Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clintonby David Gergen, David Gergen
From Nixon to Clinton, Watergate to Whitewater, few Americans have observed the ups and downs of presidential leadership more closely over the past thirty years 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… See more details below
From Nixon to Clinton, Watergate to Whitewater, few Americans have observed the ups and downs of presidential leadership more closely over the past thirty years 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.
Gergen begins Eyewitness to Power with his reminiscence of being the thirty-year-old chief of the White House speechwriting team under Richard Nixon, a young man at the center of the Watergate storm. He analyzes what made Nixon strongand then brought him crashing down:
- Why Nixon was the best global strategist among recent presidents. How others may gain his strategic sense.
- Why Ford is one of our most underrated presidents.
- Why his pardon of Nixon was right on the merits but was so mishandled that it cost him his presidency. Even in his brief tenure, Ford offers lessons of leadership for others, as Gergen explains.
- How Reagan succeeded where others have failed. Why his temperament was more important than his intelligence. How he mastered relations with Congress and the press.
- The secrets of "the Great Communicator" and why his speeches were the most effective since those of John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt.
- Why Clinton could have been one of our best presidents but fell short. How the Bill-and-Hillary seesaw rocked the White House. How failures to understand the past brought Ken Starr to the door.
- Why the new ways in which leadership was developed by the Clinton White House hold out hope, and what dangers they threaten.
Eyewitness to Power is a down-to-earth, authoritative guide to leadership in the tradition of Richard Neustadt's Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents.
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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