The American President: The Human Drama of Our Nation's Highest Office

Overview

A Companion to the Epic PBS Series

"The story of the presidency is, at least in part, a story of human personality under pressure . . . "

The American President is a brilliantly conceived and deeply informed landmark look at our nation's highest office.  Working closely with a distinguished group of scholars, and making use of both archival sources and interviews with living U.S. presidents, the authors have organized their material thematically rather than chronologically,...

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Overview

A Companion to the Epic PBS Series

"The story of the presidency is, at least in part, a story of human personality under pressure . . . "

The American President is a brilliantly conceived and deeply informed landmark look at our nation's highest office.  Working closely with a distinguished group of scholars, and making use of both archival sources and interviews with living U.S. presidents, the authors have organized their material thematically rather than chronologically, rendering fascinating juxtapositions that shed new light on familiar figures: Thomas Jefferson with Ronald Reagan; John Adams with Jimmy Carter; James Madison with Bill Clinton.

This remarkable audio provides a new understanding of the legacy and impact of the most important American institution, helping to bring focus to the ways in which presidents have affected the history of our nation.

 

 

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Editorial Reviews

Doris Kearns Goodwin
From "I absolutely loved reading this original and fascinating approach to the American presidency. The organizational structure is brilliant, the narrative is clear and thought-provoking, and the pictures are dazzling."

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of No Ordinary Time

Library Journal
This work of end-of-the-century American history offers an interesting perspective on the Presidents that may not be best presented in a general coffee-table book format. The authors, Kunhardt Jr., a former managing editor of LIFE magazine, and his two filmmaker sons, Peter W. Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt III, base their narratives on the scholarly Presidential model of Stephen Skowronek (The Politics Presidents Make, LJ 8/93), who categorizes Presidents by the similar problems they encounter: one category groups Presidents by their heroic reputations, while other categories take into account the President's political circumstances, the expanding power of the office, and the officeholders' individual mindsets. The book is profusely illustrated, and each President receives a two- to three-page discussion and an "In His Words" section. The writing is informative but not as interesting, nor are the photographs as emotionally compelling, as that found in Harold Evans's The American Century (LJ 10/1/98). Yet this work is recommended for larger public libraries because of its fascinating view of Presidential behavior, its tie-in with a PBS series to be aired in 2000, and its being picked as a BOMC main selection.--Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Kunhardts (P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman, 1995) have assembled a generously illustrated volume (a companion to their forthcoming 10-part PBS series) that briefly characterizes each president. Unlike most other works on the presidents, this one groups the chief executives thematically rather than chronologically. Such a pattern yields both yawns and provocative surprises. In "The Heroic Posture," for example, are the expected Washington, W. H. Harrison, Grant, and Eisenhower—military heroes all. But in "An Independent Cast of Mind" appear John Adams with Taylor, Hayes, and Carter—not a predictable grouping. The authors have tried to sketch each president with a few brief strokes and have found some engaging and poignant anecdotes to animate their text: Washington played the flute, Pierce watched his 11-year-old son die in a train wreck, Taylor's physicians bled him (hastening his death), Taft ballooned to 355 pounds while in office. The authors have also endeavored to avoid the ordinary—how refreshing to see a section on JFK with no photos of Marilyn Monroe or the assassination, or to see the section on Clinton with no visual record of his hug of Monica Lewinsky. There is much here to delight and annoy both the political left and right. "Ronald Reagan saw his job as teaching Americans how to dream again," gush the authors. And Clinton-haters will be likewise disappointed to read that the sex scandal was principally a constitutional issue of "checks and balances." Most engaging of all in this smorgasbord of a book are the graphics. On nearly every page are rare and revealing photographs of presidents and of the Washington, D.C., they inhabited. Readerscan see LBJ looming over a listener, a full-length silhouette of Tyler, Cleveland both slender and corpulent (after his "prodigious eating and beer drinking"). A celebration of those who have served, a work of stunning visual effect, a graphic Mount Rushmore. (30 color, 500 b&w illustrations) (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573221498
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/1999
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 9.56 (w) x 11.18 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr. is a former managing editor of Life magazine and the author of numerous books.  His son Philip B. Kunhardt III, an Episcopal minister, co-authored and produced Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, among other projects.  Son Peter W. Kunhardt is a three-time Emmy Award winning producer of documentaries.

