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The United States of America is the first successful republic in the world. Its Founding Fathers made the most prominent and genius change of their epoch, replacing monarchy in the new independent country with republic. They understood the whole risk of the new independent republic existence at that time, but they did not want to form any totalitarian monarchical regime, similar to those existed in the Old World. In fact, the United States of America were surrounded by colonies of European empires, and each monarch from the Old World considered the new republic, on one hand, as a tool in the struggle against the United Kingdom and, on the other hand, as a new colony in the future. Undoubtedly, it gave a chance of success to the United States. The problem was a personality to represent the new republic in the world. The Founding Fathers developed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, which established the institution of the presidency in the United States. Each president was a head of the country and should be elected by their citizens for one term. Therefore, the first president of the United States, George Washington, refused to remain in office for the second term avoiding the restoration of European autocracy. It was the first step to the establishment of democracy in the United States. The goal of the paper is to analyze ratings of the American presidents from the very beginning of the presidency under the following criteria: international relations, moral authority, public persuasion, crisis leadership, relations with Congress, and administrative skills. Each president is a representative of the society, which elected him. Therefore, he possesses all vices and virtues of the society, changing in the course of time. Hence, the presidents’ ratings differ. They depend on time and people, conducted by them. Moreover, the presidents’ ratings reflect opinion of the American society to its presidents as well as their achievements and failures. The paper considers the problems of ratings and their role them as the major tool for studying the development of the society.
As Charles F. Faber and Richard B. Faber (2012) state, the first poll to assess American presidents and their activities in office was conducted “in 1948 by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., of Harvard University, one of America’s most eminent historians” (Faber and Faber 1). Fifty-five American historians and other scholars took part in the poll. Hence, Arthur M. Schlesinger divided all American presidents into the following groups “Great, Near Great, Average, Below Average, and Failure” (Faber and Faber 1). According to his poll, only six presidents were defined as Great, namely George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson. The Near Great group consisted of Theodore Roosevelt, John Adams, Grover Cleveland, and James K. Polk; and the failure group consisted of only two presidents, namely Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding. The other presidents were defined as Average and Below Average. The suggested groups of the presidents’ division regarding their activities became the major form of the president’s ratings. Arthur M. Schlesinger conducted several polls during his life. Robert W. Merry (2013) explains their significance as “When we speak of history’s judgement on the presidents and their rankings in relation to one another, these polls, taken collectively, form the single greatest body of evidence” (Merry 4). Data obtained in the polls became a solid document for various discussions and debates concerning American presidents and the further development of the society. In addition, Robert W. Merry states that some scholars, such as Thomas A. Bailey, claimed the surveys to have been slanted due to political prejudiced respondents, who were “pro-Democratic, politically liberal, oriented toward the Northeast and Midwest rather than the West or South” (Merry 6).
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There are many criteria regarding scholars, under which they should conduct their surveys in order assess activities of the American presidents. It is necessary to consider the following six criteria for analyzing presidents and their activities: moral authority, public persuasion, relations with Congress, international relations, crisis leadership, and administrative skills, which include the quality of appointments made by the president. Public persuasion is one of the major criteria for ranking presidents. It belongs to the communication skill of a person. For example, each leader should be able to persuade his listeners and opponents in political debates. He cannot form any political coalition or explain his rightness while passing very important laws without such a skill. In addition, he should be able to listen his opponents for analyzing their weak and strong arguments to persuade them in his rightness. As Craig Smith and Kathy Smith (1994) state, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan were famous master persuaders “to go public to improve their bargaining positions” (Smith and Smith 11).
Concerning moral authority, there are many contradictory facts in the presidential activities, which could be treated differently at various historical times. For example, many prominent presidents, policymakers, national leaders had African slaves at the early years of the United States. At that time, it was not immoral. On the other hand, a famous scandal with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky concerning the notorious events was considered as immoral and prevented the further political carrier of Bill Clinton. Moreover, Ronald Reagan was the first President in the United States, who had been divorced. Actually, he had two children from the first marriage, who were growing without their father. Undoubtedly, it was a bad fact in Reagan’s biography, but he became a president. Hence, everybody has his secrets and has rights for the personal privacy. In this case, somebody made a fortune at the cost of Clinton’s political career and Lewinsky’s unhappiness. It is better to assess presidents for intelligence and the ability to avoid crucial mistakes instead of the moral authority. If Bill Clinton had acted more reasonable and avoided the abovementioned mistake to have any relation with Lewinsky, cherishing his family and reputation, he would have never lost his political career.
Presidential relations with Congress are very important because the whole domestic and foreign policies are based on them. For example, any presidential project will be successfully rejected if the president cannot deal with Congressmen. Normally, they are representatives of various parties and states. Therefore, any president should and consider all demands of Congressmen because they are representatives of all states irrespective to their partisanship. Moreover, the president should observe all decisions of his own political party, which sometimes differ from them. Therefore, the president should possess a significant diplomatic skill to be attentive to all Congressmen in order to avoid various conflicts between them, which may cause even a political crisis. As Duncan Watts (2009) states, “In the zone of concurrent powers, the Congress might effectively limit presidential power” (Watts 99). Therefore, it is one of the most important criteria to assess the presidents.
