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Presidential

In 44 episodes leading up to Election Day 2016, this podcast explores the character and legacy of each of the American presidents. Hosted by Lillian Cunningham, Presidential features Pulitzer Prize-winning historians like David McCullough and journalists like Bob Woodward. A new episode lands each Sunday.

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By Lillian Cunningham
Jan. 5, 2016

LATEST EPISODE

Jan. 5, 2016

Introduction

Welcome to Presidential

Preview the Washington Post podcast, with clips from upcoming episodes and an overview of the series by host Lillian Cunningham. [Read more]

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Introduction

Welcome to Presidential

Jan. 10, 2016

George Washington

The man, the myth, the legend

Post reporters Bob Woodward and Joel Achenbach, and Julie Miller from the Library of Congress, examine George Washington's traits--from fearless action hero and charismatic dancer to insecure and reluctant president. [Read more]

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George Washington

The man, the myth, the legend

Jan. 17, 2016

John Adams

The case of the missing monument

Biographer David McCullough, Julie Miller of the Library of Congress, Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post, and Kirk Savage of the University of Pittsburgh explore why there's no monument to John Adams in the nation's capital. [Read more]

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John Adams

The case of the missing monument

Jan. 24, 2016

Thomas Jefferson

On food and freedom

Jon Meacham and Annette Gordon-Reed are among the experts who walk us through the best and worst of our third president's complex and controversial legacy. [Read more]

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Thomas Jefferson

On food and freedom

Jan. 31, 2016

James Madison

Burning down the house

Though he's our first wartime president, James Madison is usually better remembered for his work on the constitution rather than his time as commander-in-chief while the White House went up in flames. But maybe that's the wrong way to look at it. [Read more]

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James Madison

Burning down the house

Feb. 7, 2016

James Monroe

The Forrest Gump of presidents

In the latest episode of Presidential, we look at our fifth president's knack for being present at famous moments in history. [Read more]

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James Monroe

The Forrest Gump of presidents

Feb. 14, 2016

John Quincy Adams

The trait that broke a presidency

Scholars Charles Edel and Fred Kaplan, along with Washington Post journalist Katie Zezima, explore the main leadership characteristic that doomed the presidency of John Quincy Adams. [Read more]

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John Quincy Adams

The trait that broke a presidency

Feb. 21, 2016

Andrew Jackson

The violence, the fight

Barbara Bair, Steve Inskeep and Jon Meacham examine the tragedy of Andrew Jackson's personal life, the brutality of his battles and his policies against Native Americans, and the conflict that makes up a dynamic democracy. [Read more]

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Andrew Jackson

The violence, the fight

Feb. 28, 2016

Martin Van Buren

The story of our two-party system

He may not have been a very memorable president, but Van Buren did much to create the party establishments we have today. Experts Barbara Bair and Mark Cheathem, along with Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza, examine his mark on modern politics. [Read more]

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Martin Van Buren

The story of our two-party system

March 6, 2016

William Henry Harrison

Great song, horrible death

Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri, along with experts Barbara Bair and Dr. Philip Mackowiak, deconstruct Harrison's transformative presidential campaign and debunk the myth of what killed him after only 32 days in office. [Read more]

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William Henry Harrison

Great song, horrible death

March 13, 2016

John Tyler

Ghosts and the vice presidency

When Vice President Tyler takes over the White House, he sets a precedent that would forever shape the office. This episode features experts Barbara Bair and Joel Goldstein, as well as descendants who talk about the ghost who haunts the Tyler home. [Read more]

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John Tyler

Ghosts and the vice presidency

March 20, 2016

James K. Polk

Getting it done

They Might Be Giants singer John Linnell and historian Amy Greenberg are this episode's guests. Through hard work and strategic lying, the 11th president managed to accomplish everything on his agenda. But is being effective the same as being great? [Read more]

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James K. Polk

Getting it done

March 27, 2016

Zachary Taylor

War heroes and conspiracy theory

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank joins historians Catherine Clinton and Joseph Uscinski to talk about military hero Zachary Taylor and the assassination theories that swirled around his death in the White House. [Read more]

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Zachary Taylor

War heroes and conspiracy theory

April 3, 2016

Millard Fillmore

Teaching the obscure presidents

Should we teach the presidency of Millard Fillmore? What do we lose if we don't? Historians Jean Baker and James McPherson, along with researcher Henry Roediger and education reporter T. Rees Shapiro, tackle these questions in our 13th episode. [Read more]

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Millard Fillmore

Teaching the obscure presidents

April 10, 2016

Franklin Pierce

Rolling off the tracks

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer James McPherson and historian Edna Greene Medford discuss Franklin Pierce's role in the country's progression toward civil war, as well as the personal tragedy that unfolded right before he took office. [Read more]

