The Character Factor: How We Judge America's Presidents / Edition 1

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Overview


WATERGATE. MONICA LEWINSKY. PAINKILLERS IN THE OVAL OFFICE. IRAN-CONTRA. READ MY LIPS. THE CHARACTER FACTOR.

The American president’s character matters. To most Americans, it matters deeply. But how do we define what character means, and why can’t we agree?

In this sober, probing consideration of “the character factor” and the presidency, veteran political analyst James P. Pfiffner leads us through a survey of three aspects of presidential character that have proved problematic for recent chief executives: lies, promise-keeping, and sexual probity. His goal is not to tell us which presidents have been “good” and which “bad.” Rather, he helps us think critically and impartially about complex character issues and invites us to reach our own conclusions.

The Character Factor avoids both the abyss of moral relativism and the desert of political cynicism. It helps us look at our presidents (and our presidential candidates) without illusions, knowing that flawed men can still be great leaders but that some flaws deserve defeat at the polls—or even the ultimate presidential sanction, impeachment.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert J. Spitzer

“This book represents the highest quality; it is extremely significant; it is highly original on a subject that is frequently written on; it is as fair-minded and clear-headed a treatment as one could hope for. . . clear-headed, even-tempered, and fair-minded on one of the most commonly discussed, but poorly understood, elements of the presidency: the interface between personal character and the institution. In sum, this book is a tour de force.”--Robert J. Spitzer, SUNY Cortland, and past President, Presidency Research Group of the American Political Science Association
The Dallas Morning News
Do we really care about the character of our presidents? Those who think we do (or should) will find much to ponder in James Pfiffner's examination of the character of chief executives from Washington to the Bushes.
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Product Details

Meet the Author


James P. Pfiffner has written or edited ten books and many articles about the presidency. A professor of government and public policy at George Mason University, he is frequently invited to lecture on various topics related to the American president. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison
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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Judging Presidential Character 3
2 The Nature of Presidential Lies 18
3 Serious Presidential Lies 39
4 Sexual Probity and Presidential Character 64
5 Character, Consistency, and Campaign Promises 91
6 Three Presidents in Crisis 119
7 Character Complexity 140
Notes 171
Sources for Epigraphs 201
Index 205
Series Page 210
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