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The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama

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In this magisterial examination of the Presidency over the course of the 20th Century, the author explores the history of the world's greatest elective office and the role each incumbent has played in changing the scope of its powers. Using individual presidential portraits of each of the presidents of the past century Graubard asks, and answers, a wide variety of crucial In this magisterial examination of the Presidency over the course of the 20th Century, the author explores the history of the world's greatest elective office and the role each incumbent has played in changing the scope of its powers. Using individual presidential portraits of each of the presidents of the past century Graubard asks, and answers, a wide variety of crucial questions about each President. What intellectual, social and political assets did they bring to the White House, and how quickly did they deplete or mortgage that capital? How well did they cope with crises, foreign and domestic? How much attention did they pay to their election pledges after they were elected? How did they use the media, old and new? Above all, how did they conduct themselves in office and what legacy did they leave to their successors? Graubard provides original analysis in each case, and reaches many surprising conclusions.


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In this magisterial examination of the Presidency over the course of the 20th Century, the author explores the history of the world's greatest elective office and the role each incumbent has played in changing the scope of its powers. Using individual presidential portraits of each of the presidents of the past century Graubard asks, and answers, a wide variety of crucial In this magisterial examination of the Presidency over the course of the 20th Century, the author explores the history of the world's greatest elective office and the role each incumbent has played in changing the scope of its powers. Using individual presidential portraits of each of the presidents of the past century Graubard asks, and answers, a wide variety of crucial questions about each President. What intellectual, social and political assets did they bring to the White House, and how quickly did they deplete or mortgage that capital? How well did they cope with crises, foreign and domestic? How much attention did they pay to their election pledges after they were elected? How did they use the media, old and new? Above all, how did they conduct themselves in office and what legacy did they leave to their successors? Graubard provides original analysis in each case, and reaches many surprising conclusions.

30 review for The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Peros

    The overriding message of this book is that Stephen R Graubard was good enough to be president, whereas most of the men who actually managed to become president were clearly inferior in intellect, judgement and moral standing than Stephen R Graubard. Nevertheless, the book is scholarly without being dry, comprehensive without being tedious, and it makes reasonably light and interesting work of each US presidency since Theodore Roosevelt. Well worth a read, but be prepared for Graubard's scorn fo The overriding message of this book is that Stephen R Graubard was good enough to be president, whereas most of the men who actually managed to become president were clearly inferior in intellect, judgement and moral standing than Stephen R Graubard. Nevertheless, the book is scholarly without being dry, comprehensive without being tedious, and it makes reasonably light and interesting work of each US presidency since Theodore Roosevelt. Well worth a read, but be prepared for Graubard's scorn for virtually all his subjects, which rather bleeds into his narrative.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leon Freeman

    Really good read for anyone interested in the American Presidency. Thoroughly convinced that if Stephen Graubard ran for President he would win! It’s most interesting as it predates the arrival of Trump but predicts the changes in American society.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gavin Smith