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Franklin Pierce

Rolling off the tracks

April 17, 2016

James Buchanan

The bachelor and the bloodshed

America is on the eve of civil war, and James Buchanan is alone in the White House as our first and only bachelor president. Historians Jean Baker and Jim Loewen, and The Washington Post's Jim Tankersley, explore the lack of personal and political union. [Read more]

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James Buchanan

The bachelor and the bloodshed

April 24, 2016

Abraham Lincoln

His hand and his pen

Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of 'Team of Rivals,' and Michelle Krowl of the Library of Congress guide us through Lincoln's love for language--and how his gift for writing and oratory became one of his greatest presidential leadership tools. [Read more]

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Abraham Lincoln

His hand and his pen

May 1, 2016

Andrew Johnson

Stitching up a torn country

What kind of president can repair America's deepest divisions? Michelle Krowl of the Library of Congress walks us through Andrew Johnson's time in office right after the Civil War and sheds light on why he struggled to bring the country together. [Read more]

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Andrew Johnson

Stitching up a torn country

May 8, 2016

Ulysses S. Grant

Lover, fighter, writer

Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs are considered the best ever written by a president. In this episode, Washington Post nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada and biographer David Maraniss discuss what they found funny, touching and illuminating about the work. [Read more]

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Ulysses S. Grant

Lover, fighter, writer

May 15, 2016

Rutherford B. Hayes

The most contested election

How does a vicious, close and disputed election spill over into a presidency? We examine the razor-thin election results for Rutherford B. Hayes, and the equally fine line he then had to tread as president during the end of Reconstruction. [Read more]

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Rutherford B. Hayes

The most contested election

May 22, 2016

James A. Garfield

Shot down

Only 100 days into office, President Garfield was shot down in a train station by a disturbed office seeker. 'Destiny of the Republic' author Candice Millard, along with Michelle Krowl of the Library of Congress, examine the life cut short. [Read more]

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James A. Garfield

Shot down

May 29, 2016

Chester A. Arthur

Redemption

How does one of the greatest beneficiaries of the spoils system end up being the president who passes civil service reform? Post reporter David Fahrenthold and Stateline editor Scott Greenberger tell the amazing story of Arthur's personal transformation. [Read more]

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Chester A. Arthur

Redemption

June 5, 2016

Grover Cleveland

Tell the truth

Known for his forthrightness, Cleveland came clean when news broke that he had fathered an illegitimate child; yet he later covered up a cancer surgery at sea. Guests Matthew Algeo, Michelle Krowl and Roman Mars explore candor and the presidency. [Read more]

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Grover Cleveland

Tell the truth

June 12, 2016

Benjamin Harrison

The president as conservationist

Benjamin Harrison was the first U.S. president to use his position to try to save a species, the fur seal. He also set aside more than 13 million acres of forest reserves. This episode looks at the roots of conservation as a presidential responsibility. [Read more]

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Benjamin Harrison

The president as conservationist

June 19, 2016

William McKinley

The modern campaign

Republican political strategist Karl Rove dissects what was so transformative about William McKinley's 1896 presidential campaign; and Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig discusses how his assassination modernized the Secret Service. [Read more]

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William McKinley

The modern campaign

June 26, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt

Exuberance

Biographer David McCullough and historian Michelle Krowl take us inside the wild, unstoppable dynamism of Teddy Roosevelt, whose energy and activism redefined the role of American president. [Read more]

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Theodore Roosevelt

Exuberance

July 3, 2016

William Howard Taft

This chief, not that chief

Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of 'The Bully Pulpit,' along with historian Michelle Krowl and Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes discuss why President Taft made a better chief justice than commander-in-chief. [Read more]

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William Howard Taft

This chief, not that chief

July 10, 2016

Woodrow Wilson

A complicated legacy

Racism, diplomacy, women's suffrage...historian John Milton Cooper and Woodrow Wilson House executive director Robert Enholm lead us through Wilson's complicated personal and presidential legacy. [Read more]

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Woodrow Wilson

A complicated legacy

July 17, 2016

Warren G. Harding

Love and scandal

Steamy love letters. Jazz. Scandal. Psychics. Newspapers. The Hope Diamond. Historian Nicole Hemmer helps guide us through the wild life and presidency of Warren G. Harding. [Read more]

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Warren G. Harding

Love and scandal

July 24, 2016

Calvin Coolidge

A tale of two Coolidges

Former politician Michael Dukakis, biographer Amity Shlaes and political scientist Robert Gilbert join Washington Post economics reporter Steven Pearlstein to discuss what each of them finds worth reexamining about Coolidge's legacy. [Read more]

