In Overreach, respected presidential scholar George Edwards argues that the problem was strategic, not tactical. He finds that in President Obama's first two years in office, Obama governed on the premise that he could create opportunities for change by persuading the public and some congressional Republicans to support his major initiatives. As a result, he proposed a large, expensive, and polarizing agenda in the middle of a severe economic crisis. The president's proposals alienated many Americans and led to a severe electoral defeat for the Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections, undermining his ability to govern in the remainder of his term.
Edwards shows that the president's frustrations were predictable and the inevitable result of misunderstanding the nature of presidential power. The author demonstrates that the essence of successful presidential leadership is recognizing and exploiting existing opportunities, not in creating them through persuasion. When Obama succeeded in passing important policies, it was by mobilizing Democrats who were already predisposed to back him. Thus, to avoid overreaching, presidents should be alert to the limitations of their power to persuade and rigorously assess the possibilities for obtaining public and congressional support in their environments.
Using his trademark no-nonsense approach, Greenstein looks at the presidential qualities of James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln. For each president, he provides a concise history of the man's life and presidency, and evaluates him in the areas of public communication, organizational capacity, political skill, policy vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. Greenstein sheds light on why Buchanan is justly ranked as perhaps the worst president in the nation's history, how Pierce helped set the stage for the collapse of the Union and the bloodiest war America had ever experienced, and why Lincoln is still considered the consummate American leader to this day.
Presidents and the Dissolution of the Union reveals what enabled some of these presidents, like Lincoln and Polk, to meet the challenges of their times--and what caused others to fail.
In his groundbreaking book The Presidential Difference, Greenstein evaluated the personal strengths and weaknesses of the modern presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here, he takes us back to the very founding of the republic to apply the same yardsticks to the first seven presidents from Washington to Andrew Jackson, giving his no-nonsense assessment of the qualities that did and did not serve them well in office. For each president, Greenstein provides a concise history of his life and presidency, and evaluates him in the areas of public communication, organizational capacity, political skill, policy vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. Washington, for example, used his organizational prowess--honed as a military commander and plantation owner--to lead an orderly administration. In contrast, John Adams was erudite but emotionally volatile, and his presidency was an organizational disaster.
Inventing the Job of President explains how these early presidents and their successors shaped the American presidency we know today and helped the new republic prosper despite profound challenges at home and abroad.
Edwards considers three extraordinary presidents--Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan--and shows that despite their considerable rhetorical skills, the public was unresponsive to their appeals for support. To achieve change, these leaders capitalized on existing public opinion. Edwards then explores the prospects for other presidents to do the same to advance their policies. Turning to Congress, he focuses first on the productive legislative periods of FDR, Lyndon Johnson, and Reagan, and finds that these presidents recognized especially favorable conditions for passing their agendas and effectively exploited these circumstances while they lasted. Edwards looks at presidents governing in less auspicious circumstances, and reveals that whatever successes these presidents enjoyed also resulted from the interplay of conditions and the presidents' skills at understanding and exploiting them.
The Strategic President revises the common assumptions of presidential scholarship and presents significant lessons for presidents' basic strategies of governance.
In this incisive book, George Edwards shows how we can ask a few fundamental questions about the context of a presidency—the president's strategic position or opportunity structure—and use the answers to predict a president's success in winning support for his initiatives. If presidential success is largely determined by a president's strategic position, what role does persuasion play? Almost every president finds that a significant segment of the public and his fellow partisans in Congress are predisposed to follow his lead. Others may support the White House out of self-interest. Edwards explores the possibilities of the president exploiting such support, providing a more realistic view of the potential of presidential persuasion.
Written by a leading presidential scholar, Predicting the Presidency sheds new light on the limitations and opportunities of presidential leadership.
In this book, George Edwards analyzes the results of hundreds of public opinion polls from recent presidencies to assess the success of these efforts. Surprisingly, he finds that presidents typically are not able to change public opinion; even great communicators usually fail to obtain the public’s support for their high-priority initiatives. Focusing on presidents’ personae, their messages, and the American public, he explains why presidents are often unable to move public opinion and suggests that their efforts to do so may be counterproductive. Edwards argues that shoring up previously existing support is the principal benefit of going public and that “staying private”—negotiating quietly with elites—may often be more conducive to a president’s legislative success.