Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton by David Gergen, David Gergen |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton

Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton

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by David Gergen, David Gergen
     
 
Few Americans have observed the ups and downs of presidential leadership more closely over the past thirty years -- from Nixon to Clinton and Watergate to Whitewater -- than David Gergen. A White House adviser to four presidents, both Republican and Democrat, he offers a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of their struggles to exercise power and draws from them key

Overview

Few Americans have observed the ups and downs of presidential leadership more closely over the past thirty years -- from Nixon to Clinton and Watergate to Whitewater -- than David Gergen. A White House adviser to four presidents, both Republican and Democrat, he offers a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of their struggles to exercise power and draws from them key lessons for leaders of the future. Taking us inside the administrations of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, Gergen reflects on everything from why Nixon was the best global strategist among recent presidents to how the Bill-and-Hillary seesaw rocked the White House during Clinton's tenure as president.

Gergen argues that, as the twenty-first century begins, our success as a country will depend heavily upon the success of a new generation in power. Drawing upon his many experiences in the White House, he offers seven vital elements for future leaders. What they must have, he says, are inner mastery; a central, compelling purpose rooted in moral values; a capacity to persuade; skills in working within the system; a fast start; a strong, effective team; and a passion that inspires others to keep the flame alive.

Editorial Reviews

As a bipartisan adviser to four presidents, magazine editor, political analyst, lecturer and author, Gergen has remained in the government-media relations spotlight for some time. His book is not so much about the author's inside-the-beltway tenure as it is a series of lessons on leadership, both good and bad. As the new century opens, Gergen argues, a new age may be dawning in America, one that must be realized by the next president. Drawing upon his observations while serving in the White House, he lays out seven key points for the new chief executive to follow. Unfortunately, from "A Capacity to Persuade" to "Leadership Starts From Within," Gergen's points wind up sounding like good old-fashioned political common sense rather than advice to the leader of the twenty-first century.
—Rob Stout
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Few observers are as qualified to comment on the merits of presidential leadership as is Gergen, having served as a speechwriter and adviser to fourchief executives. In these finely etched tales of his time with Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, Gergen not only explains what made these men tick but also draws broader lessons on what makes for presidential greatness. It begins, he says, with strength of character; then a president must have a clear and compelling vision of what he wants to accomplish, and must be able to communicate this vision to the American people. Organizationally, he must be able to work with other centers of political power, particularly Congress; be decisive in his early actions in office; and have around him strong and prudent advisors. Finally, he must inspire. This is a lot to ask of any leader, and Gergen admits that none of those for whom he worked quite had it all, though in his estimation Reagan came closest. Both Nixon and Clinton were men of brilliance, he says, yet harbored deeply flawed characters; Ford was honest and capable but never quite defined his goals. Reagan, for all his considerable virtues--courage, conviction, vision--too often allowed his inattention to detail and hands-off management style to derail his intentions. While some may debate Gergen's assessments, his own eye for detail and knack for narrative are to be admired. He brings to life the everyday world of the presidency and provides telling portraits of these fallible yet fascinating leaders. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Prominent national journalist Gergen is a familiar face on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and ABC's Nightline, among other outlets. He has moved in and out of government for more than 30 years, and here he offers his insights into the leadership qualities of the Presidents he served and those he witnessed, beginning with Richard Nixon and ending with Bill Clinton. As one might expect, Jimmy Carter does not fare well, though he is respected, while Ronald Reagan and Clinton do. Gergen first worked in the Nixon administration, but his loyalty does not prevent him from perceiving and describing the dark side of that regime. The author worked for Clinton for a time, and his observation is that the man had no mechanism for sorting out the input that was hitting his highly intelligent and capable mind. Still, he was a genius at inspiring his followers and persuading others that he cared deeply for them. Gergen found Gerald Ford to be an effective and honorable man, defeated by the events into which he was forced to play. The best leader chooses skilled operators whose strengths and conflicts bolster one another and give the President multiple perspectives from which to view the issues of the day. Stylishly written, this book would have been better if Gergen had not taken on the task of reading it himself; his enervating pacing and nearly lifeless intonation prove once again that it is not always wise. Recommended for modern political history collections. Don Wismer, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Historic insider's insights into presidential qualities.