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Calvin Coolidge

A tale of two Coolidges

July 31, 2016

Herbert Hoover

Dealing with disaster

Herbert Hoover entered the White House with an array of high-profile experiences leading disaster relief. So why was his handling of the Great Depression considered a failure? Biographer Charles Rappleye guest stars. [Read more]

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Herbert Hoover

Dealing with disaster

Aug. 7, 2016

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Through Eleanor's eyes

Allida Black, editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt papers, along with FDR Library Director Paul Sparrow and White House speechwriter Sarada Peri, examine Franklin Roosevelt's leadership through the lens of the first lady's own contributions to his presidency. [Read more]

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

Through Eleanor's eyes

Aug. 14, 2016

Harry S. Truman

Trying to make the right call

Biographer David McCullough looks at some of the most difficult decisions President Truman made during his time in the White House, and Washington Post polling manager Scott Clement examines the biggest polling failure in presidential history. [Read more]

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Harry S. Truman

Trying to make the right call

Aug. 21, 2016

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Covert action

Stephen Kinzer, author of "The Brothers," and historian Will Hitchcock explore President Eisenhower's predilection for covert action--both in foreign affairs and in his own leadership style. [Read more]

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Dwight D. Eisenhower

Covert action

Aug. 28, 2016

John F. Kennedy

We are all mortal

Robert Dallek, Michael Beschloss and Fredrik Logevall--three major Kennedy historians and biographers--join us on this week's episode to talk about JFK and death. But not his assassination... [Read more]

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John F. Kennedy

We are all mortal

Sept. 4, 2016

Lyndon B. Johnson

Power

The LBJ Presidential Library's director, Mark Updegrove, helps us examine how Johnson worked his will--at times darkly--to get some of the most transformative legislation of the 20th century through Congress. [Read more]

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Lyndon B. Johnson

Power

Sept. 11, 2016

Richard Nixon

Looking inward

Bob Woodward, one of the Washington Post investigative reporters who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, examines what was at the heart of Richard Nixon's presidential downfall. The Washington Post's current executive editor, Marty Baron, joins as well. [Read more]

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Richard Nixon

Looking inward

Sept. 18, 2016

Gerald Ford

It's personal

The president's son Steven Ford joins White House photographer David Hume Kennerly and Berkeley professor Daniel Sargent to talk about how Gerald Ford's experience working across the aisle in Congress affected his leadership style as president. [Read more]

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Gerald Ford

It's personal

Sept. 25, 2016

Jimmy Carter

Keeping the faith

Longtime Carter political adviser Pat Caddell, theologian and biographer Randall Balmer, and Washington Post reporter Robert Costa examine how Jimmy Carter's faith has shaped his leadership in and out of the White House. [Read more]

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Jimmy Carter

Keeping the faith

Oct. 2, 2016

Ronald Reagan

Myths and truths

Lou Cannon, biographer and senior White House correspondent for The Washington Post during President Reagan's administration, helps us separate the fact from fiction about who Ronald Reagan really was. [Read more]

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Ronald Reagan

Myths and truths

Oct. 9, 2016

George H. W. Bush

Restraint

Historians Jon Meacham and Jeffrey Engel discuss President Bush's unique form of presidential leadership--a vintage combination of public service, conservatism and emotional restraint--and examine why his legacy has grown more positive over time. [Read more]

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George H. W. Bush

Restraint

Oct. 16, 2016

Bill Clinton

The good and the bad

David Maraniss, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Bill Clinton, explores how his core character traits had both a bright and a dark side. And Washington Post reporter Jim Tankersley examines how his policy legacy has had a similar duality. [Read more]

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Bill Clinton

The good and the bad

Oct. 23, 2016

George W. Bush

Changing course

Peter Baker, author of "Days of Fire" and a journalist with the New York Times, joins historian Mark Updegrove to examine how George W. Bush's presidency marked the beginning of a new era in American history. [Read more]

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George W. Bush

Changing course

Oct. 30, 2016

Barack Obama

The pursuit of identity

Political strategist David Axelrod and biographer David Maraniss discuss Barack Obama's search for identity -- and how that quest has paralleled America's own complex reckoning with race. [Read more]

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Barack Obama

The pursuit of identity

Nov. 9, 2016

Donald Trump

Division and union

In this final episode of the podcast, Library of Congress historians Michelle Krowl and Julie Miller return--along with Washington Post journalist Dan Balz--to reflect on the changing nature of the American presidency. [Read more]

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Donald Trump

Division and union