This essay will aim to lay out how most presidencies in theUnited States do end in a varying degree of failure.
The president of theUnited States is the head of the executive branch of government and is electedby the Electoral College to serve a term of four years, with the choice tostand for re-election for a further four. The failure of presidents can be downto a number of reasons which will be explored in the essay. These reasons aremore often than not choices taken by presidents that lead to failure for outgoingpresidents. Also considered to counteract the wholly prevailing view thatpresidencies end in failure will be the evidence of presidencies where failuredid not grip them towards the end of their premiership. In the first section ofthe essay the failing presidencies of Richard Nixon and George W Bush will belooked at as well as the scandal ending presidency of Bill Clinton. The greaterfocus being on the dramatic failed ending presidency of Richard Nixon as aresult of the Watergate scandal.
In the second section of the essay thecontrasting view that not all presidencies end in failure will be looked atexamining presidencies that did not end in failure such as the Obama presidencyand the Reagan Presidency.The clearest example of presidencies ending in failure isthe presidency of Richard Nixon. The Watergate scandal of 1974 led ultimately tothe resignation of President Richard Nixon. The break in to the democraticnational convention headquarters, Watergate, in Washington D.C. was backed bythe Nixon administration and then subsequently covered up.
(Scandal, 2017) Theinvolvement of the Nixon administration in Watergate was uncovered as a resultof the link between the cash found on the burglars and a slush fund used by Nixon’scampaign to get re-elected. The result of such involvement led to Nixon’s administrationbeing investigated by the FBI and starting of an impeachment process by thesenate. Within a small amount of time it was very clear that Nixon was going tobe impeached.
The Republican leaders in Congress Scott and Rhodes of the Senateand the House and accompanying senior member Barry Goldwater arrived to tellNixon ‘there were not more than fifteen votes left in his support in theSenate.’ (White, 1975). The consequences of such a loss of trust by Congressand the American public led to Nixon concluding himself that the only way forhim to get out was to resign as president and let his Vice President GeraldFord take over before he was impeached. The sheer enormity of the scandalitself is blamed by some for Ford’s failure to get elected to serve a full term,a whole two years after Watergate in the 1976 presidential election (Shane,2006).
The ending failure of Nixon was his involvement in Watergate. Nixon waselected in a landslide in 1972 on a grant of public support and optimism tocomplete his agenda in office. The resulting failure of his administration tonot complete his full second were completely self-inflicted highlighting howall presidencies have the potentially to end in catastrophic failure.The other major presidency that ended in catastrophic failurewas that of George W.
Bush. After winning the presidency in the 2000 electionin the tightest election of a generation Bush hoped to build on the new hope oftechnological and economic advancement going into the 21st century. The disastrous events of September 11thdid not shake Bush’s resolve, and in the eyes of the American people Bush wasextremely popular with a 90% approval rating post 9/11 and an average 63%approval rating throughout his first term(Gallup, 2017). The post 9/11solidarity, the popular ‘Bush’ tax cuts and the expansions of Medicare passedby Bush resulted in his re-election in 2004 with an increased share of the voteand increased number of Electoral College votes. However, first term successdid not transfer into Bush’s second term and the second term was rather more calamitousand ultimately ended in failure like Nixon. As Barbara Kellerman argues “HeBush has been a quite unlucky president” (Kellerman, 2009). Whether unluckyor not George W. Bush’s term in office ended in dismal failure.
The perceivedlack of help for Americans post hurricane Katrina, the fallout from the IraqWar and the dismal financial crisis all were on Bush’s watch. These threeevents on their own could be deemed enough to topple a president. These individualcatastrophes meant the legacy Bush was derided not only by the democrats and amajority of the American people but fellow republicans as well. Bush’s record inhis second term show how presidencies are doomed to failure even with perceivedsuccess early on. The impact of his presidency is further damned by republicansbecause of his failed second term which arguably led to the landslide electionvictory of Barack Obama in 2008. A further example of Presidency that started off with hopebut ended in self-inflicted failure is the presidency of Bill Clinton.
With thesame attributes of the presidency of Nixon (twice elected, popular figure withpublic support) Bill Clinton still managed to end his presidency with greatcontroversy. The scandal towards the end of his presidency in 1998 was a sexualharassment scandal whereby Clinton was accused by Paula Jones of sexualharassment while he was governor of Arkansas and of having sexual relation witha white house intern Monica Lewinsky. The lies of Clinton in denying hisrelation with Lewinsky (YouTube, 2017) led to the impeachment process being startedon two counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice. Although lateracquitted the scandal itself shook the role of the presidency to the core.
