Information

Presidential Visits to Foreign Nations


Source: Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/trvl/pres/c7383.htm).


The Gifts of the Presidents

For decades, foreign dignitaries have showered U.S. leaders with presents, ranging from the extravagant to the bizarre.

In 1880, Queen Victoria gave President Rutherford B. Hayes an ornate desk carved out of timber from the British ship H.M.S Resolute. Years later, that desk is now a fixture in the Oval Office, where generations of presidents have sat behind it. It’s perhaps the most visible symbol of the sometimes extravagant, and frequently bizarre, gifts presented to American presidents.

For decades, foreign leaders have showered them with presents: Theodore Roosevelt—a zebra and a lion from Ethiopia Richard Nixon—a panda from China George W. Bush—300 pounds of raw lamb from Argentina. Lloyd N. Hand, the chief of protocol during Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, recalled an instance when the prime minister of the U.K. gifted the president a Burberry coat. As the delegation from the U.K. was leaving, Johnson tried on the coat and found that the sleeves were too short. Johnson gave the coat to Hand and asked him if he could catch the prime minister before he left and get the coat exchanged for the right size. Hand remembers dashing outside and running up to the limousine with the prime minister, while the Secret Service looked on, wondering what was happening. He managed to catch him and get the coat exchanged.

In the past, all gifts from foreign dignitaries had to be approved by Congress, after which they could become the property of the recipient. But as the U.S. gained prominence on the world stage, a division of protocol was created in 1928 to help presidents entertain visiting dignitaries and of course, organize the customary gift exchanges. Today, foreign gifts—from paintings to ceremonial daggers—are sent to the National Archives.


Memorandum on Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Background and Policy. Diverse and inclusive communities strengthen our democracy. But our Nation’s history has been one of great struggle toward this ideal. During the 20th century, Federal, State, and local governments systematically implemented racially discriminatory housing policies that contributed to segregated neighborhoods and inhibited equal opportunity and the chance to build wealth for Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American families, and other underserved communities. Ongoing legacies of residential segregation and discrimination remain ever-present in our society. These include a racial gap in homeownership a persistent undervaluation of properties owned by families of color a disproportionate burden of pollution and exposure to the impacts of climate change in communities of color and systemic barriers to safe, accessible, and affordable housing for people of color, immigrants, individuals with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals.

Throughout much of the 20th century, the Federal Government systematically supported discrimination and exclusion in housing and mortgage lending. While many of the Federal Government’s housing policies and programs expanded homeownership across the country, many knowingly excluded Black people and other persons of color, and promoted and reinforced housing segregation. Federal policies contributed to mortgage redlining and lending discrimination against persons of color.

The creation of the Interstate Highway System, funded and constructed by the Federal Government and State governments in the 20th century, disproportionately burdened many historically Black and low-income neighborhoods in many American cities. Many urban interstate highways were deliberately built to pass through Black neighborhoods, often requiring the destruction of housing and other local institutions. To this day, many Black neighborhoods are disconnected from access to high-quality housing, jobs, public transit, and other resources.

The Federal Government must recognize and acknowledge its role in systematically declining to invest in communities of color and preventing residents of those communities from accessing the same services and resources as their white counterparts. The effects of these policy decisions continue to be felt today, as racial inequality still permeates land-use patterns in most U.S. cities and virtually all aspects of housing markets.

The Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act more than 50 years ago to lift barriers that created separate and unequal neighborhoods on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin. Since then, however, access to housing and the creation of wealth through homeownership have remained persistently unequal in the United States. Many neighborhoods are as racially segregated today as they were in the middle of the 20th century. People of color are overrepresented among those experiencing homelessness. In addition, people of color disproportionately bear the burdens of exposure to air and water pollution, and growing risks of housing instability from climate crises like extreme heat, flooding, and wildfires. And the racial wealth gap is wider than it was when the Fair Housing Act was enacted, driven in part by persistent disparities in access to homeownership. Although Federal fair housing laws were expanded to include protections for individuals with disabilities, a lack of access to affordable and integrated living options remains a significant problem.

