Robert Dallek

(Robert A. Dallek)

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  • Born: May 16, 1934
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Historian









Robert A. Dallek is an American historian specializing in the Presidents of the United States. He retired as a history professor at Boston University in 2004 and previously taught at Columbia University, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Oxford University. As of November 2013 he teaches at Stanford University's Stanford in Washington program in Washington, D.C. He won the Bancroft Prize for his 1979 book Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945 as well as other awards for scholarship and teaching.

Quotes About
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An alienated and indecisive electorate is destructive to our democracy. Voters, Voting & Elections
Every candidate for the Presidency should read books that strike cautionary notes about how recent leaders miscalculated or allowed themselves to be led astray by false beliefs. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
Leaders and statesmen are always making mistakes and misjudgments. Leaders & Leadership
Lyndon Johnson might have been the greatest vote counter ever in Congress, not because of his math skills but because of his unrivaled ability to read his fellow politicians and his utter ruthlessness in using what he knew. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
MacArthur told Truman that the ‘boys will be home by Christmas’. Truman forgot to ask, ‘which Christmas?’ They are still there today. War & Peace
Presidents always interpret things as they wish to. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
Segregation not only separated the races in the South but it separated the South from the rest of the nation. Miscellaneous
The men who have had great vision in the White House are those who are most enduring in the minds of the public. America loves visionary Presidents. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
War kills reform. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
A national government using New Deal programs and the massive defense spending beginning with World War II and continuing through the Cold War was Johnson's vehicle for expanding the Southern economy and making it, as he hoped, one of the more prosperous regions of the country. Government ;War & Peace
A president cannot sit on his hands and be seen as passive in the face of ruthless action by a foreign dictator.
A presidential candidate's great desire is to be seen as pragmatic, and they hope their maneuvering and shifting will be seen in pursuit of some higher purpose. It doesn't mean they are utterly insincere. Hope
Access to presidential materials should be as wide as possible.
After one party loses two elections in a row, there's sort of blood in the water.
Allegations that President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich partly in return for donations to his presidential library have raised questions about the value of such institutions and the federal appropriations that support them.
American politics is theatre. There is a frightening emotionalism at national conventions. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
As for Vietnam, what matters is that Kennedy successfully resisted pressure to send anything more than military advisers, a stance that was a likely prelude to complete withdrawal from the conflict. There is solid evidence of his eagerness to end America's military role in that country's civil war. War & Peace
As someone who has more than a passing acquaintance with most of the 20th century presidents, I have often thought that their accomplishments have little staying power in shaping popular views of their leadership. Power ;Leaders & Leadership
At the end of the day, Americans are not so keen on ideologues, people who have such fixed positions that they can't see any virtue in the other side's point of view.
At the end of their first years, there are few people who would have predicted that Truman would be elected in 1948 or that Reagan would get a second term. It's always premature to make some kind of categorical judgment after the first year in office.
At the start of first terms, presidents invariably have a measure of goodwill.
Besieged by lawsuits that threatened to engulf almost everyone at the White House, Clinton assistants shunned paper or e-mail records of their daily deliberations. One told me that he would go down the hall to confer with his division chief face to face rather than discuss an issue on the telephone.
By the time a second term rolls around, the illusions about a president have largely evaporated. Time
Clinton's egregious act of self-indulgence was outdone by an impeachment based not on constitutionally required high crimes and misdemeanors but on a vindictive determination to bring down a president who had offended self-righteous moralists eager to put a different political agenda in place.
Coming out of WWII, there was the assumption, the hope, the vision of a world at peace, of a kind of Wilsonian universalism, that we and the Soviets would get along, we'd have a kind of lovefest for as far into the future as anyone could see. Future ;Hope ;War & Peace
Compared with other recent presidents whose stumbles and failures have assaulted the national self-esteem, memories of Kennedy continue to give the country faith that its better days are ahead. That's been reason enough to discount his limitations and remain enamored of his presidential performance. Religion & God
Concealing one's true medical condition from the voting public is a time-honored tradition of the American presidency. Health, Healthcare & Medicine
Congress becomes the public voice of opposition.
