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Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan

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Richard E. Neustadt presents research and analysis on the judgement of presidential leadership and creates a framework of the modern president. In an effort to identify what America uses to measure the success of a president and his leadership, Presidential Power and the Modern President approaches the president himself by looking directly at his influence on governmental a Richard E. Neustadt presents research and analysis on the judgement of presidential leadership and creates a framework of the modern president. In an effort to identify what America uses to measure the success of a president and his leadership, Presidential Power and the Modern President approaches the president himself by looking directly at his influence on governmental action. From Roosevelt to Reagan, Neustadt examines presidential success and suggests a theory of presidential power, testing it against the events in the administrations of postwar presidents.


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Richard E. Neustadt presents research and analysis on the judgement of presidential leadership and creates a framework of the modern president. In an effort to identify what America uses to measure the success of a president and his leadership, Presidential Power and the Modern President approaches the president himself by looking directly at his influence on governmental a Richard E. Neustadt presents research and analysis on the judgement of presidential leadership and creates a framework of the modern president. In an effort to identify what America uses to measure the success of a president and his leadership, Presidential Power and the Modern President approaches the president himself by looking directly at his influence on governmental action. From Roosevelt to Reagan, Neustadt examines presidential success and suggests a theory of presidential power, testing it against the events in the administrations of postwar presidents.

30 review for Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    Considered a foundational text in the study of presidents, but a book that sprinkles its bits of insight between long stretches of impenetrable prose. Neustadt actually served as a staff member for Truman's administration, and was a consultant for several later administrations, so he can mix his academic ideas with his practical experiences. However, he seems to want to equate the few examples on which he focuses with the totality of presidential decision making, and the sample feels much too sm Considered a foundational text in the study of presidents, but a book that sprinkles its bits of insight between long stretches of impenetrable prose. Neustadt actually served as a staff member for Truman's administration, and was a consultant for several later administrations, so he can mix his academic ideas with his practical experiences. However, he seems to want to equate the few examples on which he focuses with the totality of presidential decision making, and the sample feels much too small to be truly useful. Perhaps the most important part of his book is his examination of how presidents choose to organize their staffs. They have a great deal of flexibility in this respect, and the organization makes a significant difference in terms of the quality of advice they receive and how thoroughly vetted the information is that reaches them. His other ideas: president as bargainer, and the various relationships that he considers pivotal to a presidency do not strike me as universal in the way he Neustadt seems to conceive of them, and possibly no longer operative in the same ways they may have been in the mid-twentieth century. If you take a presidency course, you will almost certainly encounter this book. It's important to understand in terms of how political scientists think about the presidency, but its present uses are pretty circumscribed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dylan Groves

    being president is hard work, its dangerous when amateurs do it and don't take constraints on their power seriously being president is hard work, its dangerous when amateurs do it and don't take constraints on their power seriously