Each president should be a good crisis leader to bear responsibility in crisis situations. It will consist of the leadership ability and the ability to take risks. The skill to conduct international relations is one of the important criteria to be assessed. It is proved by President John F. Kennedy during Cuban Missile Crisis. At that time, the world was an edge of the Third World War with the use of nuclear weapon. John F. Kennedy acted as a talented crisis leader and diplomat in front of the Soviet threaten, which posed a real danger to the world civilization. The administrative skill should be assessed according to the executive appointments and ability.
According to the abovementioned criteria, it is necessary to assess the activity of President Ronald Reagan and to comprise it with the activity of President George W. Bush. Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), who was born in the family of a shoe salesman. At the time of Great Depression, Ronald Reagan worked as a sports reporter at the radio station of Davenport, Iowa. It was his first experience to improve the communication skill. In 1937, Ronal Reagan passed a screen test of the company of Warner Brothers, receiving a contract. Since then, he lived and worked in Hollywood, making movies. In 1947, Ronald Reagan was a president of the Screen Actors Guild, where he started to engage in the political life of the United States. Ronald Reagan began to cooperate with the FBA, providing information on his colleagues with Communist and other left political views. As Ronald Reagan explained, he had acted in such a way to punish Communists for their prohibition of some movies. Ronald Reagan considered the Communists to reject democracy. In 1949, Ronald Reagan divorced from a famous movie star Jane Wyman, who left him for the reason of his devotion to the job. Nevertheless, the children were growing without their father. In 1952, Ronald Reagan married Nancy Davis. She was his real supporter in the political life. It was a happy marriage, and Ronald Reagan had two children with his wife Nancy.
Ronald Reagan was a member of the Democratic Party from 1945. In 1963, he became a Republican. His further political career was connected with the Republican Party. From the very beginning of his political life and till his death, Ronal Reagan was an anti-Communist, suggesting the Communists to pose a real threat to the American society. His whole political activity was devoted to the struggle against the Communists. In 1969, Ronald Reagan became a governor of California. As Michael A. Genovese (2009) states, Ronald Reagan was about to win the presidential elections in 1976, and he became “a major Republican candidate for 1980” (Genovese 418).
In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the presidential election. His first presidential term lasted during the period from 1981 to1884. One of his first initiatives in the office was to pass an amendment to the Constitution allowing school prayers banned in 1962. Undoubtedly, it was a major measure to improve a moral education of the American youth. For example, President George W. Bush passed the law in support of religious organizations from a federal budget. The major achievement of Ronald Reagan in the office was so-called Reaganomics, when he decreased inflation from 12.5 percent to 4.4 percent, and reduced unemployment to 5.4 percent at the cost of decreasing taxes and the deregulation of industry. Moreover, Reagan increased supporting defense programs. Various social programs were eliminated. Some of them became local in states. It led to the GDP growth to 12.2 percent in 1982. Unfortunately, it caused large growth of federal deficit and debt. As Michael A. Genovese states, the trade deficits “quadrupled, turning the United States from the greatest creditor nation into a debtor nation” (Genovese 419). Ronald Reagan tried to outrun the Soviet Union in the arms race, supporting new programs on MX-missiles and B-1, the newest bomber. In addition, Ronald Reagan developed the Strategic Defense Initiative. The abovementioned defense programs and decreasing costs of oil caused the emergence of the first evidences of the Soviet economy collapse.
Ronald Reagan managed to eliminate Soviet and Cuban impact on the Central American countries. Moreover, American specialists trained fighters in Honduras for taking victory over the Sandinista Movement in Nicaragua. In 1983, Ronald Reagan managed to withdraw a pro-Cuban regime in Grenada. All these achievements helped Ronald Reagan win in the next presidential elections. In addition, the Democrats managed to disregard the support of Nicaraguan anti-Communist operations from the federal budget. It led to the political scandal in 1986, when one of the American governmental organizations sold weapons to Iran and supported the anti-Communist Movement in Central America. Thus, the political scandal of Iran-Contra reduced Reagan’s ratings by 13 percent. It became 52 percent in 1987. Moreover, Ronald Reagan forced Mikhail Gorbachev to disarm, eliminating the intermediate-range nuclear missiles. It was a significant victory of the Reagan’s Administration with the future hope for the improvement of the Soviet-American relationship. Undoubtedly, the collapse of Berlin Wall was a major achievement in the twentieth century, but the terrorist attacks in 2001 became a new problem for American democracy. It showed the defenseless of the United States in the future wars against terrorists. George W. Bush proclaimed the War on Terror. In addition, George W. Bush could not solve the Iraq Crisis, and the war became the next reason to criticize his Presidency. Moreover, the Administration of George Bush initiated the so-called extraordinary rendition, namely illegal actions concerning suspects in terrorism. It might include kidnapping, various tortures, and other action, which humiliated the human dignity of the suspects. During the Presidency of Bush, Russia committed invasions in Georgia, which finished with the emergence of quasi republics South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The United States were more powerful and enjoyed the greater world popularity and authority when Ronald Reagan was in the office. The ratings differ because some criteria were not considered.
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