Despite all the public hand-wringing about negative advertising, political veterans will tell you that it persists because, more often than not, it works. But tearing down the other guy has another attraction: It can be a substitute for building much of a case for what the mudslinger will do once in office.
Despite an unqualified understanding that U.S. national security was inextricably bound up with Britain's survival, F.D.R. knew that his reelection in part rested on the hope that he would keep the country out of war. Hope ;War & Peace
Despite its flaws, the American electoral system has produced Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, and Harry Truman.
Don't be intimidated by people who seem to be experts. Hear their points of view and get their judgements. But at the end of day, you've got to make a judgement because it's not their life that's going to be affected so much as your future. Life ;Future
During Grover Cleveland's second term, in the 1890s, the White House deceived the public by dismissing allegations that surgeons had removed a cancerous growth from the President's mouth; a vulcanized-rubber prosthesis disguised the absence of much of Cleveland's upper left jaw and part of his palate.
During his presidency, Truman and the Republicans were locked in a series of furious assaults on each other that outraged him and made Truman an enduring foe of a party and its representatives, which he saw as on the wrong side of almost every domestic and foreign policy issue he considered important.
During the 1937 congressional election campaign, Johnson's group probably paid $5,000 to Elliott Roosevelt, one of Franklin Roosevelt's sons, for a telegram in which Elliott suggested that the Roosevelt family favored Lyndon Johnson. Families, Children & Parenting
Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican nominee in 1952, made a strong public commitment to ending the war in Korea, where fighting had reached a stalemate. War & Peace
Eisenhower was quite supportive of Kennedy and Johnson in terms of foreign policy.
Every year since 1990, the Gallup poll has asked Americans to assess all the presidents since John F. Kennedy. And every year, Kennedy comes out on top.
Experience helped Richard Nixon, but it didn't save him, and it certainly wasn't a blanket endorsement. He blundered terribly in dealing with Vietnam.
F.D.R. had an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions in 1933 when he drove 15 major bills through the Congress, and super majorities in the House and the Senate in 1935 when he won passage of Social Security.
Few American presidents are held in higher esteem than Thomas Jefferson. Though historians have scrutinized every phase of his long public career and found him wanting in a number of respects, he holds an unshakable place in the pantheon of American heroes.
Flattery was one of Kissinger's principal tools in winning over Nixon, and a tool he employed shamelessly.
For style and for creating a mood of optimism and hope - Kennedy on that count is as effective as any president the country has had in its history. History ;Hope
For those of us who cry out for gun control, our fears cannot be eliminated as long as the country remains an armed camp in which the most troubled among us can find ways to appropriate one of the easily available weapons in all our communities.
Foreign policy - dealing as it does with the most charged political subjects of all, the safety and dignity of the nation - will always be political terrain particularly vulnerable to distortion and demagoguery.
From the moment he took office in January of 1961, Kennedy had been eager to settle the Cuban problem without overt military action by the United States.
Full federal funding for presidential libraries should bring with it new rules of control over papers and artifacts.
George Washington sets the nation on its democratic path. Abraham Lincoln preserves it. Franklin Roosevelt sees the nation through depression and war. War & Peace
Governing is one thing, campaigning is another - and the latter becomes far more pronounced in an election-year State of the Union.
Harry Truman wrote scathing letters, but he almost never sent them.
Henry Kissinger never wanted the 20,000 pages of his telephone transcripts made public - not while he was alive, at any rate.
Herbert Hoover was a man of genuine, fine character, but he lacked practical political sense. And he couldn't bend and shift and change with the requirements of the time. And he was a ruined President, because he was such a, I think, stiff-backed ideologue. And I think that speaks volumes about his character. Time
Historians evaluating George W. Bush's first term will focus on foreign policy and, most of all, 9/11. I think they will criticize him for his early reaction, for not returning at once to Washington, D.C.
