How American Presidents Succeed and Why They Fail: From Richard Nixon to Barack Obama

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This book identifies the core factors that spell success, mediocrity, or outright failure in the White House. It discusses how some chief executives have managed to avoid pitfalls better than others. It shows us how core presidential errors interact and compound, with significant implications for the performance of the political system as a whole.


“Broesamle’s analysis of presidential leadership offers a fresh and historically grounded approach to a topic that has often been associated with “rankings,” the assigning of which can sometimes be arbitrary and ahistorical. By providing us with a thorough and carefully considered set of criteria for assessing presidential leadership, the author has enabled students of the presidency to reflect with greater precision on the qualities that constitute effective leadership and the errors – repeated all too frequently of late – that undermine presidential success.”
-Dr. Thomas W. Devine,
California State University, Northridge

“No other scholar or analyst has approached this vital subject in such a systematic, broad-based way. The depth of the study is farther enhanced by comparing and contrasting the various heads – of – state …Broesamle has made a rich and penetrating addition to the literature on the subject.”
Dr. Paul Koistinen,
California State University, Northridge

Table of Contents

Foreword by Thomas W Devine
Prologue: The grim legacy of Richard Nixon
I. The general Interest and the Problem of Motivating Followers
Pursuing (or ignoring) the general interest
Vision and the historical moment
Senses of community, genuine and pseudo
Styles of communication
Inspiration and passion
II. Gaining Momentum
Coming in from the outside:
Naiveté and learning on the job
The Elusive mandate
The first hundred days
III. Losing Momentum: Personal and Political Hazards
Generic bad decisions and the blindside effect
Thought and action
The problems of focus and clear purpose
Timing and closing deals
Controlling the agenda
IV. Restraint and a Sense of Proportion
Three mental errors: Failure of restraint and proportion: unrealistic grand designs: arrogance and hubris
The false mandate
Dividers not uniters
From [polarization to rigidity
V. Foreign Policy and War
Bad baptism in foreign policy
The foreign policy escape hatch
Gambling unwisely: Foreign policy, military actions, and wars
VI. Trust and Moral Leadership
Trust and moral authority
Secrets; spin; misleading and lying
Sleaze and scandal
VII. Drift and Demise
Second term syndrome
A single issue takes over
Drift and occasional direction
VIII. The Light Touch: The First Term of Barack Obama
Götterdämmerung: The Bush Legacy
The elusive mandate
The first hundred days, I
Coming in from the outside: Naiveté and learning on the job
The first hundred days, II
Health care: The issue that would not go away
The lame duck session of 2010:
Four key elements come together
Vision and the historical moment
Thought and action
Arrogance and hubris
Styles of communication
Inspiration and passion
The uniter and the divider
The problems of focus, controlling the agenda, and closing deals
Pursuing (or ignoring) the general interest
Generic bad decisions
The blindside effect
Trust and moral leadership
Misleading and lying
Sleaze and scandal
Travails of foreign policy and war
The election of 2012 and after
Appendix: The Yale Dynasty
Notes/Bibliographic Essay/Index

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