Sunday, January 5, 2020

Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today (James M. Banner)

Presidential Misconduct was originally compiled in 1974 at the request of Congress, during the investigations of Richard Nixon. It was intended as a historical account of past misdeeds, scandals, and investigations in presidential administrations from George Washington through Lyndon Johnson. One of the historians that contributed to the 1974 report, James M. Banner, has put together another panel to review administrations from Nixon through Barack Obama. This update was done in response to the current investigations surrounding the Trump administration.

The original report found that each president save for William Henry Harrison has been accused of misconduct of some level, from rigging elections to fiscal mismanagement to employing corrupt staff. Yes, even George Washington was levied with charges of being a tyrant by anti-Federalists.  The updated account includes Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, and other events that were heavily investigated by Congress or the press. Some presidential accounts are much longer than others for a host of reasons. Some of the investigations were legitimate but others came about as the result of overinflated charges made by enemies of that particular administration.

Given the highly political times we are in, this book is a great reference on how politics, power, and the pursuits of both have shaped the ebb and flow of the behavior of presidential administrations over the years. Congress’s response to perceived and actual corruption is also brought in for each president’s record. Presidential Misconduct is written without bias and with heavy reference to past historical records and worth your time if you are a student of history or political science.