The Federal Government has a critical role to play in overcoming and redressing this history of discrimination and in protecting against other forms of discrimination by applying and enforcing Federal civil rights and fair housing laws. It can help ensure that fair and equal access to housing opportunity exists for all throughout the United States. This goal is consistent with the Fair Housing Act, which imposes on Federal departments and agencies the duty to “administer their programs and activities relating to housing and urban development . . . in a manner affirmatively to further” fair housing (42 U.S.C. 3608(d)). This is not only a mandate to refrain from discrimination but a mandate to take actions that undo historic patterns of segregation and other types of discrimination and that afford access to long-denied opportunities.

Accordingly, it is the policy of my Administration that the Federal Government shall work with communities to end housing discrimination, to provide redress to those who have experienced housing discrimination, to eliminate racial bias and other forms of discrimination in all stages of home-buying and renting, to lift barriers that restrict housing and neighborhood choice, to promote diverse and inclusive communities, to ensure sufficient physically accessible housing, and to secure equal access to housing opportunity for all.

Sec. 2. Examining Recent Regulatory Actions. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shall, as soon as practicable, take all steps necessary to examine the effects of the August 7, 2020, rule entitled “Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice” (codified at parts 5, 91, 92, 570, 574, 576, and 903 of title 24, Code of Federal Regulations), including the effect that repealing the July 16, 2015, rule entitled “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” has had on HUD’s statutory duty to affirmatively further fair housing. The Secretary shall also, as soon as practicable, take all steps necessary to examine the effects of the September 24, 2020, rule entitled “HUD’s Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Disparate Impact Standard” (codified at part 100 of title 24, Code of Federal Regulations), including the effect that amending the February 15, 2013, rule entitled “Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Discriminatory Effects Standard” has had on HUD’s statutory duty to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act. Based on that examination, the Secretary shall take any necessary steps, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to implement the Fair Housing Act’s requirements that HUD administer its programs in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing and HUD’s overall duty to administer the Act (42 U.S.C. 3608(a)) including by preventing practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect.

Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(d) You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


History of Camp David

President Kennedy with JFK, Jr., at Camp David. (Source: John F. Kennedy Library)

President Nixon with Soviet President Brezhnev standing beside the pool near Aspen. Brezhnev is wearing one of the windbreakers given to all Camp David guests. (Source: Nat'l Archives)

The Reagans at Camp David in 1984. (Source: Ronald Reagan Library)

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For more than 50 years now, when presidents have wanted privacy, they have sought the cool, secluded lodges and cabins of Camp David, the presidential retreat tucked away in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.

Presidents have entertained visiting heads of state, such a former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, conducted cabinet meetings, and briefed Congressional leaders at the retreat. The 1978 Middle East peace talks concluded with what have become known as the Camp David Accords. Yet few Americans know much about the place, considering its prominence.

Federal Summer Camp

It all started in 1935, when the Work Projects Administration, WPA, began building the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area Project near Thurmont, Maryland, as an example of creating parks from worn-out agricultural land.

Three years later, the area opened as a camp for federal government employees and their families. Known as Hi-Catoctin, the facility consisted of several small cabins, a dining hall, and a swimming pool. Covered with trees and 1,800 feet above sea level, the spot provided a cool respite from the near tropical humidity of the Washington, DC, area.

Meanwhile, immediately after America's entry into World War II, doctors for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were urging the ailing president to find a place convenient to Washington, yet far enough away to escape the heat and political pressures of the city.

The presidential yacht, USS Potomac, was out of the question because of heightened security considerations imposed by the war. After a search committee considered two other sites on Furnace Mountain on the Virginia side of the Potomac River below Harper's Ferry and Shenandoah National Park, Virginia Roosevelt toured two sites in the Catoctin Mountains.

He picked Hi-Catoctin, issuing a set of instructions on how the buildings should be remodeled and asking for the construction of a main lodge, which resembled the Roosevelt winter vacation home in Warm Springs, Georgia. The initial work cost $25,000. The camp was renamed the USS Shangri La, to follow up on the nautical connection, since many workers involved with the Potomac worked on the camp.

Popular Presidential Choice

Since Roosevelt inaugurated Shangri-La with a three-day visit beginning July 18, 1942, all subsequent presidents have made extensive use of the mountain top retreat.

