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Presidents are surrounded by political strategists and White House counsel who presumably know enough to avoid making the same mistakes as their predecessors. Why, then, do the same kinds of presidential failures occur over and over again? Why Presidents Fail answers this question by examining presidential fiascos, quagmires, and risky business-the kind of failure that led President Kennedy to groan after the Bay of Pigs invasion, "How could I have been so stupid?" In this book, Richard M. Pious looks at nine cases that have become defining events in presidencies from Dwight D. Eisenhower and the U-2 Flights to George W. Bush and Iraqi WMDs. He uses these cases to draw generalizations about presidential power, authority, rationality, and legitimacy. And he raises questions about the limits of presidential decision-making, many of which fly in the face of the conventional wisdom about the modern presidency.
In this scholarly book, Pious (American studies, Barnard Coll.; The War on Terrorism and the Rule of Law) addresses the problems of executive-branch shortcomings by using risk-management theory to illustrate the common denominator of all presidential failures. He analyzes egregious mistakes across party lines from Eisenhower to the current administration and postulates that it isn't the type of decision that leads to failure but inherent flaws in the way risk is ascertained by those in power. A lack of credible information, the prevalence of political posturing by staff, and weak adversarial understanding are some of the culprits. Unfortunately, Pious's prescribed solutions-e.g., shrinking the sphere of the President's personal influence to streamline decision making, eliminating bloated bureaucracy, and assuring that the executive branch uses political research instead of creating it-are not simple or easily applicable. This well-written work, which includes extensive footnotes and resources for further study, is recommended for academic libraries.
Chapter 1 Introduction: Presidential Fiascoes Chapter 2 Chapter 1. Reputation: Eisenhower and the U-2 Flights Chapter 3 Chapter 2. Power Stakes: Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs Chapter 4 Chapter 3. Compellence: Johnson and the Vietnam Escalation Chapter 5 Chapter 4. Command: Ford and the Mayaguez Chapter 6 Chapter 5. Rhetoric: Carter and the Energy Crisis Chapter 7 Chapter 6. Prerogative: Reagan and the Iran-Contra Affair Chapter 8 Chapter 7. Gamesmanship: Bush and the Budget Chapter 9 Chapter 8. Program Innovation: Clinton and Health Care Chapter 10 Chapter 9. Parallel Governance: Bush and Iraqi WMD Chapter 11 Chapter 10. Presidents Unbound: Crises of Authority and Legitimacy Chapter 12 Chapter 11. Risk and Resilience: Toward a White House Learning Curve