From the Publisher
Robert A. Rankin The Philadelphia Inquirer Superb...Gergen is a masterful journalist...fascinating...fair...generous...and wise.

Michael Beschloss author of Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964 A preeminent political analyst and public servant reveals intriguing hidden dimensions of the four presidents he served and brings us a meditation on presidential power that, like its author, is shrewd, thoughtful, and wise.

Jon Margolis The New York Times Book Review Perhaps nothing distinguishes Gergen's book from other White House memoirs more than the fundamental sympathy and respect he shows toward all the presidents he served.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684826639
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
09/06/2000
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.39(d)

Read an Excerpt

What Would Richard Nixon Do?

"It is just possible that we are living at the dawn of a new golden age." --David Gergen, from the preface of Eyewitness to Power

The year 2000 may very well be the dawning of a magical time in America. As David Gergen warns, however, the same sentiment was also expressed at the turn of the 20th century, when America plunged into two world wars, the Great Depression, and a dark global era that saw only 12 democracies emerge intact from World War II. What went wrong?

According to ultimate presidential insider David Gergen, poor leadership was a large part of the reason for the tumult of the early 1900s. Now, in Eyewitness to Power, Gergen -- who has served under four presidents in the past 25 years -- offers a riveting account of the ups and downs of presidential leadership in the last quarter of the century. Gergen has weathered Oval Office storms from Watergate to Whitewater, and his behind-the-scenes lesson in leadership chronicles the tenures of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

Be forewarned: This is anything but a kiss-and-tell look at these four presidencies. Rather, Gergen considers each presidency as he saw it unfold, thoughtfully outlining the strengths, the weaknesses, and the turning points in each administration. From Gergen's unique vantage point as an eyewitness to power, learn:

  • How Richard Nixon displayed an arguably unparalleled mastery in global affairs -- but how the historical leaders he idolized hinted at the paranoia that insidiously swept the White House
  • That Gerald Ford's brief tenure hinged on the politically unsavvy execution of Nixon's pardon -- an action that was not, as many claim, a grievous error in judgment but was so mishandled it cost him the presidency
  • Why Ronald Reagan's temperament, not his intelligence, guided his presidency and earned the trust of a nation -- but how his reliance on others resulted in the muddled messages of the "Great Communicator"
  • Why Gergen, an admittedly staunch conservative, joined President Bill Clinton's team and believed this president could be the stuff of legend -- until idealism, inexperience, and personal foibles alike got in the way

Along with fascinating accounts of the dramas that unfolded within White House walls, Gergen provides the seven key lessons for future leaders: inner mastery; a central, compelling purpose rooted in moral values; a capacity to persuade; skills in working within the system; a fast start; a strong, effective team; and a passion that inspires others to keep the flame alive. How did past presidents measure up? And how will the leaders of tomorrow learn from the lessons within? In Eyewitness to Power, Gergen offers a down-to-earth, authoritative guide to leadership -- whose impact stretches far beyond the White House.

Meet the Author

David Gergen is a prominent national journalist, teacher, and public lecturer. He is a professor of public service at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and codirector of the school's Center for Public Leadership. He is also editor-at-large at U.S. News & World Report and is a regular political analyst on television.

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Eyewitness to Power 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Gergen has done all of us a good service with this work. It is refreshing to read an insider's perspective that doesn't adhere to tabloid factors. By not getting bogged down in unimportant details, the book moves quickly and provides insights that are not only valuable to understanding recent presidencies, but also applicable to our own lives and work situations. Well done Mr. Gergen P.S. Perhaps the Bush camp is still looking for a few good people.