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The promise was lost and his career became an almost frenetic race for distinction and power. His imperfections were magnified, and his misjudgments haunted him too quickly and too long. His foes waited for his fall, and so it came, proving once again that in America there is a very dark side to ambition.

Michael P. Riccards is the author of the two volume history of the American presidency, “The Ferocious Engine of Democracy.”