Our web series, Wait Just a Minute, asks experts to answer complex questions about global affairs in 60 seconds. In this episode, historian and author Michael Beschloss answers questions on presidential history, the system of checks and balances, and offers advice for President Trump and congress.
Why study past presidents?
It's impossible to understand current events unless you know what other presidents have done, and if you're a president, the only user's guide you've got is where earlier presidents succeeded and where they failed.
How has history shaped the way presidents wage war?
Any great war president knows what earlier war presidents have done. Harry Truman said he couldn't function if he did not know what his predecessors had done, and it was comforting to him and illuminating for him to know how Abraham Lincoln operated, or how James Polk operated.
Are checks and balances broken?
The last 60 years or so, presidents stopped asking for a war declaration from Congress before they went to war. And as a result, you have Korea, and Vietnam, and later wars that the people turned against, and Congress could say, these were presidential wars, we were never asked for a war declaration, you don't like the war, it's the president's fault.
Do you have any advice for President Trump and congress?
You never want any president to become a war president, and if that happens to President Trump, what I would say is that the best war presidents had a lot of criticism from Congress.