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erik K

    "Presidential power is the power to persuade." - The most quoted and least understood phrase from the seminal book on the American Presidency, written by its best scholar. On paper, the presidency is weak; the Constitution gives it very few explicit powers: the power to veto, the power to nominate Supreme Court justices and executive branch personnel, and the hopelessly vague power to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Most writers who've pretended to read this book say the "power "Presidential power is the power to persuade." - The most quoted and least understood phrase from the seminal book on the American Presidency, written by its best scholar. On paper, the presidency is weak; the Constitution gives it very few explicit powers: the power to veto, the power to nominate Supreme Court justices and executive branch personnel, and the hopelessly vague power to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Most writers who've pretended to read this book say the "power to persuade" means the bully pulpit, oratory, cajoling. That's not what it is. It's recognizing leverage points where the formal rules of the road are vague. Even in his twilight years, Neustadt saw mostly weakness in the presidency. From a certain point of view, he's right. There is a gap between what is expected of the president and what the president has the ability to accomplish. The world is too big. But there is a difference between having few formal, affirmative powers, and having rigid, formal restrictions on the office. The American Presidency is characterized by the former, but not so much the latter. This theory helps explain why our expectations for our presidents so often fall short, and that lesson alone makes the book indispensable, the single best book ever written on the American Presidency. But it is incomplete. The American Presidency is far more powerful than it was in 1789, not because presidents are especially power-hungry (only ambitious people apply for the job), but because Congress has chosen to abdicate its responsibilities by delegating power to the President or otherwise failing to push back when the Executive moves in to fill a void. In any case, the world has quite simply become too complicated for weak government. Something had to fill the void, and for various reasons, Congress chose not to, instead abdicating much of its responsibility to the executive branch (the administrative state alphabet soup--EPA, FTC, CFPB, SEC, HHS--would be unimaginable to the Framers). Where there is murkiness in the restrictions placed on an office, an ambitious politician can transform it. One important tenet of this book is the observation that, contrary to what we learn in grade school, we do not have separation of powers. We have separate institutions sharing powers. There is a difference. It's the intermingling and tug-of-war between the branches that provides checks and balances. Congress shares some executive power: it exercises oversight of executive branch agencies. The Executive Branch has some judicial and legislative power: its agencies can make regulations as binding as any statute, and conduct adjudications as binding on parties as any court ruling. The judiciary shares some legislative power: statutory interpretation is properly understood as statutory completion. Whether we like to admit it or not, when "interpreting" ambiguous statutes, Judges fill in gaps left by the legislature. There is too much going on here to fit into one review, but if we are drawing the right conclusions from Neustadt, we need to talk about something that he doesn't say explicitly. The alleged "weakness" of the presidency depends on an elite consensus that, in the absence of formal restrictions on presidential power, we will at least follow certain norms. The fact of the matter is the *potential* power the president holds is inherently greater than that of the other branches. He has a military. He has the nation's law enforcement agencies at his disposal. He oversees many executive branch agencies, and while there are technically independent agencies equally answerable to the President and Congress (just to pick one example, the FCC), if you are a commissioner at such an agency and the President calls you to ask a favor, are you really going to ignore it? These facts, and the fact the executive power is centered on one person, create a structural situation where, in the absence of aggressive and coordinated pushback from the other branches, an ambitious president with little respect for constitutional norms can do so much more than anyone realizes. Norms can be broken. There is power laying there in the streets, and all one has to do is pick it up. This is the predicament of the modern presidency, and especially in the Trump era, it's more important than ever to know the shape of it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alex Ponce

    No me gustó, me pareció muy aburrido y sinceramente tuve que dejar la lectura a medias, lo comencé con grandes espectativas pero conforme iba avanzando en la lectura me pareció muy poco interesante que perdí el gusto por esta lectura. El libro es bueno, pero no es de mi interés. Así que el que esté interesado en historia política y más, pues talves le sirva este libro. En mi caso no fue muy útil la información que este libro comparte.. . . . Espero en un futuro distante volver a retomar la lectu No me gustó, me pareció muy aburrido y sinceramente tuve que dejar la lectura a medias, lo comencé con grandes espectativas pero conforme iba avanzando en la lectura me pareció muy poco interesante que perdí el gusto por esta lectura. El libro es bueno, pero no es de mi interés. Así que el que esté interesado en historia política y más, pues talves le sirva este libro. En mi caso no fue muy útil la información que este libro comparte.. . . . Espero en un futuro distante volver a retomar la lectura de este libro.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dex