President Harry Truman did not visit Shangri-La often because Bess, his wife, felt it was dull. However, when they did visit, the Trumans enjoyed Shangri-La. Truman's favorite sport was walking and he spent long hours wandering the mountain trails with a secret service agent in tow.

Renamed Camp David

President Dwight Eisenhower changed the name of the retreat to Camp David in honor of his grandson, David Eisenhower. Although he and his wife, Mamie, tended to use Camp David for private relaxation, Eisenhower held the first cabinet meeting ever to take place there. He also hosted British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at Camp David.

President John Kennedy and his family visited the camp often, enjoying the horseback riding and other recreational opportunities. Kennedy also allowed White House staff and cabinet members to use Camp David when he was not there.

President Lyndon Johnson held several important discussions with advisers on the Vietnam War, the crisis in the Dominican Republic, and other world events, at Camp David and hosted Prime Minister and Mrs. Harold Holt of Australia.

Reconstruction and Improvements

President Richard Nixon used Camp David as much as his five predecessors combined. Nixon had several new buildings built in compatible architectural styles, but complete with modern conveniences. He held cabinet meetings, staff conferences, hosted foreign dignitaries, and family get togethers at Camp David.

President Gerald Ford rode around Camp David on a snowmobile, and hosted President and Mrs. Suharto of Indonesia.

President Jimmy Carter hosted the now famous Camp David Summit in 1978, between Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and resulted in what are now known as the Camp David Accords establishing peace between Egypt and Israel. Carter also enjoyed fly-fishing.

President Ronald Reagan spent more time at Camp David than any other president. He liked horseback riding and working in the woodworking shop. Nancy Reagan worked on various landscaping improvements and updated decorating in some of the buildings. They also hosted British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

A Camp David Wedding

President George Bush pitched horseshoes at Camp David, and welcomed Prince Charles to the retreat. In 1992, Bush's daughter, Dorothy "Doro" married Bobby Koch at Camp David, the first wedding ever performed there.

While President Bill Clinton visited Camp David infrequently in the early days of his administration, he did hold a week-long retreat on management with incoming administration officials in 1993. As his term progressed, however, Clinton spent more time at the retreat.

President George W. Bush is a frequent visitor to Camp David, and has spent hundreds of days there. He has entertained numerous foreign leaders there as well as friends and family.


Visits to Trump properties

By frequently visiting his properties, President Trump has given the Trump Organization invaluable publicity at taxpayer expense and provided his paying customers an exclusive perk: access to the president and the other top administration officials who have made appearances there. Far from trying to curb this activity, President Trump&rsquos political allies in Congress have embraced it by frequently attending events or holding fundraisers that personally enrich the president. Similarly, foreign governments and special interest groups frequently act on the reality that spending money at Trump&rsquos properties ingratiates them with the administration and provides them the chance to speak with powerful lawmakers and administration officials.

President Trump&rsquos trips to Trump-brand properties, by type of property

Most visited Trump properties, by type of visitor (Top 10)

Property Name Trump Other Executive Branch Officials Members of Congress Foreign Government Officials Total Visits
Trump International Hotel - Washington, D.C. 33 558 290 134 1,087
Mar-a-Lago 146 209 32 34 437
Trump National Golf Club - Bedminster, N.J. 105 134 5 1 256
Trump National Golf Club - D.C. in Potomac Falls, Virginia 105 26 19 2 152
Trump International Golf Club - West Palm Beach 99 11 7 2 120
Trump National Doral - Miami 10 10 3 0 44
Trump Tower - New York City 25 9 0 1 35
Trump International Hotel - Las Vegas 13 3 0 0 19
Trump International Golf Links and Hotel - Doonbeg, Ireland 3 11 0 3 17
Trump Turnberry 3 9 0 0 13

Most visits to Trump properties by executive branch officials (Top 10)

Executive Branch Official Visits
Trump, Ivanka 78
Kushner, Jared 55
Pence, Mike 34
Conway, Kellyanne 27
Mnuchin, Steven 23
Scavino, Dan 21
Grenell, Richard 18
Ross, Wilbur 18
Mulvaney, Mick 18
Huckabee Sanders, Sarah 17

Most visits to Trump properties by members of Congress (Top 10)


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Obama said, 'History does not move in a straight line,' and he quoted Dr Martin Luther King when he said: 'The arc of the moral universe is long but it is bent towards justice.'

