How Much Do You Know About the American Presidents?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

As we head into election season, we learn a lot about the presidential candidates, sometimes much more than they want us to know. But how much do we really know about the American presidents, or indeed, the American presidency itself? Kenneth C. Davis knows a lot about the presidency. He's a historian and author of the new book, "Don't Know Much About the American Presidents." 

We assume that the presidency has existed forever because it has become such a fixture in American history and politics. But Davis points out that the office was invented at the Constitutional Convention. "They wanted somebody who could act 'with vigor,' as Alexander Hamilton put it, somebody who could take charge." But they didn't want him to be too strong. "They did not want a king."

There are many myths about the presidents, but Davis shows us that the truth is often stranger than fiction. For example, during Grover Cleveland's first run for office, the headlines came out that he had a child out of wedlock. Cleveland told his staff to tell the truth, and rather surprisingly, this did not cost him too much politically. 

Even Millard Fillmore, often remembered only for being unmemorable, has an interesting story. "An apprentice to a tailor at a young age, [Fillmore] didn't learn to read until he was much older. [He was] a real, true self-made man." Nonetheless, he was "one of the more disastrous of our American presidents."

Guests:

Kenneth C. Davis

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer and Maggie Penman

Comments [3]

Kenneth C Davis from New York , NY

As the author, I feel it is appropriate to respond to the comment. This book's release was timed to the upcoming election as a way to inform people about 225 years of history behind the presidency and the men who have occupied the office. It has no partisan age4nda. The results of the 2012 election will be treated appropriately in future editions.

Sep. 19 2012 09:11 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

His timing for the release of the book is interesting. I mean with an election coming, you'd think the Publishers would wait to see if Romney wins... Maybe their banking on Obama winning...

If Romney does win, they could slip in that little index card with information in every book.

Of course a follow up book could be, "Don't Know Much About The American Candidates Who Lost."
I bet there were some real loser characters out there with fun backgrounds.

Sep. 19 2012 10:06 AM
Mlhershb

Grear show!

Sep. 19 2012 09:09 AM

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