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The Modern American Presidency
     

The Modern American Presidency

by Lewis L. Gould, Richard Norton Smith (Foreword by)
 
Their idiosyncrasies and failures were as diverse as their accomplishments. William McKinley tracked press opinion before Richard Nixon was even born. Calvin Coolidge utilized radio and press conferences long before today's spin doctors. And John F. Kennedy brought the culture of celebrity to the White House.

The president of the United States may be the most

Overview

Their idiosyncrasies and failures were as diverse as their accomplishments. William McKinley tracked press opinion before Richard Nixon was even born. Calvin Coolidge utilized radio and press conferences long before today's spin doctors. And John F. Kennedy brought the culture of celebrity to the White House.

The president of the United States may be the most powerful man in the world. But even though all of our modern presidents have acted in what they believed to be the country's best interests, Lewis Gould suggests that most of them fell short of the challenges of an impossible job. To treat the modern presidency as a success story, he claims, is to falsify the historical record.

The Modern American Presidency is a lively, interpretive synthesis of our twentieth-century leaders, filled with intriguing insights into how the presidency has evolved as America rose to prominence on the world stage. Gould traces the decline of the party system and the increasing importance of the media, resulting in the rise of the president as celebrity. He traces the growth of the White House staff and executive bureaucracy. And he shows us a succession of men who have increasingly known less and less about the presidency, observing that most would have had a better historical reputation if they had contented themselves with a single term.

Engagingly written for general readers while firmly grounded in scholarship for classroom use, this book takes a no-holds-barred approach to occupants of the Oval Office. Gould marks the accomplishments of lesser-known presidents—Taft's anticipation of the budget office, Harding's plans for a Defense Department—and casts higher-profile personalities in a fresh light, whether revisiting Nixon's preoccupation with reelection, exploring why the effort to remove Bill Clinton weakened the impeachment power, or contemplating George W. Bush's efforts to wage war against terrorism.

As Gould observes, today's presidency is so bogged down in media manipulation, fund-raising, and self indulgence that it is no more capable of grappling with difficulties than it was a century ago. The Modern American Presidency advocates the radical rethinking of what the nation needs from its chief executive and gives us the understanding we need to go about it.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700616831
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
08/18/2009
Edition description:
Second Edition, Revised and Updated
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(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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