The Atlantic

The Test Trump Failed

Each president faces defining moments in the wake of tragedy that test his character—and Trump left no illusion as to what his supporters are embracing.
Source: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

American presidents run for office with a set of promises, visions, and ideas of what they’d like to do if they win. For John Kennedy, it was to “get America moving again.” For (my one-time employer) Jimmy Carter, it was creating “a government as good as its people.” For Ronald Reagan, it was (no joke) “let’s make America great again.” For Bill Clinton, it was the economy, stupid. For Barack Obama, hope.

Then life intervenes. And while campaign promises and concepts have some bearing on what a president actually does, events that campaign strategists never anticipated often play a larger role in how effective a president can be, and in history’s assessment of him. Kennedy didn’t know that he’d be

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