Historians partial to Kennedy see matters differently from those partial to L.B.J. Vietnam has become a point of contention in defending and criticizing J.F.K.
Historians will look back and say, 'Foreign policy in the Ford presidency was very much dominated by Kissinger, with a kind of continuity from the Nixon period.' Ford is not going to be remembered as a really significant foreign policy maker.
How different our national perspective would be had Johnson, rather than Nixon, served from 1969 to 1973.
How many State of the Union addresses do people remember? They don't resonate that way.
I see a direct line between Kennedy and Richard Nixon and the opening to China and the detente with the Soviet Union.
I think experience is a terribly overrated idea when it comes to thinking about who should become president.
I think the most important thing that comes out of the meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt in early 1942 is a commitment on Roosevelt's part to fight Europe first. To struggle first against Germany and put Japan and the Pacific as a secondary theatre in the conflict. And this is what Churchill was after.
I think the public can t accept the idea that someone as inconsequential as Oswald could have killed someone as consequential as Kennedy. They don t want to believe the world is that chaotic. It is.
If nobody trusts you as president, then you can't get anything done.
If Roosevelt didn't have World War II, he never would have had a third term. War & Peace
In 1800, in the first interparty contest, the Federalists warned that presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson, because of his sympathy expressed at the outset of the French Revolution, was 'the son of a half-breed Indian squaw' who would put opponents under the guillotine. Sympathy
In counterfactual history, nothing is certain. History
In his State of the Union speech in January 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt declared America's commitment to Four Freedoms in the struggle against Nazi totalitarianism. Among them was the freedom from fear. Freedom & Liberty
In seeking an empire of liberty, Jefferson wished not only to expand the country's territorial holdings, but also to extend American institutions around the globe.
In the late 19th century, the Populists - a protest movement of mainly disaffected farmers and workers - threatened to overturn established authority.
It's always valuable for someone running for president... to have as much bipartisan support as possible.
John F. Kennedy went to bed at 3:30 in the morning on November 9, 1960, uncertain whether he had defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency. He thought he had won, but six states hung in the balance, and after months of exhaustive campaigning, he was too tired to stay awake any longer. Morning
John Kennedy had so many different medical problems that began when he was a boy. He started out with intestinal problems... spastic colitis. Health, Healthcare & Medicine
Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society launched an anti-Communist crusade that won the support of millions of Americans in the 1950s. Society
Kennedy is remembered as a success mainly because of what came after: Johnson and Vietnam. Nixon and Watergate. Success
Kennedy saw the presidency as the vital center of government, and a president's primary goal as galvanizing commitments to constructive change. He aimed to move the country and the world toward a more peaceful future, not just through legislation but through inspiration. Future ;Government
Late 19th-century populists saw bankers and industrialists manipulating markets to enrich themselves at the expense of small farmers and labourers and favoured political candidates promising economic relief through free and unlimited coinage of silver.
Like Lyndon Johnson, President Obama understands that timidity in a time of troubles is a prescription for failure. Time ;Failure
Lyndon Johnson is not a comfortable model for President Obama to imitate. He is an all-but-forgotten president - pilloried for the failed war in Vietnam and criticized for grandiose reforms conservatives denounce as the epitome of federal social engineering that costs too much and does too little. War & Peace
McCarthy had ten years in the House of Representatives, only two terms as a senator. What did he pass? Are there any bills or any piece of legislation that he's identified with? Not at all.
McGeorge Bundy was a brilliant man who'd had a meteoric academic career and was the youngest man ever to be dean of the Harvard faculty. But he was also arrogant and looked upon all sorts of people and politicians as not to be taken all that seriously.
My feeling is that it's a misreading of history to say that, as the Reagan supporters do, that Reagan won the Cold War. History ;War & Peace
Nixon did not anticipate the extent to which Kissinger, whom he barely knew when he appointed him national-security adviser in 1969, would be envious and high-strung - a maintenance project of the first order.
