took a hard approach in Vietnam.
    • -He sent more money and military advisers to Vietnam but no troops. He did however send groups of special forces to train the Vietnamese in counter-insurgency fighting. in 1963 Diem the southern Vietnam leader was assassinated as was Kennedy weeks later.
  8. Lyndon Johnston
    Johnston was Kennedy's vice president and he too supported the New frontier and fighting poverty etc. He believed also in increasing government power to better the lives of people and creating a great society, he served from 1963 - 1969.

    • Domestic policy:
    • -Johnston won the 1964 election because he campaigned for peace in Vietnam, got sympathy because he wanted to carry on JFK's work and he outlined a plan for a great society including rights for blacks.
    • -Johnston was a great negotiator and a menacing man, he centralized control to the white house and always got his way with congress.
    • -In 1964 he brought in the Civil rights act banning discrimination on any basis. in 1965 he brought in the Voting rights act giving federal control on the running of voting to end discrimination. He ensured companies on federal contracts reserved a quota of jobs for minority groups.
    • -Johnston waged a war on poverty he improved employment, gave cheap housing, provided grants for slum clearance and educated poor students in public schools. He set up medicare America's first public healthcare system and introduced laws on pollution and conservation. In 18 months he brought in more reform laws than any president ever had in their entire 2 terms.
  9. Foreign policy:
    Please see the notes collection on Johnston and Vietnam for information on his foreign policies.
  10. Richard Nixon
    Nixon served from 1969 - 1974 and he was a republican.

    • Domestic policy:
    • Nixon often faced opposition from the dominant republican congress.
    • -He succeed in lowering the voting age to 18, passing many environmental laws. He tried to cut social welfare but this was rejected in fact congress itself increased social welfare benefits.
    • -Nixon had trouble with the supreme court, he tried to prevent further desegregation of public schools and tried to hand social welfare matters back to the states. People were becoming concerned with the power of the president as Nixon refused to spend allotted money for environment and healthcare, increased involvement in Vietnam without congress's consent, congress began proceedings to impeach Nixon but he refused to accept this and he tried to claim executive privileges when asked to hand over tapes concerning the Watergate scandal which he was later forced to surrender.
    • - Congress began to limit presidential power by setting limits for political contributions to elections, gave people the power to see government files on themselves, passed the ethics in government act forcing high officials to declare their wealth and forced the CIA to report to congress. They also introduced the War powers act 1973 and the budget reform act 1974 restoring war and budget powers to congress.
  11. Foreign policy:
    • Vietnam
    • -Nixon wanted to end involvement in Vietnam because opposition at home was growing, the costs were increasing, huge numbers of US troops were killed, the US couldn't win the war and Nixon wanted to better foreign relations with China etc.
    • -He knew that America couldn't pull out of Vietnam because it would seem like a defeat so he hoped for peace with honor and began a policy of Vietnamisation which was strengthening the ARVN while still withdrawing US forces. He also brought in the Nixon Doctrine which stated America would aid any country fighting internal attack but wouldn't send troops. However Nixon increased aerial bombing of North Vietnam as part of his Madman strategy.
    • -Nixon secretly invaded Cambodia to attempt destroying supply lines etc but when this became public it increased Anti-war demonstrations at home and resulted in 4 deaths, it widened the credibility gap and led to a rebellion in congress at the president overstepping his bounds resulting in the War powers Act 1973.
    • -Agreements were finally made at the Paris peace treaty between America and Vietnam resulting in America withdrawing. 
    • -in 1975 2 years after America withdrew from Vietnam north attacked south and Vietnam was rendered a Communist country.
    • -58,000 soldiers died and 150,000 were wounded, the whole war cost over 150 billion contributing to a weakened economy, the policy of containment had failed and now Laos and Cambodia were weakened resulting in communist take over shortly after. American propaganda had painted them as the good guys but the horrific actions of war and the lies the government told severely undermined this image, it deepened divisions in american society resulting in violence in the end of the 1960's. The powers of the president were reduced and the CIA were forbidden to conduct secret operations within the US

    • Détente          
    • -Nixon and Henry Kissinger created a new policy of détante which was channels of communication between the President and other countries which bypassed congress etc. It was another trait of Imperial Presidency and Nixon hoped it would improve relations with China and Russia.
    • -Nixon used these Channels to organize visits to both countries which surprised many because Nixon was seen as the cold war warrior however Nixon hoped to play Russia and China off one another. This was successful as neither country wanted to be left behind and so China and Russia both followed. This led to SALT1 it was considered one of the greatest successes of détente.
    • -Détente was put to sever testing when Russia backed the Arab's and America backed the Israeli's. It put america back on Nuclear alert and put Détente at sever risk but both sides backed down and came to an agreement.
  12. Gerald Ford
    Ford served from 1974 - 1977, in this time he had many problems with congress as he wanted to increase military and space spending at the expense of social welfare.

    • Foreign policy:
    • Ford relied on Henry Kissinger to continue Détente which resulted in talks with Brezhnev resulting in SALT2 talks and the Helsinki agreement agreeing to respect borders, freedom of travel and trade and respecting human rights. However congress prevented Ford from giving support to any other countries facing communist threat for fear of another foreign war.
  13. Jimmy Carter
    Carter was an outsider to Washington politics and so was unpopular however he did raise minimum wage and provided money to clean up toxic waste sites. He served from 1977 - 1981

    • Foreign policy:
    • -Carter was inexperienced in foreign policy and as a result his policies were often inconsistent etc. He wanted policies based on honor and justice , he wanted to reduce arms but was critical of the soviet union which resulted in him upsetting the soviets. Détente was put under more pressure by this and when Carter organised talks between Israel and Egypt without involving the soviets.
    • -As SALT talks continued America invited China to visit and this put pressure on the Soviet union resulting in the Soviets reaching an agreement quickly. The talks fell apart when USSR invaded Afghanistan resulting in a collapse of Détente.
  14. Ronald Reagan
    Reagan was a gifted communicator particularly through television and he wanted to restore the prestige of presidency. he wanted less big government and to dismantle the welfare state in place since the days of FDR. he served from 1981 - 1989

    • Domestic policy:
    • -Reagan used what he called Reaganomics which reduced government and encouraged big business however he did build up the military. He believed people needed less government intervention in their lives.
  15. Foreign Policy:
    • Star wars
    • -Cold war tensions had risen again and Reagan introduced an aggressive tone to his foreign policies. He built up huge armed forces and stated he was prepared to accept huge budget deficits to achieve this. At the same time he was open to weapon limitation talks but because of the mistrust that existed these talks and particularly the START talks resulted in failure. He then announced a strategic defense initiative popularly known as Star wars which would be a system to destroy missiles fired at the US which it is argued could not have been made at the time. 
    • -Reagan and Gorbachev met and agreed on weapon limitations leading to the dismantling of nuclear missiles but Reagan refused to give up on Star wars.
    • -Some argue it was Reagan's tough policies that deterred the soviet union from believing it could compete with the huge growth in US forces etc and other argue that the growing understanding between Reagan and Gorbachev that was the most important development at the time. A meeting of Reagan and Gorbachev resulted in a reduction in mistrust and an improvement in relations.
  16. Containment
    Shortly after this the fall of Communist Russia came about. The us policy of containment contributed to this fall as it forced the soviets to spend huge amounts of money on arms. Ultimately the USSR couldn't compete with American spending which led to this downfall. The policy was hugely expensive and uneconomical but discouraged or prevented Russia from invading Europe.
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American Presidents
2014-02-04 12:54:21
America Presidents WW2

American Presidents from FDR to Ronald Reagan.
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