He said: 'Progress is never guaranteed. Progress has to be earned by every generation. But I believe history gives us hope.'

Obama also made a mark of rebuffing his successor's well-known coolness on the subject of the North Atlantic Treaty and the obligation to defend each Nato member from aggression.

He said: 'In recent years we've made historic investments in Nato, increased America's presence in Europe. And today's Nato, the world's greatest alliance, is as strong and as ready as it's ever been.

'And I am confident that just as America's commitment to the transatlantic alliance has endured for seven decades, whether it's been under a Democratic or Republican administration, that commitment will continue, including our pledge and our treaty obligation to defend every ally.'

Obama, who is leaving the White House after eight years in power, was cheered by the audience at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center as he pronounced the Greek word 'demokratia', which the word democracy is based on.

President Obama, standing in front of American and Greek flags, said: 'As long as we retain our faith in democracy, our faith in the people, then our future will be OK'

Obama's speech was a mixture of the light-hearted (left) and the serious but he got several cheers as he referenced Greece's role as the birthplace of democracy and thanked the audience at the end (right)

Obama (pictured) made a point of saying that the United States would remain a close friend of Greece. He waved to the audience (right) at the end of one of his last speeches as President

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He said: 'For it was here 25 centuries ago, in the rocky hills of this city, that a new idea emerged. Demokratia. Kratos - the power to rule - comes from demos, the people.'

At one point Obama said: 'We must make clear that governments exist to serve the interests of citizens, and not the other way around.'

He also specifically mentioned three countries when it came to the defense of democracy - Tunisia, Myanmar and, most tellingly of all, Ukraine, which has been involved in a military conflict with Russia since 2014.

But there was no mention of Turkey - just across the Aegean Sea from Greece - where a military coup aimed at removing the democratically elected Islamist-leaning government failed in July. Turkey has blamed Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania, and is seeking his extradition.

Obama's speech made mention of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, in which he paid homage to a Greek woman who has been helping migrants, same-sex marriage, human rights and globalization.

He also made a strong defense of his own administration and said that last year incomes rose quicker than they had in any year since 1968. He also pointed out his administration had rescued the US auto industry while making sure it made better and less polluting vehicles.

And the President defended the nuclear deal with Iran, which has been heavily criticized by Trump.

He said: 'It is my belief that democracies are more likely to try to resolve conflicts between nations in a way that does not result in war. That's why with diplomacy we were able to shutdown Iran's nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.'

'With diplomacy the United States opened relations with Cuba. With diplomacy we joined and nearly 200 nations in the most ambitious agreement ever to save our planet from climate change,' he said, mentioning two issues where his policies are set to be undermined by President-Elect Trump.

Obama said democracy was 'easier' when everybody was from the same ethnic and religious background and became more complex when there were racial or religious differences.

Obama's speech was typical of his tone during his eight years as president. He boarded Air Force One (right) at Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens. Venizelos was a Greek prime minister and national hero, who died in 1936

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Goodbye, Greece: Obama boards Air Force One at Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport. He bid farewell to Greece but said it would always have an ally in the United States

He said when there were such tensions it could be a 'comfort' for people to fall back on nationalism or tribal politics.

Obama also spoke out for cyber freedom: 'Open, democratic societies can deliver more prosperity because when people are free to think for themselves and share ideas and discover and create, including on the internet. That's when innovations are unleashed. That's when economies truly flourish.'

Playing to his audience, Obama said: 'I still believe there's more of what Greeks call philotimo - love and respect and kindness for family and community and country' and he finished his speech, to a round of applause with the phrase: 'Zíto i Elláda (Long Live Greece)'.

WHAT MAKES GREECE THE HOME OF DEMOCRACY?

The word democracy is based on the ancient Greek word demokratia, which meant literally 'people power'.

