Jon Meacham

Stories by Jon Meacham

  • The Book On Reagan

    He seemed placid, even becalmed, but Ronald Reagan swept over the nation like a wave. Was he, as so many of his detractors believed, an amiable dunce? If so, how did he change the course of history? As president, he restored national confidence, launched an economic boom, and, with Mikhail Gorbachev, ended the cold war. Reagan led the West (and much of the rest of the world) away from Big Government to an era of Free Markets. Republicans pine for him; even many Democrats grudgingly grant Reagan the president's greatness. Yet to friends and foes alike Reagan the man seemed familiar yet enigmatic--elusive, mysterious, just out of reach.He flummoxed his authorized biographer, too. In 1985, Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," was given complete access to President Reagan, his papers, his aides, his friends and his family--and a $3 million contract from Random House. Seven years later, Morris was, by his own account, "desperate. I wrote a...
  • George Bush Off The Record

    Dad was worried. In the summer of 1998, he had sons running in two of the most important governors' elections in the country--George W., seeking re-election in Texas, and Jeb, heading for victory in Florida. "Your mother tells me," Bush wrote them in a letter on Aug. 1, "that both of you have mentioned to her your concerns about some of the political stories--the ones that seem to put me down and make me seem irrelevant--that contrast you favorably to a father who had no vision... I have been reluctant to pass along advice. Both of you are charting your own course, spelling out what direction you want to take your State... But the advice is this. Do not worry when you see the stories that compare you favorably to a Dad for whom English was a second language and for whom the word destiny meant nothing."Kind, generous words--but the former president's book of letters suggests that he is in fact both a master of the language and a man of uncommon ambition. Bush understands that ...
  • Why Mccain Voted For A 'Junk' Bill, Home Remedy,

    On a recent bus trip through South Carolina, GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain said privately that he was leaning toward voting against the GOP pet $800 billion tax-cut bill. "The thing is full of special-interest outrages," he said. "Junk." The worst provision, he said, was a tax credit for turning chicken manure into energy. "So we're paying for chickens--t and giving chickens--t to the working middle class... " But on the morning of the Senate vote, Majority Leader Trent Lott and Sen. Phil Gramm cornered McCain. The three went nose-to-nose, with Lott and Gramm arguing that if the deal collapsed, the GOP would lose what little leverage it had in bargaining with President Clinton, who opposes the size of the cuts. "The White House would say we can't get our act together, and declare victory forever," Lott reportedly told McCain.With Lott and Gramm staring at him as he took the floor during debate, McCain called the bill "seriously skewed," but said he would vote for it....
  • The Private Churchills

    They may not have always been entirely happy, but they were never bored. Early in the courtship of Winston Churchill and Clementine Hozier, the future prime minister was staying at a country house that caught fire. Terrified about Churchill's safety, Clementine was relieved at word he had survived, and wired him. His boisterous reply: "The fire was great fun & we all enjoyed it thoroughly... It is a strange thing to be locked in deadly grapple with that cruel element. I had no conception--except from reading--of the power and majesty of a great conflagration. Whole rooms sprang into flame as by enchantment. Chairs & tables burnt up like matches. Floors collapsed & ceilings crashed down. The roof descended in a molten shower."There it all was, even in the beginning: her generous concern, and his delight in danger. There would be many more conflagrations in their 56 years together, from Gallipoli to the Blitz. Theirs was one of the great marriages of the 20th century,...
  • Life In The Shadows

    IT WAS QUITE A PLACE, MIDCENTURY Washington. That's difficult to understand now, long after the struggles against Hitler and communism. The capital seems somehow sterile, its downtown hotels anonymous and its suburbs clogged with tract houses. But you can still glimpse what used to be: along the red-brick sidewalks of Georgetown, maids sweep the stoops of houses where Kennedys and Bundys and Alsops once lived at the center of a world in which America had common enemies and a coherent cadre of warriors to fight them. The most romantic battles unfolded in the shadows--in what CIA mole-hunter James Angleton called "the wilderness of mirrors." ...
  • Where Have All The Causes Gone?

    BARRING UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES, I WILL HAVE just turned 30 as the next millennium begins. When my grandfather was that age, he had lived through the Depression in the South, enlisted in the navy and spent four years at war in the Pacific; the day the bomb was dropped, he was aboard the USS St. George preparing for the invasion of Japan. One of the first things he did when he returned home to Tennessee was to sire my father, who was born in July 1946. By the time he had hit 30, he had watched the civil-rights movement unfold around him and had fought in Vietnam, carrying a 12-gauge shotgun in search-and-destroy missions as part of the Fourth Infantry Division in Pleiku. The toughest combat decision I've ever faced was whether to watch the networks or CNN cover the gulf war.This is a fairly common story. People my age--those born between 1965 and 1976 (there are 40 million of us)--face a history gap. All the Big Causes seem to be settled. The country beat the Depression, defeated...
  • Just A Boy From Little Rock

    FAULKNER, AS USUAL, HAD IT right. In the South, the Mississippian once wrote, the past is never dead.It isn't even past." Bill Clinton is the quintessential Southerner: a former El Camino owner, the president leers and preaches with equal agility. Now Clinton is learning Faulkner's lesson anew. The president should be spending the holidays celebrating. Already the worst of his generation to win the White House, Clinton is only the third Democrat in this century to capture a second term. Instead of gloating, however, he finds himself borne back into a murky world of cash, connections and charges of wrongdoing. And all roads, strangely, lead home to Little Rock. ...
  • Now More Than Ever

