What's wrong with the American presidency? Why is the world's oldest surviving democracy headed by a leader who lives and acts like a king? And why is that same leader so often held in low esteem by those who elected him? In this spirited survey of presidential history, Thomas Langston examines two centuries of unrealistic expectations, false hopes, and willful misunderstandings that lie at the heart of America's "dysfunctional relationship" with its president. Langston argues that each president becomes an icon, a stylized image of Americans' faith in themselves and in their country. Taking us on an investigation of how the game of presidential symbol-making is played, Langston reveals how Americans' wishful thinking is encouraged and how even the best presidents are invited to deceive the public.
With Reverence and Contempt concludes with a series of recommendations, including legislative changes aimed at improving the relationship between the president and the public by cutting the president's symbolic value down to size.
About the Author
Thomas S. Langston is associate professor of political science at Tulane University. He is the author of Ideologues and Presidents: From the New Deal to the Reagan Revolution.