    The Presidents... clips through the presidencies of the twentieth century (more or less) with a precise eye and a concise style that highlights the main strengths and weaknesses of each president. This, in itself, is something of a political history of modern US politics, of course. However, wider historical analysis is not really the purview of this book. Rather, Graubard is more interested in the personal proclivities of each particular president and the effect each man had on the office itsel The Presidents... clips through the presidencies of the twentieth century (more or less) with a precise eye and a concise style that highlights the main strengths and weaknesses of each president. This, in itself, is something of a political history of modern US politics, of course. However, wider historical analysis is not really the purview of this book. Rather, Graubard is more interested in the personal proclivities of each particular president and the effect each man had on the office itself. Some of those men, such as Lyndon B. Johnson and Harry Truman, are described as better than they are traditionally acknowledged to have been. Others, like John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton, are shown to be somewhat beneath their reputations. This may be surprising or not, depending on your personal political stripes. Unsurprisingly, I found the Richard Nixon chapter to be the most interesting. Placed in this context, Nixon seems like a fulcrum around which the century pivots. Before him, policy and expertise seem to be the key ingredients to a successful (or unsuccessful) presidency. After him, image and information management dominate. Of course, there was shine and spin long before anyone even thought to found the States, let alone unite them, but the shift in the importance of these factors is unmistakeable. This is my one (very slight) complaint about The Presidents..., Graubard's title signifies a gradual change in the presidency through the century, and while I can see the bones of that argument here, and even mostly agree with it, I don't think he quite sticks the landing. A more natural argument, it seems, is that there are Before Nixon presidents and After Nixon presidents and that the 'transformation' is actually a rebalancing of a constantly swinging see-saw. All in all though, a great read. The kind of book that leaves me mystified when people say that they are simply not interested in politics.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    The Presidents by Stephen Graubard is a collection of biographies of each US president from Theodore Roosevelt up until GWB (at least in my edition). These are bookended by a few essays on the changing nature of the presidency. Essentially, the presidency changes from a do nothing role, only putting your hand on the tiller if something really terrible is going to happen, often given to people because they had served their time, to something much more active. This sort of presidency was, supposed The Presidents by Stephen Graubard is a collection of biographies of each US president from Theodore Roosevelt up until GWB (at least in my edition). These are bookended by a few essays on the changing nature of the presidency. Essentially, the presidency changes from a do nothing role, only putting your hand on the tiller if something really terrible is going to happen, often given to people because they had served their time, to something much more active. This sort of presidency was, supposedly, largely started by Theodore Roosevelt and then expanded in many ways by Truman and gradually by most of the rest. The purview of the presidency also adopts a much more international outlook over time. The essays about the nature of the presidency are much more interesting and the part of the biographies that talk about these changes are the best parts. The individual biographies are very hit and miss. In the later presidents there is invariably a section about how they attained the presidency and then it is usually a collection of their mistakes and some controversies of their presidency. Also, they are all each one section which can last 50 pages. This lack of structure makes it rather difficult to follow. Even then, 50 pages is really not enough to get a real insight into a life. The book is okay, I guess. Really, a deep dive into Wikipedia would give you just as good an overview of them, however there are some quotations of primary sources which are interesting. Finally, the biography on Eisenhower starts with something which is flatly incorrect, saying that he was born in Abilene Kansas whereas he was really born in Texas, although he moved there when he was very young. It made me wonder if there were any other mistakes in the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    This is a fine piece of historical analysis. It charts the way in which the presidency of the USA has developed from the time of Teddy Roosevelt, with clear, succinct and penetrating studies of each of the presidents and presidencies up to the election of Barack Obama. The studies are preceded by three background and contextual chapters which look at the structure of the presidency and, importantly, the role of the vice-presidents. The strengths and weaknesses of each of the presidents are well a This is a fine piece of historical analysis. It charts the way in which the presidency of the USA has developed from the time of Teddy Roosevelt, with clear, succinct and penetrating studies of each of the presidents and presidencies up to the election of Barack Obama. The studies are preceded by three background and contextual chapters which look at the structure of the presidency and, importantly, the role of the vice-presidents. The strengths and weaknesses of each of the presidents are well articulated and the judgments are sound and reasonable. Reading this over ten years from publication is a rather sobering experience, given what is now happening with the current incumbent. So Professor Graubard's rather optimistic view on how the presidency should evolve from Obama's election, makes for poignant reading in the current climate. Nonetheless, the book is an excellent introduction to a study of the presidents up to 2008 and is well worth reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    James Bateman

    To review this book I'm going to compare it with it's main rival American Caesars, both are about American Presidents of the 20th/21st century and both are a brisk read. I would say that A C, is much more positive account and gives the Leaders of the free world a...... more understanding time of it, where as this book is far more cynical, Dwight Eisenhower gets a particularly rough ride of it as does Jimmy Carter, of course his Presidency deserves all the scorn in gets but to be bitter about his To review this book I'm going to compare it with it's main rival American Caesars, both are about American Presidents of the 20th/21st century and both are a brisk read. I would say that A C, is much more positive account and gives the Leaders of the free world a...... more understanding time of it, where as this book is far more cynical, Dwight Eisenhower gets a particularly rough ride of it as does Jimmy Carter, of course his Presidency deserves all the scorn in gets but to be bitter about his post Presidential achievements comes across as mean spirited. The books big plus is that it starts from Teddy R and covers the.... less good Presidents to FDR. I can't quite understand AC's decision to start with FDR as to me the 'BIG' Presidency started with Teddy. Of the two books, it's The Presidents that's harder to read, as AC splits his subjects into three sections and has a nice round off. I'm a huge fan of a good summing up, what they did well, what they didn't do well, will they be remembered fondly, that sort of thing. I'm not sure Mr Graubard likes a any of the people who have lived in the White House, BUT, it's still a fascinating read. If your interested in American Politics a bit or a lot, read both.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    A Very acclomplised overveiw of the 20th centuary presidency, offers an excellent introduction to the presidents before embarking on individual biographies.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amr Ahmed

    A very thorough piece of work, which gathered a lot of history in one place. Very well written. Too many opinions, not impartial. But overall I would recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Zita M

  10. 5 out of 5

    Calum Galbraith

  11. 5 out of 5

    Arijel

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kris

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristoffer Tiffen

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ray

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mr. Book

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert Webster

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mel

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hs Cheung

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Eastwood

  22. 4 out of 5

    Adam Boon

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christian

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christian Gacon

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Oliver

  26. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lyle Richardson

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emma McGhan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Xavier Tomàs

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Mullins

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