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Very different Presidents

Summary:
US voters choose their President on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This means that different Presidents can share the anniversary of their election. It was on November 4th, 1952, that Dwight D Eisenhower was elected. Ronald Reagan was elected on the same day in 1980, and Barack Obama on November 4th, 2008. The three Presidents faced different circumstances and challenges, and were very different in their style and their achievements.Eisenhower is remembered mostly for foreign policy, for ending the Korean War and confronting Soviet expansionism, but he did successfully push through the Interstate Highway System. He gained the support of right-wing Republicans for it by claiming it was essential for security, needed to evacuate cities in the event of nuclear war, and

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US voters choose their President on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This means that different Presidents can share the anniversary of their election. It was on November 4th, 1952, that Dwight D Eisenhower was elected. Ronald Reagan was elected on the same day in 1980, and Barack Obama on November 4th, 2008. The three Presidents faced different circumstances and challenges, and were very different in their style and their achievements.

Eisenhower is remembered mostly for foreign policy, for ending the Korean War and confronting Soviet expansionism, but he did successfully push through the Interstate Highway System. He gained the support of right-wing Republicans for it by claiming it was essential for security, needed to evacuate cities in the event of nuclear war, and to provide possible runways for military aircraft.

He authorized reconnaissance flights over Soviet territory to assess the military threat they posed. He knew from these that they had the ability to launch a satellite into orbit with a year, but was concerned to keep space for civilian purposes, and refused to allow von Braun's army team to beat them to it, as they could have done. The Soviets had no such reluctance, and used a military rocket to do it first. Only after the humiliating public failure of the civilian Vanguard rocket did he give von Braun the go-ahead.

Eisenhower's foreign policy was to contain any further Soviet expansion in Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, and to make it clear that the Cold War would turn hot if they attempted armed aggression. The 'Eisenhower Doctrine' held that the US would be "prepared to use armed force to counter aggression from any country controlled by international communism."

Reagan faced the challenges of a weak economy and an assertive Soviet Union. He revitalized the US economy with a series of tax cuts that stimulated investment, yet drew in more revenue than the previous higher rates had yielded. The 'misery index' of high inflation and high unemployment under President Carter was reversed as inflation went down and employment increased.

His military build-up, including his endorsement of the Strategic Defence Initiative, confronted Soviet military power, and his rhetoric spoke of a stiffened American resolve. His talk of "Tear down this wall," and his description of the "evil empire" made clear his determination to oppose unyieldingly everything that Communism entailed. History records that he succeeded, and that within a year of his leaving office, the wall came down and the evil empire crumbled.

Barack Obama, another November 4th President, was elected on that day in 2008. His record is mixed, with the economy dominated by the Financial Crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, and by foreign policy dealing with the fight against international terrorism, and the ongoing struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Entering office with a pledge to end partisanship and work in a spirit of co-operation with his political opponents, Obama presided over a period of intense polarization, with an America bitterly divided, as it still is. The healthcare reform he saw as his greatest achievement still provokes hostility as well as support, with his Democrat successors struggling to extend it and their Republican opponents seeking to replace it.

Obama's achievements include the fact that he was the first African American President, providing a role model to young African Americans. He also took a successful gamble by sending Special Forces in to kill Osama Bin Laden, an accomplishment that Jeremy Corbyn called "a tragedy." While it may be too early to settle on a verdict on Obama's presidency, it seems unlikely that he will be remembered as successful as Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan.

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