The political blame game is so easy to play. Pick a side, liberal or conservative. Did you and your family historically vote for the Republican presidents or the Democrat? You will be able to find hundreds of newspaper articles, editorials, books and video clips to support those opinions. The truth is that there were always feuds within administrations.
Who didn’t like Ike? Dwight D.Eisenhower (January 1953-1961) our 34th president, entered office known as the architect of the Allied victory in Europe. Leaders from all over the world and from every walk of life admired him. Eisenhower liked order and organization, as might be expected from a military commander. Ike has frequently been described as having taken a largely nonpartisan position, which allowed him to work productively with the Democrat Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn and Senate Majority Leader, Lyndon B. Johnson. Despite President Eisenhower’s desire for amicability, his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was noticeably unhappy with the 1955 appointment of Harold Stassen as Special Assistant to the President. Their legendary rivalry was both serious and humorous.
When Eisenhower took office, he finished the task President Truman had begun, and oversaw the desegregation of the military. Despite the onset of the Cold War and concerns of Communism infiltration, he also pushed back against the extremism of Senator Joe McCarthy, which led to the end of the infamous McCarthy hearings. Although Southern leaders continued their resistance to integration, Eisenhower signed into law, both the Civil Rights Act of 1957, as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1960. President Eisenhower’s administrations oversaw much more.
The presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961-1963) could be said to have been born in a Democrat stew of serious, bitter vitriol. Overshadowing other feuds in JFK’s administration was the one between his brother Bobby and LBJ. President Kennedy’s brother, Robert Kennedy had long hated fellow democrat, Vice President to be Lyndon Johnson. In 1939 a nasty feud developed between Lyndon Johnson and RFK’s father, Joe Kennedy. In many political circles Ambassador to the U.K. Joe Kennedy was seen as disloyal to the views of President Roosevelt. Lyndon B. Johnson, Texas Congressional Representative in 1939, known to be friendly with President Roosevelt, was fond of relating a story regarding FDR and Kennedy that was deeply insulting to Joe Kennedy.
Bobby Kennedy was very loyal and devoted to family and never forgave Johnson. The deep enmity between the two democrats only grew in 1960 when John F. Kennedy chose LBJ as his Vice Presidential running mate. RFK was famous for having a short temper and hating Johnson. Johnson felt he was disrespected by the Kennedys as Senator and later Vice- President and never failed to intentionally irritate RFK.
President Lyndon B. Johnson, (1963-1969) became president after John F. Kennedy’s tragic assassination. Although Johnson had always aspired to the presidency, his first years were overshadowed by the circumstances. President Johnson retained JFK’s key Cabinet positions. Even AG Robert Kennedy stayed until 1964. Lyndon Johnson was mistrusting and could become apoplectic over leaks to the press. His JFK hold-over staff as well as LBJ’s own, new appointees felt they were under constant observation. The hard-charging, heavy work load demands put on staff by Lyndon Johnson also created difficult relationships on all levels. LBJ’s abrasive, bullying style created most of the tension and hostility within his administrations.
The Richard Nixon Administration (January 1969 until his August 17,1974 resignation) is forever scared by the Watergate scandal. Nixon is the first and only American President to resign. Nixon, his Secretary of State William Rogers and National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger as well as others in his Administration did accomplish good things. Nixon ushered in a new era of Sino-American relations that ultimately pressured the Soviet Union into detente. Richard Nixon brought the American military home from Viet Nam and in 1973 ended the draft. However the foreign policy disputes between Nixon’s Secretary of State Rogers and the outspoken Henry Kissinger created internal confusion and power struggles visible nationally and internationally.
President Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977) was universally liked in political circles. Unfortunately the Ford White House has been described as toxic. During the “Halloween Massacre,” President Ford dismissed five high ranking Staff and Cabinet members, culminating with his Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller announcing he would not be on the ticket in 1976. President Ford faced many challenges, he even survived two assassination attempts. He could not survive anger against him for pardoning his predecessor, President Richard M. Nixon.
It has been written that President Jimmy Carter’s administration (1977-1981) was in constant disarray. Carter’s administration was marked by a skeptical Washington establishment, the nation’s worst energy crisis and out of control inflation. The nation’s loss of confidence was heightened when President Carter canceled the July 4, 1979 Independence Day Washington D.C. fireworks celebration, his address to the nation, and his retreat to Camp David. On July 15th Carter emerged to give what became known as his, “malaise speech.” Shortly thereafter, six Cabinet Members resigned as well as other White House senior staffers. The infighting between Carter’s Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was exacerbated by Iran’s taking of the American Embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage crisis. Failed hostage rescue attempts made it clear Jimmy Carter would be a one term president.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) was the first president since President Eisenhower to successfully complete two terms. Success is always debatable in Washington,D.C. Fondly remembered is the the cordial relationship between Republican President Reagan and Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. The public name calling between the two was quite vitriolic. However, in 1981 O’Neill is reported to have told Reagan, “Old buddy, that’s politics. After 6 p.m.we can be friends, before 6, it’s all politics.” In March of 1981, an assassination attempt on President Reagan proved not to be politically motivated. It did reveal the chaos within his administration; complete with the Baker, Deaver, Meese, Haig, Regan squabbles. Even First Lady Nancy Reagan became embroiled. Books of personal political destruction were eventually written by most participants in the successful Reagan administration.