Ron Suskind is the author of the # 1 New York Times bestseller The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed A Hope in the Unseen. He has been senior national affairs reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Visit the author's website at www.ronsuskind.com.
To summarize and simplify, the book addresses two general categories of presidencies. The first is the president with a blend of egalitarian and individualist cultural propensities. Spawned by the American revolution, this anti-authoritarian cultural alliance dominated American politics until it was torn asunder by what Charles Beard has called the second American revolution, the Civil War. The Jeffersonian and Jacksonian presidents labored, with varying degrees of success, to square the exercise of authority with their own and their followers' ami-: authoritarian principles. They also were faced with intraparly conflicts that periodically flared up between egalitarian and individualist followers.
The president with hierarchical cultural propensities faced different problems. While the precise contours of the dilemma varied, all straggled in one way or another to reconcile their own and their party's preferences with the anti-hierarchical ethos that inhered in the society and the polity. Hierarchical presidents like Washington and Adams were hamstrung by this dilemma, as were Whig leaders like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster who aspired to the presidency but never achieved it. .Abraham Lincoln's greatness resided in part in his ability to resolve the hierarch's dilemma. He operated in wartime when he could invoke the commander-in-chief clause, and he created a new cultural combination in which hierarchy was subordinated to individualism. This, suggest the authors, was a key to his greatness.
The unique dimension of this volume is its use of cultural theory to explain presidential behavior. It also differs from other books in that, it deals with pre-modern presidents who are too often treated as only of antiquarian interest in mainstream political science literature on the presidency. The analysis lays the groundwork for a new basis for comparison of early presidents with modern presidents.
In a sweeping, propulsive, and multilayered narrative, The Way of the World investigates how America relinquished the moral leadership it now desperately needs to fight the real threat of our era: a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists. Truth, justice, and accountability become more than mere words in this story. Suskind shows where the most neglected dangers lie in the story of "The Armageddon Test" —a desperate gamble to send undercover teams into the world's nuclear black market to frustrate the efforts of terrorists trying to procure weapons-grade uranium. In the end, he finally reveals for the first time the explosive falsehood underlying the Iraq War and the entire Bush presidency.
While the public and political realms struggle, The Way of the World simultaneously follows an ensemble of characters in America and abroad who are turning fear and frustration into a desperate—and often daring—brand of human salvation. They include a striving, twenty-four-year-old Pakistani émigré, a fearless UN refugee commissioner, an Afghan teenager, a Holocaust survivor's son, and Benazir Bhutto, who discovers, days before her death, how she's been abandoned by the United States at her moment of greatest need. They are all testing American values at a time of peril, and discovering solutions—human solutions—to so much that has gone wrong.
For anyone hoping to exercise truly informed consent and begin the process of restoring the values and hope—along with the moral clarity and earned optimism—at the heart of the American tradition, The Way of the World is a must-read.