Theabuse of power tainted the perceived high esteem role of the presidency in theeyes of the American public. The resulting fallout heightened that Clintons 8year term was permanently damaged through scandal exactly like Nixon over 30years prior. The consequences of Clintons end failure to end his presidencyscandal free is blamed for the resulting election loss of his vice president of8 years Al Gore in the subsequent 2000 election. ‘Bill Clinton’s moralfailings’ are blamed in the referred to book as a central reason for Gore’sfailure as (Johnston, Hagen and Jamieson, 2006) the scandal undermined anyperceived previous success that the administration had on economic management.
This failure at the end of the Clinton presidency tainted all of his previoussuccesses to show how presidencies can often end in failure when none suchchances seem to be possible.However, the ending of presidencies does not always end in aperceived nature of failure. The nature of presidencies ending in failure hasbeen shown to be more often than not self-inflicted rather than geo-political eventsthe presidents cannot halt. The presidency of Barack Obama (2009-2017) can beviewed as a presidency that did not end in controversial failure. Moreover,Obama ended his presidency with a 60% approval rating.
(BBC News, 2017) Thishigh approval rating was higher than the sub 50% that dogged most of Obama’spresidency due to his perceived polarisation. However, the economic successlauded on the back of his policies towards the end of his administrations 8years in office allowed Obama to turn around his ratings with the Americanpublic. This is the polar opposite to President Clinton and Nixon that oftenhad high approval ratings during their presidency but ended them in a wave ofscandal. The contrasting nature to which Obama ended his term in office withClinton and Nixon is vast, the lack of a ‘scandal president’ leaving officeshows how the barrier is not set to high rather than previous presidents havefallen far below due to their own misdemeanants. Obama’s virtuousacknowledgement of the presidency and its office and his gratitude even whenfaced with handing over the presidency to a polar opposite republican in DonaldTrump show how not all presidents do take it on themselves to end in failure.
Additionally, another example of a presidency that did notend in calamitous failure is that of Ronald Reagan. Elected in 1980 on a landslideto turnaround the ‘lost’ decade of the 1970’s, Reagan carried through the successesin his first term into his second unlike his past Republican predecessors GeorgeW. Bush and Richard Nixon. A feature of Regan’s first term were not dissimilar toBush, with familiar popular conservative policies through tax cuts, minimalgovernment intervention and a popular expansion of the military with a ‘strengththrough peace’ initiative pursued. As a result of such policies Reagan was apopular president seeking re-election because of the back drop of fallingunemployment and rising economic growth through the ‘Reaganomics’ policiespursued by his administration.
The re-election of Ronald Reagan in 1984 wasseen as inevitable and on the ‘It’s morning again in America’ platform slogan Reagansecured and increased share of the vote and Electoral College vote. (These two traitswere exactly like the presidencies of George W. Bush and Richard Nixon). The differenceof Reagan compared to Bush and Nixon was his continued strength throughout his secondter. The ending of the cold war and continuation of economic success allowed Reaganto end his presidency on a high and contrasting to his republican predecessorsFord and Nixon ending his prudency on an approval rating high much alike Obama.The biggest perceived endorsement of Reagans 8 year term in office was theelection of his vice president George H.
W. Bush in another landslide victory for the republicans and a continuationof the conservative agenda pursued by Reagan. This election victory for GeorgeH.W Bush is one of the clearest indications that Americans viewed Reagan’s presidencyand policies successful as they chose to elect his deputy as president to continueReagan style policies for another 4 years. To conclude, it’s clear that more often than not presidenciesare doomed to fail. The clear examples shown of presidencies starting off well (Nixon’sand Bush’s) and ending in humiliating failure highlight how the challenges ofoffice are often to great a burden for presidents to end their terms on a high.The continuation of this theme of presidents starting off well and with the supportof the people but ultimately ending in scandal or crisis is the central reasonas to why presidencies mainly end in failure. The nature of such failure isthat circumstances often mean that the President’s policies are not to blame.
However, these circumstances do not overtake the countervailing view thatpresidencies end in failure. The individual mistakes of presidents respondingto crises or scandal are more often than not the reasons for failure and any deemedsuccessful presidents are those that avoid such crisis or scandal. Thesepresidents are few and far between and outnumbered by those that end in failure.