Why no-nonsense presidents are great for all Americans, whether they realize it or not, and why they are the best peacemakers.
In today’s age, many Americans, especially among the younger generation, tend to view presidents such as Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter as the leaders who “truly” care about America and the world. Obama, Carter, and many liberal presidents have given the impression that, because they are usually soft-spoken and slow to act, it means that they are the most caring, even if it means occasionally putting America second. When presidents follow this “lead from behind” ideology, they demean the fact that the world benefits from America being the hegemon.
On the other hand, presidents who strictly put America first are often brash and unwavering. They may be unorthodox at times, as in the case of Theodore Roosevelt or Donald Trump, but they get the job done in expert fashion. Others, such as John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan, may be calm and collective most of the time, but they aren’t afraid to assert America’s dominance in the face of powers that threaten national security, or security for America’s allies. Let’s take a brief look at these four leaders, and why their brash and brave attitudes were beneficial to America.
Theodore Roosevelt has been admired by many Americans for decades, though many conservatives have tried to disown him due to his stances on certain taxes and regulations, believing him to be a liberal statist. At one time, I actually believed this as well; however, part of being a historian means constantly uncovering new things, and it has recently come to my attention that Teddy was much more conservative than many people think. Through many of his regulations, he actually wished to return power to the people and states, rather than feed the power to Washington, as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, or Lyndon Johnson would have done (I will cover this much more in a later article). Teddy has a reputation of being an imperialist who loved war. Although he was somewhat of an imperialist, one must not confuse Teddy’s own personal feelings with how he actually ran the country.
Although Teddy relished a good fight and perhaps glorified war, he constantly tried to prevent them. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in helping bring an end to the Russo-Japanese War. To do this, he made a very bold move. Daniel Ruddy, in his book, Theodore the Great, states, “When Germany and France seemed on the verge of entering the Russo-Japanese War on Russia’s side, Roosevelt warned both nations that if they took that extraordinary step, he would bring the United States into the conflict on the side of Japan to safeguard the balance of power in Asia and American commercial interests in Manchuria, which were secured by the Open Door to China’s lucrative market.” The warning was backed by Britain, who had an alliance with Japan, and the Russo-Japanese War ended shortly after.
Teddy also helped prevent a war between France and Germany in 1906 over interests in Morocco, and at times, he sent the Navy on expeditions or “training exercises” to show the strength of the United States. Teddy did support U.S. involvement in World War I during the war’s early stages, but he was later backed by a large American populace after the German attack on the RMS Lusitania. Though he personally did not mind fighting, he was not a president who sought war, unless it was absolutely necessary. In using the “Peace through Strength” initiative, his presidency prevented several wars and helped to end one. Though he was a brash individual who didn’t mind saying what was on his mind, he was also a peacemaker.
Fast forward to 1961, and John F. Kennedy arrives on the scene. Though a member of the Democratic Party, Kennedy had many things in common with conservatives: he was pro-tax cuts, pro-faith and family, the only Democratic president thus far to be a member of the NRA, and a proponent of Peace through Strength. Kennedy did, however, do two things that, in my view, would not have been acceptable to Teddy, Reagan, or Trump. In 1961, he stood by while the Soviets built the Berlin Wall, preventing victims of socialism from escaping to capitalism. That same year, he sent U.S.-trained Cuban rebels, severely unsupported, to Cuba in an effort to overthrow the Castro regime, which ended in utter failure.
Kennedy’s strength, however, was finally shown when it was revealed in 1962 that Soviet missiles were being stored in Cuba. As tensions drew higher, the world stood on the brink of war for nearly two weeks. Finally, due in large part to Kennedy’s unwavering strength in the face of Khrushchev, the Soviets withdrew their missiles, and the conflict ended.
Then comes 1980. Under the Carter Administration, America had taken a backseat and been humiliated. Our economy was in shambles. The Cold War had re-escalated. Fifty-two American citizens had been captured and held hostage by Iranian revolutionaries.
Enter Ronald Reagan, a former Hollywood actor and California governor. A Democrat for a large part of his life, Reagan became Barry Goldwater’s protégé, transforming from a liberal Democrat into a conservative Republican. Reagan won the 1980 election by a large margin, and just minutes following his inauguration, it was announced that Iran had released the American hostages. In short, Iran knew that the days of riding America’s back were over. Reagan was a strong proponent of Peace through Strength, and he issued a new line to go along with it: “Trust but verify.”
Ronald Reagan restored pride and hope in the American Dream, and he did it in just four years. He would go on to win the biggest election landslide in U.S. history in 1984, securing 49 states. In 1988, he would utter a phrase that still reverberates today. Standing at the Reichstag amidst Mikhail Gorbachev and the world, he proclaimed, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Although the Cold War would not end until George H. W. Bush’s presidency in 1991, it was Reagan who laid the groundwork for ending it through the drafting of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and his firm Peace through Strength initiative against the Soviet Union.
Today, America is in a similar shape to how it was 30 years ago. Donald Trump inherited a mess. In 2016, our economy was terrible, our status in the world had declined through Obama’s “Lead from Behind” strategy, tensions in the Korean Peninsula were escalating, and Radical Islam was taking over the Middle East, threatening not just American citizens in the region, but the entire region itself.
Trump is perhaps the most unorthodox president we have ever seen. He is brash, and he is not afraid to throw an insult at virtually anyone. Beneath this seemingly-rough persona, however, is a true peacemaker. As of his first term, Trump has revived our economy, improved African-American and Hispanic employment to record highs, defused the Korean Peninsula, returned the bodies of Korean War veterans home, relocated the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, removed America from the horrible Iran Nuclear Deal, and decimated ISIS. Trump is a rough-and-tough, no-nonsense president who believes in Peace through Strength, and is not afraid to defy the establishment.
No-nonsense presidents are great for all Americans. Although they may come across as brash or bullies from time to time, they definitely get the job done. Theodore Roosevelt prevented several wars, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan stood up to the “Evil Empire,” and now, Donald Trump must carry the mantle of a Peace through Strength president.