Nixon's deep antipathy toward Jews is well known, and he took a strange satisfaction in having Kissinger in his inner circle, where he could periodically taunt him.
Nowadays, everyone seems to have a blog that finds readers.
Obama is cutting back on the idea that we're going to have Jeffersonian democracy in Pakistan or anywhere else.
Obama's endorsement of gay marriage is hardly as consequential as Johnson's legislative success on civil rights. Success ;Families, Children & Parenting
Once the public loses confidence in a president's leadership at a time of war, once they don't trust him anymore, once his credibility is sharply diminished, how does he get it back? Time ;Trust ;Leaders & Leadership
One doesn't simply write about Lyndon Johnson. You get the Johnson treatment from beyond the grave - arm around you, nose to nose. I should admit that he also reminds me of my father, quite an overbearing and narcissistic character. And in some ways, he reminds me of myself. Another workaholic.
Political vitriol is a familiar enough characteristic of American history. History
President Obama can talk about having no grand schemes and making no big gains, but the reality is he can't get anything of significance through Congress.
Presidential aspirants reach for the highest office to satisfy some yearning for greatness or even immortality.
Presidents are not only the country's principal policy chief, shaping the nation's domestic and foreign agendas, but also the most visible example of our values.
Presidents need to be critically studied and analyzed.
Public scandals are America's favorite parlor sport. Learning about the flaws and misdeeds of the rich and famous seems to satisfy our egalitarian yearnings. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Sports & Athletics ;Fame
Racial segregation in the South not only separated the races, but it separated the South from the rest of the country.
Reagan grows up in 1920s Dixon, Illinois, and it's the heartland of America. It's a time when Americans are particularly drawn to this small town world because it's beginning to pass. Time
Richard Nixon had a kind of Walter Mitty fantasy life. He was a man with a grandiose thoughts: dreams of not simply being president but maybe becoming one of the truly great presidents of American history. Life ;History
Ronald Reagan in foreign affairs, I think, was someone who had certain, very general ideas, general propositions by which he lives: To combat communism, to build up the American military power to assure our national security against any conceivable threat. Power
Some Kennedy aides have always insisted that Johnson misread J.F.K.'s plans for Vietnam. They say that Kennedy had begun to rethink the U.S. presence in Indochina and was reluctant to increase it.
Success in past U.S. conflicts has not been strictly the result of military leadership but rather the judgment of the president in choosing generals and setting broad strategy. Leaders & Leadership ;Success
Television has an awful lot to do with the Kennedy mystique and the fact that he's frozen in people's minds at the age of 46, and he was handsome and personable and witty and charming.
The 1890s was an intensely patriotic decade for Americans. It was a time of neo-imperialism, when the European powers and the United States were establishing their flags around the globe. Time
The Atlantic conference in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland is a dramatic moment in World War II history because for the first time, Roosevelt and Churchill are meeting face to face in this war. Time ;History ;War & Peace
The Bay of Pigs is one of America's most infamous Cold War blunders, and it has been studied, debated, and dramatized endlessly ever since. War & Peace
The Bay of Pigs was an operation the United States endorsed. That was a preventive operation. We were afraid that Castro was going to subvert the hemisphere.
The CIA's official history of the Bay of Pigs operation is filled with dramatic and harrowing details that not only lay bare the strategic, logistical, and political problems that doomed the invasion, but also how the still-green President John F. Kennedy scrambled to keep the U.S. from entering into a full conflict with Cuba. History
The Cold War is over. The kind of authority that the presidents asserted during the Cold War has now been diminished. War & Peace
The consequence of the Bay of Pigs failure wasn't an acceptance of Castro and his control of Cuba but, rather, a renewed determination to bring him down by stealth. Failure
The disaster at the Bay of Pigs intensified Kennedy's doubts about listening to advisers from the CIA, the Pentagon, or the State Department who had misled him or allowed him to accept lousy advice.
The greatest presidents have been those who demonstrated astute judgment in times of crisis - often despite the advice they were getting.
