Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Reagan are all iconic leaders in United States history that led the nation during historically significant events and attempting to develop the United States socially and economically. Each of the Presidents had a strong and significant economic program that they successfully implemented. Eisenhower embraced modern Republicanism which implemented some New Deal programs but rolled back federal involvement that stimulated a free enterprise economy after WW2 (Pach, n.d.).
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Kennedy had a New Frontier program that he began to implement that focus on anti-poverty measures before his assassination. Johnson is most well-known domestically for his Great Society program which focused on urban renewal, anti-poverty, health, and environmental initiatives (Selverstone, n.d.).
Johnson also contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbade discrimination on the basis of sex and race, focused primarily on preventing racial divide (National Archive, n.d.). Meanwhile, Reagan declared a Reaganomics program that implemented supply-side economics and promoted federalism, private business, and the business market, which led to an economic boom.
Most of the policies conducted were aimed at strengthening the U.S., with each policy undergoing scrutinous debate and presidents commonly having experts and advisors on the issue. However, at some points, policies can fail or have unintended consequences. For example, Kennedy is most well-known for his handling of the Cuba issue during the Cold War. While he successfully negotiated the removal of Soviet missiles during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his handling of the issue also saw a tremendous failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion that strained relationships with Cuba prior.
Eisenhower’s domestic policies were highly beneficial in establishing numerous social projects and institutions, strengthening the core of American society and progress. Johnson was responsible for pushing through key legislation such as the Civil Rights Act which fundamentally benefited cohesiveness in American society. Meanwhile, Reagan established a new economic system that fueled growth and helped the U.S. prevail in the Cold War.
All the listed Presidents were serving the public interest by having strong ideas and policies for society and the domestic economy. Based on their party ideology and personal vision, the Presidents implemented programs that benefited regular individuals. For Eisenhower it was educational reforms, for Kennedy it was fiscal and monetary adjustments, for Johnson and Kennedy it was Civil Rights, and Reagan sought to modernize and reform American society.
These policies were driven by the democratic ideal of the American dream and prosperity, where individuals had choices and fundamental freedoms. Democracy was often reflected in foreign policy as well as the Presidents stood against authoritarian leadership as Kennedy did against Castro and Reagan against the Soviet Union, defending American ideals and ambitions.
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Whether it is constitutional for the federal government of the United States to engage in preemptive wars is a highly debatable and controversial topic, highlighted in recent history by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent war. Constitutionally, war can only be declared by Congress and the President must consult with Congress before engaging in warfare. Although the President can deploy troops, they must be removed within 60 days of war is not officially declared. Both Congress and the President have the authority to commit troops and declare war if this action constitutes a response to an attack or its imminent threat.
Therefore, the Iraq invasion is so controversial because no proof was ever provided of a direct threat to the United States (it was based on speculation of WMDs and sponsorship of 9/11). Constitutional scholars largely suggest that the government cannot conduct preemptive war or self-defense without the principle of “imminent” threat is possible (Siemers, 2016). However, in practice, this term has been stretched and loopholes found based on modern interpretations of national security.
Human rights and morality should be a part of U.S. foreign policy as long as they do not interfere with national security or go against the interests of the country. The United States will always maintain a symbolic moral leadership as a representation of democracy and morality, fighting oppression. However, history shows that sometimes the U.S. is forced to make difficult choices to protect its citizens or interests, with norms of human rights being violated. Presidents have been able to maintain a foreign policy that protects national interests but also considers numerous issues of human rights and morality which the U.S. seeks to protect through its ideology.
National Archive. (n.d.). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Web.
Pach Jr., C. J. (n.d.). Dwight D. Eisenhower: Domestic affairs. Web.
Selverstone, M. J. (n.d.). John F. Kennedy: Domestic affairs. Web.
Siemers, D. J. (2016). Imperial from the beginning: The Constitution of the original executive. Journal of American History, 103(2), 459-460. Web.