Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson

Princeton University Press
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From George Washington's decision to buy time for the new nation by signing the less-than-ideal Jay Treaty with Great Britain in 1795 to George W. Bush's order of a military intervention in Iraq in 2003, the matter of who is president of the United States is of the utmost importance. In this book, Fred Greenstein examines the leadership styles of the earliest presidents, men who served at a time when it was by no means certain that the American experiment in free government would succeed.

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.

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About the author

Fred I. Greenstein is professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University. His books include The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader; How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965; and Presidents and the Dissolution of the Union: Leadership Style from Polk to Lincoln.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 10, 2009
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Pages
176
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ISBN
9781400831364
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Modern / General
History / United States / General
Political Science / American Government / Executive Branch
Political Science / Political Process / Leadership
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Just as famines and plagues can provide opportunities for medical research, the unhappy course of United States relations with Vietnam is a prime source of evidence for students of American political institutions. How Presidents Test Reality draws on the record of American decision making about Vietnam to explore the capacity of top government executives and their advisers to engage in effective reality testing.

Authors Burke and Greenstein compare the Vietnam decisions of two presidents whose leadership styles and advisory systems diverged as sharply as any in the modern presidency. Faced with a common challenge—an incipient Communist take-over of Vietnam—presidents Eisenhower and Johnson engaged in intense debates with their aides and associates, some of whom favored intervention and some of whom opposed it. In the Dien Bien Phu Crisis of 1954, Eisenhower decided not to enter the conflict; in 1965, when it became evident that the regime in South Vietnam could not hold out much longer, Johnson intervened.

How Presidents Test Reality uses declassified records and interviews with participants to assess the adequacy of each president’s use of advice and information. This important book advances our historical understanding of the American involvement in Vietnam and illuminates the preconditions of effective presidential leadership in the modern world.

"An exceptionally thoughtful exercise in what ‘contemporary history’ ought to be. Illuminates the past in a way that suggests how we might deal with the present and the future." —John Lewis Gaddis

"Burke and Greenstein have written what amounts to an owner's manual for operating the National Security Council....This is a book Reagan's people could have used and George Bush ought to read." —Bob Schieffer, The Washington Monthly

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With extraordinary access to the West Wing, Michael Wolff reveals what happened behind-the-scenes in the first nine months of the most controversial presidency of our time in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

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Never before in history has a presidency so divided the American people. Brilliantly reported and astoundingly fresh, Fire and Fury shows us how and why Donald Trump has become the king of discord and disunion.

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As Americans choose and install a new president for a new century they could do no better than to read this work by one of our keenest observers of the modern presidency. Drawing on a quarter-century's immersion in the presidential record and scores of interviews, Fred I. Greenstein provides a fascinating and instructive account of the qualities that have served well and poorly in the Oval Office from Franklin D. Roosevelt's first hundred days to the end of the Clinton administration.
Greenstein offers a series of bottom-line judgments on each of his eleven subjects and a bold new explanation of why presidents succeed or fail. Previous analysts have placed their bets on the president's political prowess or personal character. Yet by the first standard, LBJ should have been our greatest president, and by the second the nod would go to Jimmy Carter. Greenstein surveys each president's record in public communication, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. He concludes that the last is by far the most important.
According to Greenstein, FDR provides endless positive lessons but is a source of warnings. Truman let his bizarre readings of history lead him astray. Eisenhower was wise but failed to communicate a vision. Kennedy had no vision. Reagan was Carter in reverse. It is Ford who is most unappreciated and genuinely interesting. Ford balanced many conflicting demands, kept his poise, and left the office much stronger than he found it.
Presidents can avoid failure if they are willing to accept the warnings of failures past and act accordingly. But it is not only presidents who should read this book with care. Some flaws cannot be overcome no matter how otherwise talented the man. Only three of Greenstein's eleven modern presidents were "fundamentally free of distracting emotional perturbations." When we choose our presidents, we will do well to listen to Greenstein and "Beware the presidential contender who lacks emotional intelligence. In its absence all else may turn to ashes."
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