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Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency: Seventy-Six Case Studies in Presidential Leadership

Originally prepared as a non-partisan guide to help the President-Elect 2000 better understand the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences of his actions, Triumphs and Tragedies makes available to policymakers, journalists and citizens the unique insights of these insiders as they guide the reader through the stories behind the headlines, the thinking behind decisions, the personal struggles, the politics, the disappointments. Rich in humanity as well as history, it is invaluable to the understanding of the tumultuous events of the past 80 years, told in everyday terms by some of our greatest journalists and Presidential scholars.

Among the successes documented are the Marshall Plan, the Kennedy space program, LBJ’s landmark Civil Rights Act, Nixon’s opening to China, Clinton’s rescue of the Mexican economy, and the seamless Y2K conversion. There are also the dramatic setbacks, beginning with Woodrow Wilson’s failure to secure Senate support for the Versailles Treaty and U.S. membership in the League of Nations, described as "perhaps the greatest Presidential failure in the politics of foreign policy." Other events which cast long shadows include the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra and the Clinton impeachment.

The purpose of Triumphs and Tragedies is not only to describe what went wrong or right—but why: Why some Presidents were successful in their relations with Congress and foreign leaders—and others were not. Why some transitions went well and others did not. Included are ten fascinating examples of how American Presidents since FDR have handled their “First 100 Days” in office, with an overview by Richard Neustadt.

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The First 100 Days
Creation and Implementation of the Marshall Plan, 1947-1948
Lessons from the Tax Reform Act of 1986
Deficit Reduction in 1993: Clinton's First Budget
President Clinton's Health Care Reform Proposals of 1994
The Balanced Budget Act of 1997
The 1956 Federal Highway Act
The Global Positioning System
The Greenspan Commission and the Social Security Reforms of 1983
The International Financial Crisis of 1997-1998
President Eisenhower Establishes his National Security Process
Public Diplomacy: How America Communicates with Others
Lessons from Carter's Camp David Summit
The U.S.-Panama Crisis: Lessons in Effectiveness of Coercive Diplomatic Measures
The U.S. and Iraq, 1990-1991
The President's Managerial Leadership Responsibilities
The Cuban Missile Crisis: Decision Making Under Pressure

Staff Contact
For more information on Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency: Seventy-Six Case Studies in Presidential Leadership, please contact Sara Spancake, via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or at 202-872-9800.