The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office / Edition 1

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Even the most powerful men in the world are human—they get sick, take dubious drugs, drink too much, contemplate suicide, fret about ailing parents, and bury people they love. Young Richard Nixon watched two brothers die of tuberculosis, even while doctors monitored a suspicious shadow on his own lungs. John Kennedy received last rites four times as an adult, and Lyndon Johnson suffered a "belly buster" of a heart attack. David Blumenthal and James A. Morone explore how modern presidents have wrestled with their own mortality—and how they have taken this most human experience to heart as they faced the difficult politics of health care. Drawing on a trove of newly released White House tapes, on extensive interviews with White House staff, and on dramatic archival material that has only recently come to light, The Heart of Power explores the hidden ways in which presidents shape our destinies through their own experiences. Taking a close look at Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, the book shows what history can teach us as we confront the health care challenges of the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert B. Reich
This timely and insightful book puts Barack Obama's current quest for universal health insurance in historical context and gives new meaning to the audacity of hope.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In this engrossing text, the history of American health-care policy, from the New Deal to the Medicare Modernization Act of George W. Bush, becomes a frame through which the authors illuminate the leadership qualities of late-20th-century presidents in the arena of domestic affairs. The authors present biographies of presidents from FDR on, investigating potential influences (e.g., heart attacks, abusive parents, deceased siblings) on their attitudes toward health policy. Blumenthal, a Harvard Medical School professor, and Brown University political scientist Morone (The Democratic Wish) draw on White House telephone tapes and memos in a laudatory chapter on Johnson's role in passing Medicare, and reserve their harshest criticism for Jimmy Carter, whose administration unwittingly "killed the late effort at health reform." The authors offer evenhanded critiques and conclude with lessons for future chief executives about the importance of political savvy, economic flexibility and popular appeal in determining the success of health-care initiatives. More than an excellent primer on American health policy, the book offers a thorough, incisive look at the presidency as an institution and the men who have occupied the office. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Blumenthal, who was recently appointed President Obama's National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and Morone (political science, Brown Univ.; Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History) have collaborated on this original and absorbing look at the modern U.S. presidency. Beginning with FDR and continuing through the George W. Bush administration, the authors carefully examine each president's personal and family health issues as well as their leadership style to learn what attributes and techniques are the most useful in passing national health reforms. Relying heavily on presidential transcripts, memoranda, and archival materials, Blumenthal and Morone present an unbiased look at the human qualities that define our leaders. The authors conclude with eight "rules" that they feel are necessary for successful reform, including the need to move quickly and with passion and the ability to manage Congress while ignoring the economists. VERDICT Though thoroughly referenced, the writing flows nicely and doesn't get bogged down in ponderous scholarly verbiage. This captivating, reasonably priced book is highly recommended for general audiences as well as specialists in medicine and political science.—Tina Neville, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib.
New Yorker - Atul Gawande
“A riveting history of health-care politics.”
Congress & The Presidency
“A book that sets a standard for the study of the presidency and of health policy.”
New York Times Book Review - Robert B. Reich
“This timely and insightful book puts Barack Obama’s current quest for universal health insurance in historical context and gives new meaning to the audacity of hope.”
Health Affairs - Jeff Goldsmith
“A masterpiece and a valuable primer for future presidents as they wrestle with the dragon of health reform.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520260306
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 494
  • Sales rank: 1,330,266
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

David Blumenthal was until recently the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Medicine and Professor of Health Policy at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has advised Democratic presidential candidates from Michael Dukakis to Barack Obama, and now works on health issues for the Obama Administration. James A. Morone is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Brown University and the author of Hellfire Nation and The Democratic Wish, a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the Gladys Kammerer Award of the American Political Science Association.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments / vii
introduction / 1

1. franklin delano roosevelt
The Enigmatic Angler / 21

2. harry s. truman
We’ll Take the Starch Out of Them—Eventually / 57

3. dwight d. eisenhower
Compassionate Conservative / 99

4. john f. kennedy
The Charismatic with a Stricken Father / 131

5. lyndon b. johnson
The Secret History of Medicare / 163

6. richard nixon
A Flower That Bloomed Only in the Dark / 206

7. jimmy carter
The Righteous Engineer / 248

8. ronald reagan
Socialized Medicine and the Working Stiff / 283

9. george herbert walker bush
Stick to the Running Game / 319

10. bill clinton
Kicking the Can down the Road / 346

11. george w. bush
Bring It On—Reforming Medicare / 385


Eight Rules for the Heart of Power / 409
Notes / 421

Index / 471

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