How Vain, Stubborn, Thin-Skinned George Washington Grew Up

Through the Trauma of War, and By Learning From His Mistakes, the First President Gained Empathy and Gravitas

At 21 years of age, George Washington was a very different man than the one we know and hold sacred, different from the stately commander, the selfless first president, the unblemished father of our country staring off into posterity. This young Washington was ambitious, temperamental, vain, thin-skinned, petulant, awkward, demanding, stubborn, hasty, and annoying.

He was in love with his close friend’s wife. He was called an ingrate by his commander. He was accused of being a war criminal, a murderer, an incompetent leader, and an international embarrassment.

What is …

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Will Donald Trump Be America’s First ‘Post-Imperial’ President?

As the U.S. Declines and China Rises, Its Chief Executive Will Have to Accept a Loss of Privilege and Status

In a forthcoming book, I argue that the United States has been an empire ever since its birth as an independent country, that the empire ceased to be based on …

That Time I Urinated on the White House Lawn

It Was 1954. Eisenhower Was President. And There Were No Barking Dogs or Secret Service Agents in Sight.

On a warm summer evening in 1954, my high school classmate Gerry and I walked up to the steel fence topped by tall bronze spears that surrounded the Eisenhower White …

Barack Obama Had an ‘Iron Will’ to Succeed—but What Was at His Core?

Biographer David J. Garrow Explains How the 44th President Compartmentalized and Rewrote His Life

Historian David J. Garrow acknowledges that he’s “cynical” about Barack Obama, a conclusion that he reached while conducting 1,000 interviews and spending nine years researching the formation and political rise …

Trump Isn’t the First Presidential Power Grabber

American Chief Executives Have Always Tried to Act as They Wish. But Has the Practice Gone Too Far?

King George III imposed taxation on the American colonies without representation. Franklin D. Roosevelt unilaterally exiled Japanese Americans to internment camps. Barack Obama declared his intent to bypass a perpetually …

When the President’s Best and Brightest Were Also the Richest

The Practice of Tapping the Moneyed Elite Began with WWI—and Was Surprisingly Scandal-Free

From our earliest days we Americans have embraced leaders from among the ranks of the nation’s moneyed elite. Voters set the tone when they chose George Washington, the wealthiest …