The ancient Greeks were among the most civilised in the world and by the fifth century BC had invented a system of direct democracy in which citizens voted directly on legislation.

The only citizens able to take part were men who owned land and were not slaves - roughly a tenth of the population.

The longest-lasting democratic leader was Pericles.

Under democracy, Athens successfully resisted various Persian attacks, with great victories at the battles of Marathon and Salamis.

Democracy was suppressed by the Macedonians, whose leader Alexander the Great took over complete power in 336BC.

Democracy only returned to Greece in the 19th century, after it became independent from the Ottoman Empire.

In 1967 democracy was suspended after a coup by 'the colonels', but was restored in 1974 after a disastrous conflict in Cyprus.

The venue where he made the speech was named after Stavros Niarchos, a multi-millionaire Greek shipping tycoon and racehorse owner, who died in 1996. One of his five wives was Charlotte Ford, daughter of the late U.S. auto mogul Henry Ford II.

But Obama's weakening power, as he prepares to leave office in January, was highlighted when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble openly disagreed with him over giving debt relief to Greece.

Obama had urged other countries to offer debt relief to Greece but Schäuble said: 'Whoever says 'We will relieve your debts' is doing Greece a disservice.'

A finance ministry spokesman later added: 'Our position is unchanged. Obama's visit has not changed anything.'

Earlier the president, looking more like a tourist, visited Greece's most famous ancient monument, the Acropolis, in Athens.

The ruins of the citadel - built five centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ - may have put into perspective the political earthquake of Donald Trump's election last week.

In a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Obama said Trump's victory was a reaction against economic uncertainty, suspicion of elites and a desire to reign in the excesses of globalization and he said world leaders should pay attention to their citizens' very real fears of inequality and economic dislocation.

'The more aggressively and effectively we deal with those issues, the less those fears may channel themselves into counterproductive approaches that can pit people against each other,' Obama said.

Under leaden skies Obama was shown around the Acropolis - which sits on a hill above the city - by a guide from Greece's Culture Ministry.

The entire site was closed to the public for the day for Obama's visit, which has taken place amid draconian security measures that have also banned demonstrations in parts of Athens, and shut down roads and subway stations.

The 44th President entered the complex through the Propylaea, the monumental gateway, and walked through the Parthenon temple, which was dedicated to the goddess Athena, who was considered the patron god of the city of Athens.

The 5th Century BC Parthenon temple is surrounded by scaffolding as it undergoes crucial maintenance.

Obama was later escorted through the Acropolis Museum by its president, Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis.

Obama said the marble busts and statues were 'beautiful'.

Greece's government has hailed Obama's visit - the first official visit of a sitting US President since Bill Clinton visited in 1999 - as being of massive importance.

Greek guide Eleni Banou showed President Obama around the Acropolis site, which was built 2,200 years before the birth of the United States

Obama and his guide inspect the Erechtheum, a temple built between 421BC and 406BC and dedicated to the ancient Greek gods, Athena and Poseidon

It has pinned its hopes on him persuading some of the financially stricken country's more reluctant international creditors to grant debt relief, as well as pressuring other European countries to share more of the burden of the continent's refugee crisis.

But, as a lame duck President in his last months in office, his powers of persuasion may be limited.

Obama was receptive to Greece's woes and repeated his belief that debt relief is necessary, a stance that may be somewhat different to that of his successor.

Many European leaders see parallels between Trump's election and the rise of far-right and populist movements in their own countries.

President Obama tours the Acropolis Museum today with Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis

Obama (pictured left) was shown around the Acropolis Museum by its director, Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis (right). Obama's visit to the 'cradle of civilization' is his last foreign trip as President

Obama, speaking in Athens, said today: 'The world needs a Europe which is strong, secure and democratic'


Biden arrives in Europe for first foreign trip as president

President Biden arrived in Europe on Wednesday on his first foreign trip as president as the administration strives to emphasize relationships with U.S. allies.

While there, he will participate in both the G7 and NATO summits, as well as an EU-U.S. summit. Mr. Biden's key message to allies has been that America is back, after former President Donald Trump at times mocked leaders of the nation's closest allies and championed an "America first" platform. The White House says this trip will focus on America's commitment to rallying world democracies and defending shared values.

