From Communism to inflation to terrorism—presidents and presidential candidates have long sought to identify threats at home and abroad. They are often painted as the enemy of American ideals. Explore a series of short videos exploring the enemies that have been identified by presidents past.
President Roosevelt's inaugural address filled the American people with confidence in their new leader. "They hear coming through their loudspeakers this voice so filled with courage, with self confidence, with a sense of leadership," says historian William Leuchtenburg.
Sizing Up Stalin
Truman's first impression of Joseph Stalin was favorable. "Truman had that very American idea," says historian David McCullough, "that if he could just meet the fellow, shake his hand, look him in the eye, size him up, then they could work together, work things out, and everything would be okay."
The Red Threat
Kennedy believed his first diplomatic meeting with Nikita Khrushchev would be a lesson in compromise. But when it was clear the Soviet premier was unwilling to negotiate over Berlin and more than willing to talk casually about nuclear weapons, Kennedy told him "it's going to be a very cold winter." Kennedy left uneasy.
Jimmy Carter attempted to stop runaway inflation with a White House press conference in 1978. "Carter implored labor and business leaders to keep wages and prices down, and pressured Congress to cut back spending."
Despite Lincoln's assassination in 1865, there were no new safeguards put in to protect the president from would-be assassins. Lincoln's murder had been seen as an anomaly.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt was deeply shaken "knowing the navy was caught unawares."
After WWII, Truman watched most of Eastern Europe fall to the Communist "Iron Curtain." "I do not think we should play compromise any longer," Truman wrote.
In the only major speech of his presidential campaign, Garfield spoke to 50,000 in New York on the issue closest to his heart: the fate of ex-slaves in the South. Many Northerners felt they had sacrificed enough for African Americans but Garfield believed that every man in America, no matter his color, had a say in the government.
Americans were held hostage at the US Embassy in Iran after Carter welcomed the Shah into the United States for medical treatment in 1979. "It was a defining event," says Pollster Pat Caddell. "This is the entire United States government captured, and held illegally under international law and being taunted everyday."
The Soviet Threat
The delegations of Communist leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan met in Geneva in 1985. "The President, from the very start, started to speak in a kind of lecturing tone, as though I was a suspect, or maybe a student," says Gorbachev.
For a large part of American history, military service was considered almost a prerequisite to serving as president. In recent decades, that has changed. Explore the topic in this series of short videos.