    ISHED control. In the White House and in exile, he would spend hours stewing over yellow legal pads, war-gaming geostrategy, memorizing his dinner guests' alma maters -and forever plotting the next campaign. None of his many comebacks was more successful than his last, in the 1980s and early '90s, from disgrace to resurrection as a presidential elder. He wanted it all to look effortless, as though Nixon in winter-hosting neighborhood Halloween parties in his New Jersey suburb, taking in the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, writing foreign-policy tomes had finally reached what his Quaker grandmother called "peace at the center." ...
  • Southern Discomfort

    THE ATLANTA PITCH WAS A BOLD one: part Martin Luther King Jr. sermonizing, part Chamber of Commerce flackery. In Tokyo in 1990, the Atlanta city fathers sold the International Olympic Committee on the proposition that the city Sherman burned was now a model of racial harmony. They laid it on thick. ""The Atlanta Olympiad,'' the city said in its bid for the Games, ""will stress the justice and equality inherent in fair play.'' It worked. ""The City Too Busy to Hate,'' which had quickly integrated and avoided most of the violence that roiled the South in the '50s and '60s, won the bid, and the world will soon be whipping along Atlanta's 16-lane interstates and humidly basking in the glow of its downtown towers. ...
  • Trials And Troubles In Happy Valley

    On a quiet street in Columbia River valley, 180 miles east of Seattle, Pastor Robert (Roby) Roberson's East Wenatchee Pentecostal Church of God House of Prayer sits back from the road, its yard cluttered with old buses and vans. At one end of the low-slung building stands a food bank for the poor; makeshift slides and swings are out back. It seems to be just what it looks Like: a hardscrabble church doing God's work. And it looked just this way on the recent spring afternoon when police raided the church to arrest Roberson and his wife, "Sister Connie," on 22 counts of allegedly raping and molesting children--both at the pastor's house and during Friday-night Bible classes. ...
  • Mr. Wamp Goes To Washington

    JOHN KASICH WAS NEARly in tears. At a pep rally of GOP House freshmen last week, the deficit-hawk House Budget Committee chairman elicited the kind of cheers this crowd usually reserves for Speaker Newt Gingrich. "This is about saving the country," Kasich said, choking up. "This is about changing the culture of spending." Standing to his left, Rep. Zach Wamp, a freshman from Tennessee, also turned weepy, thinking, too, about the difficult budget cuts that lie ahead. "What's coming," says Wamp, "is going to be the worst." Everybody, of course, is saying the hard part is yet to come, but nobody understands it better than Wamp, who professes conservative principles in a district deeply dependent on the federal government. ...
  • Arianna, The Queen Bee Wanna-Be

    Dessert -- a hockey-puck-size cappuccino torte in Grand Marnier sauce -- had just been served. As Newt Gingrich and 18 others at last week's $50,000-a-couple dinner for National Empowerment Television started in on the sweet, their hostess, Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, raised her glass to propose holding another supper for the right-wing TV channel and other conservative causes -- at 10 times the price. "It started out as kind of a joke -- a $500,000-a-couple fund-raiser," one guest, Bradley Keena, recounted. "But Arianna was serious." ...
  • A Hip Dole Gets Out Of The Gate

    When Bob Dole went on "David Letterman" last Friday night, things went so smoothly that the senator looked as if he'd been dropping by the Ed Sullivan Theater for years. He came ready with one-liners (Dole said he had given Clinton 8250 to build a White House jogging track: "I didn't want him running out in the street scaring people") and had his own "Top Seven" ways to cut the budget. Explaining why he hadn't brought a traditional Top 10 list, Dole deadpanned: "Republicans are cutting everything 30 percent." Suggestions included "Stop paying Clinton speechwriters by the word" and "Arkansas? Sell it." ...
  • Surfing On Newt's Network

    IN A SMALL CAPITOL HILL studio, on a set that looks like what you'd get if "The McLaughlin Group" did its thing in the "Wayne's World" basement. 6 twentysomethings are playing pundit. This is "Youngbloods," National Empowerment Television's Generation X answer to mainstream talk shows. At the moment, one of the program's liberal foils, Chris Murphy, is getting pummeled by his conservative costars -- Washington has failed, they shout, and it's time to pass a balanced-budget amendment to prevent the government from spending money, even in emergencies. "Wait a minute," Murphy sputters. "How do you think we got out of the Depression?" ...
  • A Defiant South Secedes Again

    Last week, while republicans bustled about on Capitol Hill, no freshman seemed busier than Tennessee's Sen. Fred Thompson, the folksy lawyer-actor who won Al Gore's old seat. Thompson, who ran a strong cut-government campaign, dashed from interviews to presiding over the Senate to a press conference on term limits. At the weekend, as Thompson managed legislation on the floor, the man he thrashed last November, former Democratic representative Jim Cooper, was storing his belongings in the family garage back in Shelbyville, Tenn. Along with the books and files went an oldphotograph of Cooper's father, a governor of Tennessee in the 1940s, riding with FDR at the opening of the historic Chickamauga Dam, which brought electricity to the Southern hills. "The voters don't realize yet," said Cooper, "that the Republicans are going to preserve a lot of Democratic programs. Now that they are the majority, they will find out how hard it is to really deliver." ...