    Haven’t read the last couple chapters, but 1-5 are strong and fun read. The thesis is more nuanced than I think is advertised, so I like the idea. The Bible of presidential scholarship for a pretty good reason, although makes allusions to Skowronek’s later work.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Neustadt rejects institutional or physcological explanations for presidential performance in the core tenant of his book--"the President's power is his ability to persuade." At the beginning, he distinguishes between tactical power (how to quiet a Cabinet feud) versus strategic power (how does he improve his mastery of tomorrow, today). Neustadt also begins, writing in 1960, by acknowledging differences among presidents--including presidents' massive growth in power since FDR. "A striking feature Neustadt rejects institutional or physcological explanations for presidential performance in the core tenant of his book--"the President's power is his ability to persuade." At the beginning, he distinguishes between tactical power (how to quiet a Cabinet feud) versus strategic power (how does he improve his mastery of tomorrow, today). Neustadt also begins, writing in 1960, by acknowledging differences among presidents--including presidents' massive growth in power since FDR. "A striking feature of our recent past has been the transformation into routine practice of the actions we once treated as exceptions." Neustadt then approaches the traditional distinction in political science of presidential clerks vs. presidential leaders. According to Neustadt thought, even the best presidential leaders in fact occupy only a clerk's role. As a unified, single executive, decisions escalate to his level and other political actors, both domestically and internationally, look to the president and frame their actions in reference to him. (Neustadt's colleague Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. calls this the presidency as "vital center"). In, turn, these outside actors and their expectations create obligations which weight down the president. Neustadt says the president receives constituency pressures from five groups: 1) the bureaucracy & cabinet, 2) congress, 3) his political party/partisans, 4) citizens at large, and 5) foreign governments & institutions. In the face of the challenges the president faces and the expected obligations by the five constituencies, how can a president get anything done? He cannot will anything, or command and watch obedience in the midst of the complicated power politics directed at his office. In practice, Neustadt tells us, the president's only power is his power to persuade. That contention is the foundation for the remainder of the book. Neustadt provides case study after case study showing presidents do not accomplish leadership by giving orders--the president only achieves through persuasion, by taking incoming pressures from each constituency and then turning those back outward to persuade others to take his own desired actions from them. After the case studies, Nuestadt applies his persuasion theory to how a president should organize his White House staff. This manuscript began as advice to JFK during his transition into the presidency--it has been regarded as the transition "bible" ever since. Nuestadt describes the "military" hierarchy implemented by Eisenhower with a strong chief of staff. After explaining its weaknesses (potential disengagement of the president from information and many decisions), Nuestadt explains FDR's model of competition among staff, with himself as arbiter and only person with access to all info. Neustadt places Truman somewhat between FDR and Eisenhower in the structure of the White House staff, and JFK ultimately took Neustadt's position and organized his staff this way. In the 1990 edition, Neustadt has added case studies from JFK to Reagan and concludes that the nature of presidential power has remained the same. Neustadt's book gives a compelling case for how the presidency actually functions, and how best the White House staff should be structured to accomplish a president's goals in the persuasion environment. Furthermore, Neustadt's book is a classic, if nothing else for the very real effect it has had on American politics as the transition bible, from JFK to Reagan and beyond.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Kwok

    A classic book, almost mandatory reading if you want to be president or if you have an interest in government/politics. The book is basically about the source of presidential power and how presidents exercise influence but it's very very good although I wish there was an update to cover presidents after Reagan. A classic book, almost mandatory reading if you want to be president or if you have an interest in government/politics. The book is basically about the source of presidential power and how presidents exercise influence but it's very very good although I wish there was an update to cover presidents after Reagan.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Reader Variety

    Classic study of presidential power. Maintains that for order to have force, the presidential involvement must be unambiguous, the orders must be unambiguous, the orders must be widely publicized, the receivers of the orders must have control, and there must be no doubt of authority.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ben Hinkle

    Presidential Power is a bit of a slog if no one warns you what you're getting into. This is not meant to be a book about Constitutional law and the President's role in our governmental system. That's why no Con law classes assign this. It's also not really amazing as a history book, that's why no History classes assign this. It is, however, a great blueprint for how to accomplish what you need as a President. That's why Neustadt is required reading for almost every President's staffers since Neu Presidential Power is a bit of a slog if no one warns you what you're getting into. This is not meant to be a book about Constitutional law and the President's role in our governmental system. That's why no Con law classes assign this. It's also not really amazing as a history book, that's why no History classes assign this. It is, however, a great blueprint for how to accomplish what you need as a President. That's why Neustadt is required reading for almost every President's staffers since Neustadt was first published. It also has broad applicability to many non-POTUS offices. Whether you're in the PTA, a committee at work, student government, city government, or even just a group of your friends and family... if you are in a situation where you need something done, and you have other people who can act as checks against you and who you need on your side, then the first thing you need is to read Neustadt. Neustadt is a modern(ish) Machiavelli and Presidential Power is a textbook for consensus building. If you're looking for something other than that, you will probably be bored for long stretches, if not the entirety of the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Neustadt is the gold standard for understanding the modern American presidency. His book, nonpartisan, simply examines the different fields of power presidents, from FDR to Ronald Reagan, can wield power and influence. He has some basic ideas, that he himself seems to admit may not be entirely possible or practical, but his examples are largely presidential failures like the Bay of Pigs or Iran-Contra. A few more positive examples, aside from the three he has, of his system working, even if unpr Neustadt is the gold standard for understanding the modern American presidency. His book, nonpartisan, simply examines the different fields of power presidents, from FDR to Ronald Reagan, can wield power and influence. He has some basic ideas, that he himself seems to admit may not be entirely possible or practical, but his examples are largely presidential failures like the Bay of Pigs or Iran-Contra. A few more positive examples, aside from the three he has, of his system working, even if unproveable, would have been fantastic. Also a plus: Neustadt updated his book over the years, and while the original chapters focused largely on Truman and Eisenhower, with a little bit on FDR, later chapters updated with the passage of time as Neustadt demonstrated his ideas still held sway no matter who was in charge. The ultimate conclusion is since presidents are all flawed human beings no one can be good at everything it requires is good. That he managed to find something positive to say about all the managerial styles of everyone he looked at besides also helps.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rich

