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There were many turning points in the last century that changed the direction of world history. No political institution influenced those points as much as the institution of the presidency in the United States. The presidents in the United States were not only rulers; they were also ideologists. The role of presidents was always influential in the American society since independence, where people attached events and changes to particular presidents, rather than to administrations. In addition to the Founding Fathers, whose accomplishments cannot be questioned, each president had a certain contribution to the history of the United States. Some contributions had a large impact on American society in historical, economical, and political terms, while others were less impressive. The Cold War was one of the periods in which presidents were responsible for establishing a powerful position of the state in the world. With the Cold World being a period of competing influences, a powerful position could be achieved through economic development and foreign policies. President Dwight D. Eisenhower is a perfect example of a political figure that had an enormous positive impact on the United States during his presidency, as opposed to Lyndon Johnson, a president whose influence was also remarkable, albeit less favorable in terms of economy and foreign policy.
Eisenhower in Economy
The most important impact of Eisenhower’s presidency era was economic. The way Eisenhower managed the economy of the states made the era of his presidency remembered as the golden age. Eisenhower was not a charismatic leader, nor was he a social reformer, but his administration was “capitalism working at its best as it was enclosed in decent public policy” (King). Considering the role the United States played in the world, its economic strength and the prosperity of its citizen were two of the most significant indicators of having the power to play that role. Eisenhower made America a creditor, not a debtor, with an extremely low level of inflation. Eisenhower contributed to the development of free-market competition, which was one of the main goals of his economic policies. The basis of such policies was creating favorable government conditions for individual entrepreneurship, through holding back inflation, even distribution of growth, and protection from economic risks. Eisenhower’s presidency was followed by a decline, and despite various attempts to revive the economy, the economy today is nothing as strong as it was during Eisenhower’s presidency (Bischof & Ambrose).
Eisenhower and Foreign Policy
Foreign policy was another strong point during Eisenhower’s presidency. It was a critical time after the end of the Second World War, during which it was important to utilize the momentum to establish the power of the state in the world. Eisenhower managed to do such a mission perfectly. It was the organization of the White House that made historians positively evaluate the role of Eisenhower. Eisenhower had a great experience in the foreign affair, which he translated on coordinating national security and foreign policy. Such coordination was an important factor in establishing the power of the United States during the Cold War. His experience was influential in his ability to manage crises, which was a major factor that served peace in his presidency during the Cold War (Bischof & Ambrose). A Successful example of crisis management and Eisenhower’s influential role is the Suez Crisis, in which Eisenhower managed to end the conflict between Britain, France, Israel, and Egypt.
Lyndon Johnson in Economy
The impact of Lyndon Johnson’s policies was less favorable. Lyndon Johnson had many important programs, e.g. the war on poverty, Medicare, and various social welfare programs. Those programs, however, ran the country into problems with the accelerated inflation that accompanied the Vietnam War (Rosser & Rosser). Johnson initiated an expansion of government spending, without matching such spending with any tax increase. Thus, the benefits of the social programs were overshadowed by the economic consequences that followed (Rosser & Rosser).
Lyndon Johnson and Foreign Policy
Vietnam War was the main turning point of Johnson’s presidency, making foreign policy the center of his presidency. In addition to inflation and its economic consequences, America’s international standing was affected by the war, with the historians and scholars’ overall verdict on Johnson’s foreign policy being a negative one (Brands). The war was the leading theme in the US media, where the constant increase of the number of troops and the increasing cost of war, heavily impacted the American society. During the 1960s the average income of American families increased significantly and combined with many social programs, the economy prospered. However, by the end of Johnson’s presidency, the increased costs of leading the War in Vietnam resulted in greatly reducing the number of those social programs, increased taxes, and high inflation.
The analysis of the accomplishments of both presidents demonstrates that Eisenhower’s influence was more powerful, leading to the creation of a more positive image of his persona as well as his presidency. Additionally, the main aspects of his presidency were more influential in strengthening the position of the US nationally and globally. Johnson was a great president, although the failures in foreign policies, and their subsequent impact on the economy, led to the creation of a less positive image of his presidency. Nevertheless, it can be stated that both figures had a great influence on American history.
Bischof, Gunter, and Stephen E. Ambrose. Eisenhower : A Centenary Assessment. Eisenhower Center Studies on War and Peace. 1st ed. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995. Print.
Brands, H. W. The Foreign Policies of Lyndon Johnson : Beyond Vietnam. Foreign Relations and the Presidency. 1st ed. College Station, Tex.: Texas A&M University Press, 1999. Print.
King, Frank P. America’s Nine Greatest Presidents. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1997. Print.
Rosser, John Barkley, and Marina V. Rosser. Comparative Economics in a Transforming World Economy. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004. Print.