The Sixth Year Foreign Policy Curse of the Two Term United States Presidency

   Every two term presidency, or the eight year continuous party control of the White House, in the past 69 years, has seen a serious foreign policy crisis in the sixth year of the eight year stretch.

   Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932, marking the beginning of a twenty year stretch of Democratic control of the White House.  Six years later, 1938, was the date of the famous Munich Conference where British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain agreed to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler's demand for annexation of the Sudeten section of Czechoslovakia, narrowing avoiding World War II, which would begin eighteen months later in Europe.  Hitler also annexed Austria in 1938, before the Munich Conference.

    Four years later, or six years after Roosevelt's historic 1936 landslide, it was 1942, the first year of direct United States involvement as a belligerent in World War II, following the December 7, 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Japanese.

   Six years after Roosevelt was elected for his third term in 1940, Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, Missouri and the first modern Communist insurgency war started in Greece.  These events led, in due course, to the Marshall Plan. , Truman's Democrats lost control of Cogress in 1946, just as Bush would 60 years later.  And six years after Roosevelt's 1944 re-election, it was 1950, the beginning of the Korean War.

   Eisenhower was elected in 1952, and 1958, six years later, saw the United States intervene for the first time in what would become a long string of interventions in Lebanon.  It was also the year that saw the violent overthrow of the pro-western Iraqi monarchy.  The year 1958 is the historical antecedent to the current United States involvement in Iraq, under a Republican president. In Ike's case, it is arguable that 1956 was a far worse year for foreign policy disasters: the Suez War between Britain, France and Israel on one hand, and Egypt on the other; against the backdrop of the Hungarian Revolution when Soviet tanks crushed the uprising.  However, 1958 was a crisis nonetheless. And the Republicans suffered massive loses in the off-year congressional elections.

   In 1966, six years after the Democrats returned to power with John F. Kennedy, the escalation of the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson and the rise of domestic opposition to that war took center stage.  Just as Bush suffered the loss of Congress in the 2006 off-year elections; the Democrats suffered a massive defeat in the 1966 off-year elections because of the Vietnam War.

   Six years into the Republican revival under Richard Nixon, 1974, saw the Watergate crisis and Nixon's resignation.  This was a foreign policy crisis because those events led directly to the American defeat in Vietnam eight months later, although the two party media never makes that connection.  That's why there was nothing to say at Gerald Ford's funeral, he presided over the American defeat in Vietnam (and so did Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld.  That's a recommendation for giving them power when they lost the election, right guys?  Not surprisingly, they set us on a catastrophically losing path in Iraq and Iran.  Thanks boys.)  The Democrats strengthened their hold on Congress in an unprecedented landslide.

   Reagan's sixth year in office was the year of the Iran-Contra Scandal.  Clinton's sixth year was the year of Monica Lewinsky, impeachment and the Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.  Some 256 people were killed and 4,000 injured; but because this act of terrorism took place in Africa, and the American public is basically racist; it took the 9/11 attacks to wake up the white folks that something was afoot.  Even the 17 dead sailors on the Cole in 2000 wasn't enough to get Gore and Bush to alter their scripts in the final televised debate of the 2000 presidential campaign.  Seventeen dead sailors was not enough to catch the attention of the Republican and Democratic leadership.

   And now, of course, in the sixth year of the Bush II presidency, there is the disastrous losing war in Iraq.  What is it about the sixth year and foreign policy?

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf