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2024—America’s Year of Living Dangerously = Victor Davis Hanson


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American Greatness

Lame-duck presidencies, especially in the last six months of their final term, in general can offer opportunities for America’s enemies to take advantage of a perceived vacuum as one government transitions to the next.

But these normal changeover months are especially dangerous when a perceived weak or appeasing lame-duck president is likely to be replaced by a strong deterrent successor that will likely serve as a corrective to his disastrous policies.

James Buchannan (1857-1861), a northern but pro-South president, was a particularly anemic chief executive. He had done little if anything to try to deal with the growing rift between North and South, especially the furor over the Dred Scott decision and Bloody Kansas. Even when warned, Buchannan did little to beef up the U.S. Army or increase its weapon stockpiles to deter any potential secessionist state.

After Buchannan declined to run for a second term, the South understood that the abolitionist and anti-slavery Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln might well be elected in 1860—given the North/South split within the Democratic Party. And they understood that President Lincoln might well use force to stop secession.


Therefore, in the waning days of the Buchannan administration, after Lincoln’s victory, seven southern states seceded during the presidential transition, a confused North reacted little, more would follow, and a terrible Civil War became inevitable.

During the waning days of the crippled second term of Richard Nixon in summer 1974, communist North Vietnam saw a once deterrent president fatally weakened by Watergate. It was encouraged by a renewed antiwar movement, a likely soon anti-war Congress, and the next president, Gerald Ford—a probable caretaker soon to be replaced by an anti-war Democrat. And so in late 1974 and 1975, the communists renounced ignored peace accords, judged correctly that the directionless US would not help South Vietnam stop a massive invasion from the North, and thereby won the 12-year-long war.:snip:

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