Presidents and their Successors

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Sami Migliaccio

Mrs. Trovato

Period #3

April 21, 2008

Essay Question: “Vice President who have succeeded to the presidency on the death of the President have been less effective in their conduct of domestic and foreign policy than the men they replaced.” Assess the validity of this statement for Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Presidents and their Successors

The statement that “Vice Presidents who have succeeded to the presidency on the death of the President have been less effective in their conduct of domestic and foreign policy than the men they replaced” is not always true. Harry S. Truman became president upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson became president when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Yet, while the statement proves to be true in the comparison of Roosevelt’s and Truman’s administrations, such is not the case with Kennedy and Johnson. Johnson was the more effective president in regard to domestic policies, but neither Kennedy nor Johnson was very effective when it came to foreign policy.  

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was successful as president from the very beginning. When he entered office during the Great Depression, he got to work immediately on achieving the three R’s of recovery, relief, and reform. He showed that even though he did not have a detailed plan to help alleviate the Great Depression, he was committed to “action and willing to experiment with political solutions to economic problems” (AP Prep Book 499). As it ended up, his New Deal program was a success; Congress supported him and passed nearly all of the laws for which he asked. By the end of the 1940s, he had enacted laws and acts that created a more stable economy and a more equitable society. His successor, Harry S. Truman, futilely attempted to continue the New Deal tradition that President Roosevelt had begun. Although President Truman was able to pass the Employment Act in 1946, it was a watered down version and was not able to pass many other domestic policies because of the Cold War in which he would entrench himself and Congress’s deep-seated opposition to him. In another instance, Truman attempted to convince Congress to control the prices in order to prevent inflation. Unlike President Roosevelt, President Truman did not have the backing of Congress, and his suggestion was overruled, a outcome that would occur repeatedly while he was in office. When Truman ran for office in 1948, he promised a “Fair Deal”. When he was reelected to office, he “urged Congress to enact national healthcare insurance, federal aid to education, civil rights legislation, funds for public housing, and a new farm program” (AP Prep Book 549). Considering his history with Congress, it is not surprising that Truman was unable to get most of the proposed reforms. Despite Truman’s attempts to maintain the New Deal reforms of President Roosevelt, most of his proposals were defeated, making him less successful in domestic policies than his predecessor.

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President Roosevelt, during World War Two, was largely successful in his foreign policies. When the war first began, he enacted the “Cash and Carry” which was neutral in theory but favored Great Britain in practice. Also, Roosevelt sensed when public opinion shifted away from strict neutrality, enabling him to pass the peacetime draft known as the Selective Service Act of 1940. Moreover, Roosevelt was skilled in his foreign affair actions. He knew that he would offend isolationists by selling destroyers to Great Britain outright, so he cleverly designed a trade where the United Stated would receive areas for military bases ...

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