The Washington Post’s Presidential podcast explores how each former American president reached office, made decisions, handled crises and redefined the role of commander-in-chief. It was released leading up to up to Election Day 2016, starting with George Washington in week one and ending on week 44 with the president-elect. Hosted by Lillian Cunningham, the series features Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers like David McCullough and Washington Post journalists like Bob Woodward. [When you’re done, listen to Lillian’s other historical podcasts: Constitutional and Moonrise]

Binding up the nation’s wounds
Jun 19 • 29 min
A special episode of “Presidential” explores how a 1939 concert transformed the Lincoln Memorial into a stage for civil rights protests. Featuring Molefi Kete Asante, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Philip Kennicott.
BONUS: ‘Unprecedented Presidents’ live from WBUR CitySpace
Mar 6 • 43 min
Four years after making Presidential, host Lillian Cunningham led a panel examining what’s really unprecedented—or not—about Donald Trump’s presidency. Historians Alexis Coe, Drew Gilpin Faust and Julian Zelizer joined for this live event in Boston.
Donald Trump: Division and union
Nov 9, 2016 • 56 min
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.
Barack Obama: The pursuit of identity
Oct 30, 2016 • 56 min
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.
George W. Bush: Changing course
Oct 23, 2016 • 46 min
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.
Bill Clinton: The good and the bad
Oct 16, 2016 • 48 min
David Maraniss, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Bill Clinton, explores how Clinton’s core character traits had both a bright and a dark side. And Post reporter Jim Tankersley examines a similar duality in his policy legacy.
George H. W. Bush: Restraint
Oct 9, 2016 • 51 min
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.
Ronald Reagan: Myths and truths
Oct 2, 2016 • 43 min
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.
Jimmy Carter: Keeping the faith
Sep 25, 2016 • 57 min
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.
Gerald Ford: It’s personal
Sep 18, 2016 • 55 min
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.
Richard Nixon: Looking inward
Sep 11, 2016 • 42 min
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.
Lyndon B. Johnson: Power
Sep 4, 2016 • 39 min
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.
John F. Kennedy: We are all mortal
Aug 28, 2016 • 47 min
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…
Dwight D. Eisenhower: Covert action
Aug 21, 2016 • 51 min
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.
Harry S. Truman: Trying to make the right call
Aug 14, 2016 • 36 min
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.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Through Eleanor’s eyes
Aug 7, 2016 • 53 min
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.
Herbert Hoover: Dealing with disaster
Jul 31, 2016 • 39 min
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.
Calvin Coolidge: A tale of two Coolidges
Jul 24, 2016 • 46 min
Former politician Michael Dukakis, biographer Amity Shlaes and political scientist Robert Gilbert join Washington Post economics reporter Steven Pearlstein to offer a version of Calvin Coolidge’s legacy that doesn’t follow the standard story.
Warren G. Harding: Love and scandal
Jul 17, 2016 • 42 min
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.
Woodrow Wilson: A complicated legacy
Jul 10, 2016 • 45 min
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.
William Howard Taft: This chief, not that chief
Jul 3, 2016 • 37 min
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.
Theodore Roosevelt: Exuberance
Jun 26, 2016 • 42 min
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.
William McKinley: The modern campaign
Jun 19, 2016 • 39 min
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.
Benjamin Harrison: The president as conservationist
Jun 12, 2016 • 39 min
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.
Grover Cleveland: Tell the truth
Jun 5, 2016 • 39 min
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.
Chester A. Arthur: Redemption
May 29, 2016 • 41 min
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.
James A. Garfield: Shot down
May 22, 2016 • 42 min
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.
Rutherford B. Hayes: The most contested election
May 15, 2016 • 43 min
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.
Ulysses S. Grant: Lover, fighter, writer
May 8, 2016 • 43 min
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.
Andrew Johnson: Stitching up a torn country
May 1, 2016 • 36 min
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.
Abraham Lincoln: His hand and his pen
Apr 24, 2016 • 55 min
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.
James Buchanan: The bachelor and the bloodshed
Apr 17, 2016 • 39 min
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.
Franklin Pierce: Rolling off the tracks
Apr 10, 2016 • 31 min
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.
Millard Fillmore: Teaching the obscure presidents
Apr 3, 2016 • 39 min
Should we teach the presidency of Millard Fillmore? What do we lose if we don’t? Historians Jean Baker and James McPherson, along with Washington Post education reporter T. Rees Shapiro, tackle these questions in our 13th episode.
Zachary Taylor: War heroes and conspiracy theory
Mar 27, 2016 • 29 min
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.
James K. Polk: Getting it done
Mar 20, 2016 • 36 min
They Might Be Giants singer John Linnell and historian Amy Greenberg are guests on this episode. 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?
John Tyler: Ghosts and the vice presidency
Mar 13, 2016 • 32 min
When Vice President Tyler took over the White House, he set 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.
William Henry Harrison: Great song, horrible death
Mar 6, 2016 • 30 min
Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri, along with 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.
Martin Van Buren: The story of our two-party system
Feb 28, 2016 • 39 min
Martin Van Buren did much to create the political party establishments we have today. Experts Barbara Bair and Mark Cheathem, along with Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza, examine his mark on modern politics.
Andrew Jackson: The violence, the fight
Feb 21, 2016 • 46 min
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.
John Quincy Adams: The trait that broke a presidency
Feb 14, 2016 • 45 min
We’re about to witness how the inability to compromise can tank any hope of being an effective president.
James Monroe: The Forrest Gump of presidents
Feb 7, 2016 • 40 min
In the latest episode of Presidential, we look at our fifth president’s knack for being present at famous moments in history.
James Madison: Burning down the house
Jan 31, 2016 • 38 min
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.
Thomas Jefferson: On food and freedom
Jan 24, 2016 • 43 min
Jon Meacham and Annette Gordon-Reed are among the experts who take us through the best and worst of our third president’s complex and controversial legacy.
John Adams: The case of the missing monument
Jan 17, 2016 • 33 min
In the second episode of Presidential, biographer David McCullough as well as noted art and architecture experts explore why there’s no monument to John Adams in Washington, DC — and how that omission shapes our sense of his legacy.
George Washington: The man, the myth, the legend
Jan 10, 2016 • 49 min
Who exactly was our first president? Bob Woodward, Joel Achenbach and Julie Miller kick off our first episode of Presidential.
Introduction: Welcome to Presidential
Jan 5, 2016 • 3 min
Preview the Washington Post podcast, with clips from upcoming episodes and an overview of the series by host Lillian Cunningham.