The reader, Richard Neustadt, is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government emeritus at Harvard University.  He is the author of many books, among them: Presidential Power, Alliance Politics, and The Epidemic That Never Was.  Neustadt is the sole on-camera commentator for the PBS series The American Presidents.

The voices of the presidents are read by Larry Kenney.

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Table of Contents

Preface
A Personal Journey
Foreword
Introduction
The Candidate
Ch. 1 The Heroic Posture 2
George Washington (1789-1797): America's First Hero 6
William Henry Harrison (1841): A Manufactured Hero 18
Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877): In Over His Head 24
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): The Heroic Image 36
Ch. 2 Compromise Choices 48
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857): The Dark Horse President 52
James A. Garfield (1881): Awaiting Destiny 58
Warren G. Harding (1921-1923): "I Should Never Have Been Here" 68
Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977): Healing the Nation 78
Politics and the Presidency
Ch. 3 The Professional Politician 86
Martin Van Buren (1837-1841): "The Little Magician" 90
James Buchanan (1857-1861): "Avoiding Conflict" 96
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865): Politics with a Purpose 104
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): The Art of Political Bluster 118
Ch. 4 An Independent Cast of Mind 128
John Adams (1797-1801): Going It Alone 132
Zachary Taylor (1849-1850): "Old Rough and Ready" 140
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881): "No Fondness for Political Life" 148
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): The Outsider 156
A Matter of Destiny
Ch. 5 Family Ties 164
John Quincy Adams (1825-1829): His Father's Son 168
Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893): "Nobody's Grandson" 174
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): Possession by Right 184
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): Vindicating the Irish 196
Ch. 6 Happenstance 206
John Tyler (1841-1845): Establishing the Precedent 210
Millard Fillmore (1850-1853): "Called by a Bereavement" 218
Andrew Johnson (1865-1869): "Elect of an Assassin" 224
Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885): "Gentleman Boss" 238
Harry S. Truman (1945-1953): American Optimist 248
Executive Vision
Ch. 7 The American Way 258
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): His "Empire of Liberty" 262
Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): Preacher of Prosperity 272
Herbert C. Hoover (1929-1933): American Individualist 282
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): An American Dreamer 292
Ch. 8 The World Stage 302
James Monroe (1817-1825): A Vision for the Hemisphere 306
William McKinley (1897-1901): Reluctant Apostle 312
Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921): American Idealist 324
George Bush (1989-1993): Personal Contact 336
An Office and its Powers
Ch. 9 Expanding Power 346
Andrew Jackson (1829-1837): The Power of the People 350
Grover Cleveland (1885-1889;1893-1897): "Ugly Honest" 360
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1907): "Rough Rider" 372
Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974): Abuse of Power 386
Ch. 10 The Balance of Power 396
James Madison (1809-1817): Creating the Balance 400
James K. Polk (1845-1849): "Young Hickory" 408
William Howard Taft (1909-1913): Preserving the Balance 418
William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001): Second Chances 430
Chronology of the Presidents 442
Selected Constitutional Passages 444
Acknowledgments 448
Selected Bibliography 450
Index 460
Picture Sources 475
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2000

    PRESIDENTS MAVEN GRATIFIES FETISH!

    I've always loved this history of the presidency as a topic; from the time I was seven years old I has them memorized from first to last. I could also get into trivia-BIG TIME! This book, in particular , not only is beautiful to look at, but has a really shrewd organization to it. BRAVO!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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