    This book's theories about the United States presidency are too general. He provides a few examples for his theories and then he provides a few exceptions. Presidential history is better suited for history than for politial science. I cannot stand how he lumps presidents' actions together as though every similar act apertains to a broad theory that speaks to how all presidents have made decisions. This also leads to a tremendous lack of narrative value. If he wants to talk about theories that bi This book's theories about the United States presidency are too general. He provides a few examples for his theories and then he provides a few exceptions. Presidential history is better suited for history than for politial science. I cannot stand how he lumps presidents' actions together as though every similar act apertains to a broad theory that speaks to how all presidents have made decisions. This also leads to a tremendous lack of narrative value. If he wants to talk about theories that bind presidents, he should talk about Federalist theory or about the articles in the Constitution in greater depth. His anecdotes are also attenuated. I liked the fact that I learned a fair amount about the presidents themselves when I read the book in high school, however.

  12. 4 out of 5

    stephanie

    probably THE book on executive power out there. seriously referenced in every other book on presidential power/growth/development/history, neustadt came up with the theories of the "modern" president, as well as the "imperial presidency", which, if you ever have read anything poli sci that has to do with the president, has probably referenced those ideas. turns out the "modern" president is actually a really specific idea in poli sci . . . and that's thanks to this book. parts of it are outdated probably THE book on executive power out there. seriously referenced in every other book on presidential power/growth/development/history, neustadt came up with the theories of the "modern" president, as well as the "imperial presidency", which, if you ever have read anything poli sci that has to do with the president, has probably referenced those ideas. turns out the "modern" president is actually a really specific idea in poli sci . . . and that's thanks to this book. parts of it are outdated it now, but it still remains a seminal text in american politics.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    A grueling book to get through but fascinating in its detail and analysis of why Presidents succeed and fail in achieving their objectives. I found particularly insightful the section on the hazards accruing from the transition period right before a new President takes office. Even a "successful" (i.e. well-managed) transition can cause problems down the road, which was somewhat of a surprise to me. A grueling book to get through but fascinating in its detail and analysis of why Presidents succeed and fail in achieving their objectives. I found particularly insightful the section on the hazards accruing from the transition period right before a new President takes office. Even a "successful" (i.e. well-managed) transition can cause problems down the road, which was somewhat of a surprise to me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Elrick

    It's a presidential timeline outlining what presidents can really do (command) in their role. The format is a constructed narrative of several examples per chapter/argument, and I'm getting to the point of how presidents persuade, and what that means for policy... It's a presidential timeline outlining what presidents can really do (command) in their role. The format is a constructed narrative of several examples per chapter/argument, and I'm getting to the point of how presidents persuade, and what that means for policy...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    What is the power of the president? To persuade, says Neustadt. This is an important work on the presidency and the power associated with that position. A classic.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marian

    **I actually own the 1964 edition, titled "Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership"** 7th edition. **I actually own the 1964 edition, titled "Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership"** 7th edition.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    This is the definitive text on the Presidency in American pol sci.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dominic

    Supposedly your supposed to read this if your into PoliSci

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott Caron

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Petrie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael Griswold

  23. 5 out of 5

    James

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lendon Little

  25. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Walker

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kristie

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jose Cintron

  28. 5 out of 5

    Guy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Oldeman

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cat

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