But the most closely watched part of the president's trip will be next week when Mr. Biden has a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The engagement promises particularly high stakes, especially given recent ransomware attacks in the U.S. committed by hackers that U.S. officials say are in Russia.

Mr. Biden told reporters before departing for the United Kingdom that the spate of cyberattacks targeting U.S. companies will be a subject of his discussions with Putin. The president also said he has a COVID-19 vaccine plan for the world, which he will be announcing. Mr. Biden, however, did not say when his vaccine strategy would be unveiled.

President Biden boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland before departing for the U.K. and Europe to attend a series of summits on June 9, 2021. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden are first meeting with U.S. military personnel and their families stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall. On Thursday, Mr. Biden will meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. On Saturday and Sunday, the president will attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

On Sunday, he will meet with the U.K.'s Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. As White House press secretary Jen Psaki said often before the White House confirmed that visit, "Who wouldn't want to meet the queen?"

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From there, he will travel to Brussels, Belgium, where the G20 summit will be held on Monday. Mr. Biden will also meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the summit.

He'll also participate in an EU-U.S. summit while in Brussels.

The president's meeting with Putin will come toward the end of his trip on Wednesday in Geneva. The White House has not said yet whether Mr. Biden and Putin will hold a joint press conference.


The Trump Presidency Is Now History. So How Will It Rank?

As scholars consider the legacy of Donald J. Trump, it appears that even the woefully inadequate James Buchanan has some serious competition.

In the race to the bottom for the title of worst American president, the same few sorry names appear at the end of almost every list, jockeying for last place. There’s Andrew Johnson, whose abysmal behavior during Reconstruction led to the first presidential impeachment. There’s Warren G. Harding, responsible for the Teapot Dome scandal. There’s hapless, hated Franklin Pierce doomed, dead-after-32-days William Henry Harrison and inevitably, James Buchanan, often considered worst of all because of how badly he bungled the lead-up to the Civil War.

But as historians consider the legacy of Donald J. Trump, it appears that even the woefully inadequate Buchanan has some serious competition for the spot at the bottom.

“Trump was the first president to be impeached twice and the first to stir up a mob to try to attack the Capitol and disrupt his successor from becoming president,” said Eric Rauchway, professor of history at the University of California, Davis. “These will definitely go down in history books, and they are not good.”

“I already feel that he is the worst,” said Ted Widmer, professor of history at the City University of New York, noting that as bad as Buchanan was — and he was very bad indeed — he was “not as aggressively bad as Trump.”

“Andrew Johnson and Nixon would be the two others in the worst category, and I think Trump has them beat pretty handily, too,” he added. “He has invented a whole new category, a subbasement that no one knew existed.”

Presidential ranking may be a water-cooler exercise for historians, but it is also an official institutional pursuit. The Siena College Research Institute regularly compiles ranked lists of all the American presidents, based on the composite views of scholars. So does C-SPAN.

Various polls periodically ask regular citizens to weigh in. And on Twitter last week, Chris Hayes of MSNBC took the presidential-ranking parlor game to his followers, asking them to list the “five worst presidents of all time.” (He put Mr. Trump as the second worst, just ahead of Andrew Johnson.)

Mr. Trump was a highly divisive president, of course, and one of the confounding things about him was how two people could look at his behavior and make completely different assessments.

“I would say that before the election it depended on one’s political outlook,” with conservatives applauding his tax cuts, deregulation policies and judicial appointments, said William J. Cooper Jr., professor emeritus of history at Louisiana State University. “But from the election forward, I don’t see how anyone could feel that Trump’s behavior was anything but reprehensible or that he hasn’t completely destroyed any legacy he would have left.”

He cited Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election his promotion of baseless conspiracy theories attacking voting integrity his intemperate, self-promoting behavior during the Georgia Senate runoffs, which helped ensure victory for the two Democratic candidates and his encouragement of the crowd that rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Even conservatives from Atlanta, where Mr. Cooper lives, have had it with Mr. Trump, he said. “He has tarred and feathered himself, and I think it will blemish him for a long, long, long time.”

