The Collapse of Fortress Bush: The Crisis of Authority in American Government

The Collapse of Fortress Bush: The Crisis of Authority in American Government

by Alasdair Roberts


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When the Bush presidency began to collapse, pundits were quick to tell a tale of the “imperial presidency” gone awry, a story of secretive, power-hungry ideologues who guided an arrogant president down the road to ruin. But the inside story of the failures of the Bush administration is both much more complex and alarming, says leading policy analyst Alasdair Roberts. In the most comprehensive, balanced view of the Bush presidency to date, Roberts portrays a surprisingly weak president, hamstrung by bureaucratic, constitutional, cultural and economic barriers and strikingly unable to wield authority even within his own executive branch.

The Collapse of Fortress Bush shows how the president fought—and lost—key battles with the defense and intelligence communities. From Homeland Security to Katrina, Bush could not coordinate agencies to meet domestic threats or disasters. Either the Bush administration refused to exercise authority, was thwarted in the attempt to exercise authority, or wielded authority but could not meet the test of legitimacy needed to enact their goals. Ultimately, the vaunted White House discipline gave way to public recriminations among key advisers. Condemned for secretiveness, the Bush administration became one of the most closely scrutinized presidencies in the modern era.

Roberts links the collapse of the Bush presidency to deeper currents in American politics and culture, especially a new militarism and the supremacy of the Reagan-era consensus on low taxes, limited government, and free markets. Only in this setting was it possible to have a “total war on terrorism” in which taxes were reduced, private consumption was encouraged, and businesses were lightly regulated.

A balanced, incisive account by a skilled observer of U.S. government, The Collapse of Fortress Bush turns the spotlight from the powerful cabal that launched the war in Iraq to tell a much more disturbing story about American power and the failure of executive leadership.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814776063
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 02/01/2008
Pages: 266
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Alasdair Roberts is Professor of Public Administration in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He is also a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Public Policy, University College, London. He received his Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Toronto. He is the author of Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age , winner of the 2007 Book Award from the American Society for Public Administration’s Section on Public Administration Research, the 2007 Best Book Award of the Academy of Management’s Public and Non-Profit Division, the International Political Science Association’s 2007 Levine Book Prize, and the 2006 Louis Brownlow Book Award from the National Academy of Public Administration.

Table of Contents

1 A Crisis of Authority
2 Citizens and Aliens
3 Home Alone
4 Soothing the Market
5 Cakewalk
6 The Collapse of Fortress Bush
7 Beyond the Imperial Presidency
Notes Index
About the Author

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A trenchant analysis of the last eight years of American political history. . . . A work of rare insight that fills gaps glaringly evident in most public discourse.”
-Kirkus Reviews


“A counterintuitive critique of why the Bush administration collapsed, both internationally and domestically.”
-Publishers Weekly


“To explain the actions of the Bush administration since 9/11, Roberts . . . offers a provocative and intriguing thesis: that the decisions made by Bush were tightly constrained by the American political system's ‘entrenched liberalism,’ and a prevailing culture of ‘neomilitarism.’ . . . [T]he book deserves a wide audience. It will likely raise many questions to pose to presidential candidates in this election cycle. Highly recommended for all libraries.”
-Thomas J. Baldino,Library Journal

“Roberts’ book reminds us of a fundamental truth about modern democracies—governments and their opponents often have a vested interest in exaggerating the degree to which rhetoric has been transformed into reality.”-Public Finance

“Roberts’ sound judgment and expertise in the field of public administration make this an excellent primer on governance in the Bush years.”

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