The institution of the presidency was profoundly affected by Watergate.
The lifelong health problems of John F. Kennedy constitute one of the best-kept secrets of recent U.S. history - no surprise, because if the extent of those problems had been revealed while he was alive, his presidential ambitions would likely have been dashed. History ;Health, Healthcare & Medicine
The nation should be able to remove by an orderly constitutional process any president with an unyielding commitment to failed policies and an inability to renew the country's hope. Hope
The rise of the Tea Party, along with the emergence of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Carl Paladino in New York and Ron Paul in Kentucky, is not the first time in American history that voters have responded to hard economic times by supporting angry, unorthodox Senate and gubernatorial candidates. Time ;History
The so-called second New Deal of 1935 - including the Works Progress Administration, Social Security and the Wagner Act legalizing union labor - represented an effort to meet the rising voices demanding a more aggressive government approach to the collapse of national prosperity. Government
Theodore Roosevelt had drawn public attention to his attractive family in order to create a bond with ordinary Americans. Eleanor Roosevelt had successfully broached the idea that a First Lady could be nearly as much a public figure as her husband. Families, Children & Parenting
There are examples of ex-presidents speaking out. Jimmy Carter has not held back on a variety of issues. Harry Truman didn't.
There are limits on what a president can achieve or do, but the expectations are so great.
There is a line between scurrilous nonsense and serious discussion that laps over, especially in this day and age when you've got all this electronic media and these blogs and this kind of fanatical impulse to bring down the opposing candidate.
There's a certain clubbiness to the idea that you're an ex-president. You're no longer a politician. You're a statesman.
To be sure, hunters and sportsmen back gun rights. Beyond that, there are millions who see guns as a defense against fear - fear of criminals breaking into their homes or assaulting them on city streets.
To be sure, Kennedy did not discount the importance of words in rallying the nation to meet its foreign and domestic challenges. Winston Churchill's powerful exhortations during World War II set a standard he had long admired. Kennedy was hardly unmindful of how important a great inaugural address could be. War & Peace
True, most Americans give lip service to the proposition that even the most exalted among us have their flaws, but we are eager to believe that presidents manage to rise above the limitations that beset the rest of us.
Truman is now seen as a near-great president because he put in place the containment doctrine boosted by the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and NATO, which historians now see as having been at the center of American success in the cold war. Success ;War & Peace
Unity is Obama's theme.
Vice President Biden's surprising declaration of unqualified support for gay marriage seems to have forced President Obama into a public endorsement of a controversial social issue. It is difficult not to suspect that Biden's pronouncement aimed to give the president some political cover. Families, Children & Parenting
Vietnam was a palpable failure. And of course, in retrospect, it was even more clearly a disaster and a failure than maybe people understood at the time. Time ;Failure
What did in the Soviet Union was the Soviet Union.
What I find so interesting is, Herbert Hoover in August 1928 said no country in the world was closer to abolishing poverty than the United States. And then, of course, we had the Great Depression.
What makes war interesting for Americans is that we don't fight war on our soil, we don't have direct experience of it, so there's an openness about the meanings we give to it. War & Peace
Whatever the long-term legal prospects for same-sex marriage, President Obama's willingness to put the matter front and center in an election year can at least make him a candidate for inclusion in Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. Families, Children & Parenting ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
When Gingrich attacked CNN's John King for bringing up his alleged proposal of an open marriage to his second wife, Gingrich accused him of lowering the level of discourse in a presidential debate, suggesting that such a discussion is unworthy of consideration by voters. Families, Children & Parenting
When Johnson decided to fight for passage of the law John F. Kennedy had put before Congress in June 1963 banning segregation in places of public accommodation, he believed he was taking considerable political risks.
When President Obama first unveiled his gun control proposals recommending a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and better background checks, there seemed to be momentum behind the effort. But then the proposals ran into a wall.
William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia in April of 1841, after only one month in office, was the first Chief Executive to hide his physical frailties.
With television, you can make anyone look larger than life. Life