When Life Strikes the President: Scandal, Death, and Illness in the White House

ISBN : 9780190650759

Jeffrey A. Engel; Thomas J. Knock
360 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jun 2017
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What happens when life, so to speak, strikes the President of the United States? How do presidents and their families cope with illness, personal loss, and scandal, and how have such personal crises affected a president's ability to lead, shaped presidential decision-making in critical moments, and perhaps even altered the course of events? In asking such questions, the essays in this volume - written by twelve leading scholars noted for their expertise on their respective subjects - reveal alternately the frailty, the humanity, and the strength of character of some of America's most controversial presidents. Three of them deal with the death of children-the impact of the loss of a young son on Franklin Pierce, Abraham Lincoln, and Calvin Coolidge. Another shows how, when his father suffered a stroke, John F. Kennedy lost his most important adviser as the crisis in Cuba loomed. Three essays tell stories about notorious, self-inflicted scandals during the presidencies of Andrew Jackson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. Several of them focus on the effects of disability or illness in the Oval Office - on Woodrow Wilson's stroke at the end of World War I; Franklin Roosevelt's paralysis while leading the country through the Great Depression and World War II; Ronald Reagan's struggles and changed priorities in the wake of an assassination attempt; and the bearing of depression and personality disorders of one kind or another on the actions Jackson, John Tyler, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon during their crucial years in office. While illuminating a considerable span of American history and providing new and significant analyses of American politics and foreign policy, these fascinating essays remind us about the personal side of presidential leadership, and that tomorrow is promised to no one.


Jeffrey A. Engel and Thomas J. Knock
1 A Crisis of His Own Contrivance: Andrew Jackson's Break with John C. Calhoun
Daniel Feller
2 I am President: John Tyler, Presidential Succession, the Crisis of Legitimacy,
and the Defense of Presidential Power
Aaron Scott Crawford
3 Personal Loss and Franklin Pierce's Presidency
Michael Holt
4 Abraham Lincoln and the Death of His Son Willie
Michael Burlingame
5 One Long Wilderness of Despair:
Woodrow Wilson's Stroke and the League of Nations
Thomas J. Knock
6 Calvin Coolidge: When he went the power and the glory
of the Presidency went with him.
Amity Shlaes
7 The Splendid Deception of Doctor Roosevelt
Frank Costigliola
8 The Kennedy Family through Sickness and Death
David Nasaw
9 The Politics of the Personal: Lyndon Johnson at Home and Abroad
Randall B. Woods
10 A Depressed and Self-Destructive President: Richard Nixon in the White House
Jeremi Suri
11 Governing during a Time of Crisis: The Reagan Presidency
Kiron K. Skinner
12 The Clintons: The Politics of the Personal
William Chafe

About the author: 

Jeffrey A. Engel is Director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. Thomas J. Knock is Professor of History and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of Foreign Relations at Southern Methodist University.

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