Democracy Dies in Darkness

On Leadership

What kind of president can repair America's deepest divisions?

May 1, 2016 at 8:20 PM

(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

Only six weeks into his vice presidency, Andrew Johnson had to step in as commander-in-chief following both Abraham Lincoln's assassination and the end of the Civil War. The task ahead was great, and history largely bears out that he was not the best man to do it.

So what would it have taken to better stitch together a divided country, and what leadership attributes of Johnson's end up making him ill suited for the job? This week's episode of the Presidential podcast explores those questions with Michelle Krowl, a expert on the Civil War and Reconstruction who oversees presidential manuscripts from that period at the Library of Congress.

You can listen to the new episode here:

In previous episodes of the Presidential podcast, we've explored topics like Abraham Lincoln's language and the violent life of Andrew Jackson. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what's 'presidential' has evolved over the years and how each president—esteemed, loathed or nearly forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation's highest office.

A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:


Lillian Cunningham is the creator and host of the "Presidential" and "Constitutional" podcasts. She was previously a feature writer for and editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section, for which she received two Emmy Awards for her interviews with leaders in politics, business and the arts.

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