Each president brings to the White House a distinct set of personal characteristics and a preferred leadership style, but just how much have individual presidents shaped domestic policy? To understand and assess what factors determine one president’s success and another’s limited accomplishments, it is important to examine both the individual’s leadership roles and the circumstances that shape opportunities for success. This book systematically examines the first terms of every president from FDR to Obama and assesses leadership style, the policy agenda, and the “political opportunity” facing each president. The success of each president in bringing about landmark legislation and other policy change is shown to hinge on the opportunities facing each president, his leadership style, and finally, his skill managing a variety of institutional and public relationships. Not all presidents are created equal, but some can implement strategies to overcome formidable obstacles, rising into the vaunted ranks of the “Great Presidents.”
The second edition of this timely book adds chapters on George W. Bush and Barack Obama and focuses on the significant domestic policy challenges of their respective times. Tax cuts, education policy, and homeland security are featured for the Bush era, while health care reform, economic policy initiatives, immigration, and gun control are highlights for Obama. Both offer insights into contemporary presidential leadership in a highly partisan age. In addition, the authors have reconfigured the analytical framework of the book to take into account the “dynamic opportunity structure” that emerged during the George W. Bush administration.
Questions the book addresses include:
- How can we judge which presidents are great when they come to office under different circumstances?
- What circumstances give new presidents more or less power?
- What are the true determinants of “presidential greatness”?
Praise for the New Edition:
"this new edition adds George W. Bush's and Barack Obama's presidencies...The authors argue that, given their levels of opportunity, different presidents overachieved while others underachieved...This book is clearly written, easy to understand, and full of interesting anecdotes to help support its arguments. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers and undergraduate students."
"Building on prior editions, Genovese, Belt, and Lammers have produced an insightful, discriminating, and cogent update to the study of presidential leadership in domestic policy that melds theory with the challenges individual presidents have confronted in the modern era. This highly readable account is a 'must' for courses on the presidency and American politics."
—Richard S. Conley, University of Florida
“Genovese, Belt, and Lammers have set a new standard for studies of presidential leadership in domestic policy. Their book gives a close-up view of modern presidents in action, while keeping in mind the larger context in which chief executives operate. Their analysis is thoughtful and judicious, and their case studies are interesting and well-written. This book will be useful to students and scholars alike.”
—Ryan J. Barilleaux, Miami University of Ohio
Praise for the First Edition:
“This is an elegant, even magisterial work on the presidency that combines theoretical sophistication with engaging presidential storytelling. Students as well as scholars will appreciate this fine book.”
—Robert J. Spitzer, SUNY Cortland
List of Tables
Part I. The High Opportunity Presidents
Chapter 1. Strategies for Assessing Presidents
Chapter 2. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Artful Leadership during Hard Times
Chapter 3. Lyndon B. Johnson: Legislative Leadership and a Credibility Gap
Chapter 4. Ronald Reagan: One Big Year
Chapter 5. George W. Bush: A Resolute Decider with a Co-President
Part II. The Moderate Opportunity Presidents
Chapter 6. Harry S. Truman: A Broker with Beliefs
Chapter 7. Dwight D. Eisenhower: A Skilled Centrist
Chapter 8. John F. Kennedy: A Quest for Heroic Leadership
Chapter 9. Barack Obama: A Negotiator without a Partner
Part III. The Low Opportunity Presidents
Chapter 10. Richard Nixon: An Activist with an Enemies List
Chapter 11. Jimmy Carter: An Outsider’s Pursuit of “Trustee” Leadership
Chapter 12. George Bush: A Reluctant Guardian
Chapter 13. Bill Clinton: A Perpetual Campaigner under Siege
Part IV. Conclusion
Chapter 14. Opportunities, Challenges, and Skills: Comparing the Presidents
Citations of Authors