Douglas G. Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and a member of the advisory panel for C-SPAN’s Presidential Historians Survey, said that Mr. Trump “was a bad president in just about every regard.”

“I find him to be the worst president in U.S. history, personally,” Mr. Brinkley said, “even worse than William Henry Harrison, who was president for only one month. You don’t want to be ranked below him.”

Mr. Brinkley brought up Richard Nixon, the only president to resign in disgrace.

“At least when Nixon left, he put the country ahead of himself at the last minute,” Mr. Brinkley said. “Now he looks like a statesman compared to Trump.”

These are all hot takes, of course — the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” the song playing on Wednesday as Mr. Trump flew out of Washington, has barely faded from our ears — and it is too soon to know how history will judge him. But things do not augur well, said Don Levy, director of Siena’s research institute.

In the most recent Siena survey, a year into the Trump administration, the president was rated 42nd out of 44 presidents, less terrible than only Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. In almost every category — integrity, intelligence and relationship with Congress, for instance — he was rated at or near rock bottom. (The exceptions: He was 25th in “willing to take risks” and 10th in “luck.”)

“Speaking in terms of this survey, it would be surprising if Trump was meaningfully rehabilitated,” Mr. Levy said. “If the opening paragraph of any discussion starts about being impeached twice, and the second sentence is about the coronavirus, and the third is about partisanship — that’s going to be very hard to overcome.”

Sean Wilentz, a professor of American history at Princeton University, said that Mr. Trump was the worst president in history, hands down.

“He’s in a whole other category in terms of the damage he’s done to the Republic,” said Mr. Wilentz, citing the radicalization of the Republican Party, the inept response to the pandemic and what he called “the brazen, almost psychedelic mendacity of the man.”

The presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose most recent book, “Leadership: In Turbulent Times,” looks at how four presidents confronted tough moments in history, said that it normally takes a generation to evaluate a leader. But to the extent that a president’s legacy is determined by his ability to rise to a crisis, Mr. Trump will be remembered for his failures: how poorly he handled Covid-19 and how disgracefully he behaved after the election.

“History will look with grave disfavor on President Trump for the crisis he created,” she said.

For his part, Mr. Rauchway said he believed that Mr. Trump would “crash the bottom five” on the presidential rankings, but that the bottom spot itself was uncertain. “I think he has some stiff competition” in Andrew Johnson, whom Mr. Rauchway personally regards as the worst president of all.

“If I had to predict where historiography would go, I think people would have to recognize that Trumpism — nativism and white supremacy — has deep roots in American history,” Mr. Rauchway said. “But Trump himself put it to new and malignant purpose.”

Robert Strauss, a journalist and the author of “Worst. President. Ever.,” a popular history of Buchanan, seemed reluctant to allow the subject of his book to relinquish his title.

“I can go through a litany of things that Buchanan did,” he said. “In the time period between Lincoln’s election and the inauguration” — that is, during the lame-duck period of Buchanan’s presidency — “he let seven states secede and said, ‘I can’t do anything about it.’ He also influenced the Dred Scott decision, the worst decision in Supreme Court history.”

Of course, “The difference was that Buchanan was a nice guy,” Mr. Strauss said.

He added: “He was the greatest party giver of the 19th century. He was kind to his nieces and nephews. What he was, was not a very good president.”

As they considered Mr. Trump’s record in comparison to that of other presidents, some historians said that he could have done things to salvage his reputation.

“If he had presided over a competent response to Covid, he would have won re-election easily,” Mr. Widmer of the City University of New York said. “And if he had responded with grace to his loss, a lot of people would have given him some grudging respect.”

And yes, he added, President Trump was worse than President Buchanan.

“Trump is a worse failure because he really wanted to be re-elected, and he was rejected,” Mr. Widmer said. “Buchanan colossally failed, but at least he had the dignity not to run again.”


