A veteran American historian Dallek looks back at previous presidencies to see how we arrived at our current one. Dallek has authored the book “How Did We Get Here?” about Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon and devotes chapters to all the presidents between Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, briefly summarising their lives and times and assessing their strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, and failures. No fan of Donald Trump, the author emphasizes the previous presidents’ failures and sees a book ” How Did We Get Here?” they have led to Trump, who gets his own damning chapter at the end.
Dallek does an excellent job of seeing the strengths of presidents he does not otherwise admire and explores the weaknesses in those he does admire. He credits Nixon for his advances with China and he chides FDR for deceptions about his health. Dallek makes clear that all the negative aspects of previous presidents have come home to roost in Trump: Theodore Roosevelt’s craving for attention.
And his self-adoration, Woodrow Wilson’s “exaggerated presidential promises,” Truman’s making of war in Korea without Congressional approval, Dwight Eisenhower’s moves in Iran and Vietnam, JFK’s focus on an image, LBJ’s “deceitfulness on foreign affairs,” Nixon’s fondness for imperiousness, Jimmy Carter’s ineffectualness, and Reagan’s use of celebrity as a political weapon and his displays of ignorance. Dallek slams Trump as a “retrograde force” whose “abusive language” shreds dignity from the office as do his innumerable lies, distortions, and overall boorishness. “Making America great again hardly satisfies any standard for leading us into a better future.” Informed and passionate words behold the status of a prolific author like Dallek. The Weekender