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Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents | The Nation

Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents

As we celebrate this country's birth, here is a look back at the leaders who have shaped our times, from Lincoln to Obama.

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (1 of 17)

    The Nation was founded in the wake of the tragic assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April of 1865. Lincoln's leadership during the Civil War set the gold standard by which all presidents, including the current one, measure themselves.
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  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (2 of 17)

    Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, fell far short of the standard. Despised by the legislature and the public, he became the first president to be impeached by Congress. He held onto office by the skin of his teeth, avoiding conviction by one vote.
    [Everett Collection]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (3 of 17)

    As part of long tradition of war heroes seeking elected office, Ulysses S. Grant was swept into office in 1869, running on a Lincoln-esque platform. However, corruption scandals would permanently taint his legacy.
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  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (4 of 17)

    After decades of mostly forgettable presidents who were routinely dominated by the legislative branch, the larger-than-life Teddy Roosevelt assumed the presidency in 1901, following the assassination of William McKinley. His tough guy persona and aggressive foreign policies often overshadow his more progressive ideals.
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  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (5 of 17)

    In 1916, Woodrow Wilson was elected for the second time, promising not to bring the United State into World War I. But by the next year the nation was deeply embroiled in the conflict. Wilson hoped that the Treaty of Versailles would keep the peace, but instead it laid the groundwork for the rise of Nazism in Germany.
    [Everett Collection]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (6 of 17)

    Herbert Hoover (seen here greeting the newly-elected Franklin D. Roosevelt) had a laissez-faire approach to economic policy, which proved tragically flawed as the nation spiraled into the worst economic crisis in its history. Deemed aloof and unengaged with the severity of the crisis, Hoover's conservative ideology was soundly defeated by Roosevelt and the Democrats in the 1932 election.
    [AP Images]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (7 of 17)

    Almost as soon as FDR is sworn in a series of sweeping financial reforms and social programs were launched, transforming the shape and scope of our nation's government for decades. Despite several mistakes, Roosevelt's "nothing to fear but fear itself" can-do attitude inspired the nation and brought him an unprecedented four terms in office.
    [AP Images]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (8 of 17)

    Anyone attempting to fill FDR's shoes would likely suffer in comparison. Although hailed today by both Republicans and Democrats for his no-nonsense style and pragmatism, Harry S. Truman was a surprisingly unpopular president who could never shake off the image of a man operating beyond his means.
    [Everett Collection]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (9 of 17)

    Dwight D. Eisenhower's middle-of-the-road, even-keeled approach was a stark contrast to Truman's brashness. Wildly popular for most of his time in office, he presided over the expansion of the Cold War and a prolonged period of economic growth unsurpassed until the Clinton era.
    [AP Images]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (10 of 17)

    John F. Kennedy's "new frontier" was tragically brought to an end with an assassin's bullet just when he was implementing some of his most progressive policies. The Nation wrote at the time of his death that his two greatest moves, "toward peace with the [nuclear] test ban, toward human equality with the civil-rights bill...were aimed against violence and hatred. They are his legacy to us."
    [Everett Collection]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (11 of 17)

    Lyndon B. Johnson (pictured here with Martin Luther King Jr.) has a formidable domestic record (Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to name a few accomplishments). Unfortunately his ambitions to wipe out poverty were overwhelmed by his disastrous choice to further escalate the conflict in Vietnam. Many believe his missteps should provide an important lesson for President Obama as he grapples with Afghanistan.
    [Everett Collection]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (12 of 17)

    While Watergate ended Richard Nixon's presidency, he had managed to desegregate American schools, establish both the EPA and FDA, and relieve tensions between the US, China and the Soviet Union. Was he a crook? When he boarded the helicopter to leave the White House in disgrace, he thought himself a victor.
    [AP Images]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (13 of 17)

    Jimmy Carter was vilified as indecisive and ineffectual during his one-term presidency although today his prescient approach to issues like energy independence and his ability to forge peace between Israel and Egypt look more like a blueprint for any president who wants to effectively engage with an evolving world.
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  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (14 of 17)

    While today Ronald Reagan is glorified ad nauseum by conservatives, his true legacy is one of soaring deficits, unbridled corporate greed, the crushing of organized labor, an astonishing lack of compassion for the poor and the emergence of the intolerant religious right as a dominant political force.
    [Everett Collection]

  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (15 of 17)

    Bill Clinton's poll-driven centrism might have helped him maintain high approval ratings but disappointed progressives who'd hoped his administration would right the domestic wrongs of the past twelve years. Unfortunately some of his more positive achievements are overlooked thanks to an overblown sex scandal which nearly ended his presidency.
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  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (16 of 17)

    With a still evolving legacy of torture, illegal wiretapping, decimation of the environment, two unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-- is it too early to say George W. Bush is the worst president in history?
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  • Slide Show: The Nation's Presidents (17 of 17)

    Elected with a sweeping mandate for change, Barack Obama has both excited and disappointed his base of progressives. Faced with a struggling economy, a volatile international climate and legislative fights over healthcare and the environment--the president needs to be both challenged and encouraged by his most ardent supporters to pursue an agenda that improves the lives of all of America's citizens.
    [AP Images]

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