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Political Historian Joshua Kendall: Most Presidents’ Children Grew Up Unhappy, Unsuccessful

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Joshua Kendall joined Breitbart News Daily SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon to discuss his new book, First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama.

Asked if presidential children were “generally happy and successful going forward,” Kendall said:

No, really the opposite. And I think partly it’s that these people were so busy and also, as I was just saying, most of us don’t have to choose between the welfare of the 300 million people over whom we’re responsible and the welfare of our daughters. And historically, the children have…Franklin Roosevelt’s children were really neglected, and they all became playboys and really lacked direction and that’s been very common. Although in the last 30 years or so, the first children have been doing pretty well.

Amazon reports:

Every president has had some experience as a parent. Of the 43 men who have served in the nation’s highest office, 38 have fathered biological children and the other five adopted children. Each president’s parenting style reveals much about his beliefs, as well as his psychological make-up. James Garfield enjoyed jumping on the bed with his kids. FDR’s children, on the other hand, had to make appointments to talk to him. In a lively narrative, based on research in archives around the country, Kendall shows presidential character in action. Readers will learn which type of parent might be best suited to leading the American people and, finally, how the fathering experiences of our presidents have forever changed the course of American history.

On Obama, Kendall states:

I talk about Obama in the last chapter of my book where I discuss nurturing dads and what everyone thinks about Obama’s policies. Most Americans like that he spends a lot of time with his kids and he’s very sweet to them, although there’s been some criticism that maybe he spends too much time with his kids. LBJ used to say, “I think about politics only 18 hours a day.”

Kendall says he spoke with Susan Eisenhower:

She said, the presidency is kind of a battle zone. It’s like a constant war, and maybe Obama is spending too much time with his daughters. And I think that Americans kind of like the fact that he’s a great Dad. But at the same time, they’re sort of impatient that he hasn’t really gotten that much done as president.

The work has received a series of solid reviews:

Kendall is a smooth storyteller with a good instinct for vivid details and anecdotes. This alone suffices for pleasurable historical reading, but he also claims to do something more. In the prologue he declares that his book “starts from the premise that character, as traditionally defined, both counts and is worth resuscitating as a critical variable in political analysis.” The sketches in the book certainly do reveal aspects of the characters of various presidents, but there’s little serious political or historical analysis. Ultimately this doesn’t really matter — it’s good enough to watch Teddy Roosevelt’s son bring a pony into the White House elevator or Jimmy Carter’s son smoke a joint on the White House roof.

Kendall’s other works include “The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture” and “The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus,” among others.

The website for First Dads is here:

“Joshua Kendall’s First Dads vividly brings the personal histories of the presidents to life from a new angle – their experiences as fathers. With meticulous research, he draws connections between presidential parenting styles and governing policies. First Dads is a fresh and engaging take.”

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