Mexico's President Skips U.N. General Assembly And All Other Foreign Travel

Since taking office last December, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not left his country. Critics say he is damaging Mexico's image on the world stage. Above, he speaks during the daily morning press briefing in Mexico City on Sept. 5. Pedro Martin Gonzalez Castillo/Getty Images hide caption

Since taking office last December, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not left his country. Critics say he is damaging Mexico's image on the world stage. Above, he speaks during the daily morning press briefing in Mexico City on Sept. 5.

Pedro Martin Gonzalez Castillo/Getty Images

As leaders from around the world spent Monday at the United Nations Climate Action Summit pledging to ban coal and cut carbon emissions, Mexico's president was at his weekday news conference showing off a new app that tells consumers where the cheapest gas in the country can be found.

And it's not just Monday's events in New York. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is skipping the annual United Nations General Assembly altogether.

In fact, since taking office last December, López Obrador hasn't left Mexico, not once. He didn't attend the Group of 20 summit of world leaders in Osaka, Japan, this past June. And he has met only with foreign dignitaries who travel to Mexico, greatly limiting his international exposure.

"For him not to travel leaves us missing a lot of international opportunities," says Rafael Fernández de Castro, the director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Fernández was a foreign policy adviser to former President Felipe Calderón.

"He's losing opportunities because leaders talk to leaders, not to someone sent to talk to them. It's not the same," adds Fernández.

As with the G-20 summit, López Obrador has dispatched his foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, in his place to the United Nations this week. When announcing his decision not to go to New York, the president expressed his full confidence in Ebrard, saying that Mexico is well represented.

López Obrador says his domestic agenda — cracking down on Mexico's rampant corruption, increasing social spending and bringing much-needed development to the country's poor — is more important than foreign concerns. When asked about his lack of international travel, López Obrador often repeats the phrase "The best foreign policy is domestic policy."

Presidential spokesman Jesus Cantu says it's not a set-in-stone policy that López Obrador won't travel outside the country. "But he has decided that this first year he is dedicated to building the bases necessary at home," says Cantu.

López Obrador has yet to travel to the U.S. to personally meet with President Trump. The two leaders have held several phone calls. And López Obrador has met with the leaders of only a few neighboring Central American countries. All encounters were held in southern Mexican states.

"This is new for Mexico. Normally you'll see at least 10 visits to Mexico by foreign dignitaries in the first year of a government," says Jorge Castañeda, a foreign minister in former President Vicente Fox's administration. "Over a whole administration, this means fewer businessmen come, foreign press, tourism officials. We hurt our good image in the world," he says.

Castañeda, a vocal critic of López Obrador, believes the Mexican president is uncomfortable in international settings because he does not speak English and, more importantly, because he lacks a foreign policy.

López Obrador has taken on a noninterventionist stance when it comes to hemispheric issues such as the political crises in Nicaragua and Venezuela, putting him at odds with the U.S. and other regional leaders. He has pushed for billions of dollars of foreign investment in Central America to provide jobs and security to stem the flow of migrants from the region. But that may be tough to do given his aversion to international settings, say critics. Among his most notable foreign policy decisions is his acquiescence to Trump's demands for more Mexican border enforcement to avoid tariffs and other punitive actions by the United States.

Cantu says the president will travel outside the country when necessary to sign a negotiated agreement or a concrete plan. But López Obrador likes to say he won't engage in political tourism and often criticizes past administration's extravagant international travel on the taxpayers' dime.

He pledged government austerity on the campaign trail, and one of the first moves he made after taking office was to put the presidential plane up for sale, citing its exorbitant price tag. He flies commercial around the country and this summer mandated that all international travel requests be personally approved by him. He also cut the daily government travel per diem in half to $225 a day.

That approach could make Foreign Minister Ebrard's trip to New York even more challenging: good luck finding a hotel room, meals and taxis for that amount for one week in Manhattan.


Words In the News

modifyadj. to change some parts of (something) while not changing other parts

sensitiveadj. needing to be handled in a careful or secret way in order to protect someone or something

emergingadj. newly created or noticed and growing in strength or popularity

sanctionsn. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country or by not allowing economic aid for that country

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Watch the video: Το Πρωινό. Εκτός τόπου και χρόνου η Ελευθερία Ελευθερίου, δεν μπορούσε να ανέβει ούτε στην καρέκλα (January 2022).