The Modern American Presidency / Edition 2

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When the first edition of this book appeared in 2003, it was chosen as a Main Selection of both the Book-of-the-Month Club and History Book Club and quickly became the standard work on the modern American presidency—from William McKinley through William Jefferson Clinton. In that original edition, Lewis L. Gould argued that, while the president may be the most powerful man in the world, most presidents have fallen well short of the daunting challenges that confronted them while in office.

During George W. Bush's two administrations, as Gould discusses in a substantial new chapter, those challenges grew in scope and ferocity, encompassing two intractable wars, natural disaster on an inconceivable scale, and a near-meltdown of the national and global economies. Unfortunately, Gould argues, President Bush was woefully unprepared for those challenges, failed spectacularly as a leader, and ultimately lost the public's trust. His failures further reinforce and underscore Gould's previous conclusions.

This new edition, like the first, offers a lively interpretive synthesis filled with intriguing insights into the presidency's evolution during America's rise to global prominence. Gould traces the decline of the party system, the increasing importance of the media and its role in creating the president-as-celebrity, and the growth of the White House staff and executive bureaucracy. He also shows us a succession of chief executives who increasingly have known less and less about the business of governing the country, observing that most would have had a better historical reputation if they had contented themselves with a single term.

Gould's sharply critical new chapter on George W. Bush's presidency notes how he and his associates extended the troubling trends of continuous campaigning, media manipulation, celebrity politics, and inattention to governance so characteristic of the modern presidential office. Gould also amplifies his commentary on the Clinton presidency and lays out the treacherous terrain that President Obama must now traverse.

Engagingly written for general readers and students in the classroom, but rigorous enough for the most demanding scholars, this book remains a must-read for everyone who cares about the future of our nation and the presidents who lead it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1896, the White House employed just six stenographers and a handful of clerks and secretaries. A century later, the staff had swelled to thousands. How this change occurred-and what it did to the presidency-is the subject of Gould's astute primer in executive power and privilege. The focus is on bureaucracy: how each president assembled a staff, coordinated with Congress and projected his agenda (and image) to the press. Gould (The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt) sees William McKinley as the unrecognized father of the modern presidency: the first to appear on film, build a war room and use commissions to avoid congressional oversight. He was also the first to appoint a de facto chief of staff, a position that would become one of the most powerful in Washington. Gould has similarly illuminating insights on most of McKinley's successors. He shows that the staged "photo op" of today has its roots with Franklin Roosevelt, whose handlers were forced by his disability to make elaborate preparations for public appearances. Gould also notes that Woodrow Wilson was the first president to deliver the State of the Union address in person and that Richard Nixon installed the "continuous campaign" long before Dick Morris instructed Bill Clinton to do it. To be sure, this is strictly an introductory text; moreover, not every president has the goods to provoke worthwhile analysis. Nonetheless, this is a concise, intelligent survey of the transformations of the White House over the past century. 36 b&w photos. (May 8) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
History: Reviews of New Books
A joy to read and pleasantly provocative, Gould's masterful work is perfect for classroom use.
Library Journal
Gould (history, emeritus, Univ. of Texas, Austin; The Presidency of William McKinley) tries to make sense of the "modern American presidency" and the peculiar mixture of chief executives who have occupied the office from William McKinley (President from 1897 to 1901) to George W. Bush. Did the modern presidency begin with McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, as most historians argue, or with FDR, as most political scientists suggest? Gould takes the former position and pays little attention to the latter. Working chronologically from McKinley forward, he argues that most presidents have fallen short of the demands of the office, largely because the President has become more of a celebrity than a knowledgeable political operative. In a conclusion that is a mere three and a half pages, Gould briefly mentions George W. Bush and the new demands placed upon the presidency in an age of terrorism, leaving the reader hungry for a generalized evaluation and synthesis. Overall, however, he does a solid job of reviewing the modern presidents, covering the high and low points of each administration, and giving a general audience a readable, engaging text.-Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700616848
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 8/18/2009
  • Edition description: Second Edition, Revised and Updated
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Lewis L. Gould's many books include The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and Four Hats in the Ring: The 1912 Election and the Birth of Modern American Politics. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition

Foreword to the First Edition


1. The Age of Cortelyou: William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt

2. The Lawyer and the Professor: William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson

3. The Modern Presidency Recedes: Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover

4. The Modern Presidency Revives and Grows: Franklin D. Roosevelt

5. The Presidency in the Cold War Era: Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower

6. The Souring of the Modern Presidency: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

7. The Rise of the Continuous Campaign: Richard Nixon

8. The Modern Presidency under Siege: Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter

9. The Modern Presidency in a Republican Era: Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush

10. Perils of the Modern Presidency: Bill Clinton

11. The Modern Presidency in Crisis: George W. Bush



Suggestions for Further Reading

Name Index

Subject Index

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