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The Paradoxes of the American Presidency

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Thomas E. Cronin

Two of the foremost scholars of the American presidency provide a welcome expanded update of Cronin's highly regarded The State of the Presidency (1980). The presidency is loaded with paradoxes that make the job arduous under the best of circumstances. … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Thomas E. Cronin
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
1 review about The Paradoxes of the American Presidency

And Yet Nonetheless True

  • Oct 14, 2000
In Chapter 1, the authors observe:

"We admire presidential power, yet fear it. We yearn for the heroic, yet are also inherently suspicious of it.We demand dynamic leadership, yet grant only limited powers to the president. We want presidents to be dispassionate analysts and listeners, yet they must also be decisive. We are impressed with presidents who have great self-confidence, yet we dislike arrogance and respect those who express reasonable self-doubt."

Throughout the balance of this chapter, they then identify and briefly discuss nine specific paradoxes which serve as the intellectual infrastructure of this brilliant book. In process, the authors also provide (in effect) a comprehensive analysis of more than 200 years of American history during which the office of the president as well as those who have occupied it reflect the dynamic tensions between and among the elements of the nine paradoxes.

The authors seem to suggest that those American presidents who have proven most effective have been those who (a) understood various paradoxes and then (b) somehow resolved them. The Roosevelts offer two of the best examples. Both were born into wealth and privilege and yet each is best remembered for advancing "populist" causes. The authors invite the reader to view the American presidency "by viewing it through the lens of a series of [such] paradoxes that shape and define the office. Our goal is to convey the complexity, the many-sidedness, and the contrarian aspects of the office."

This book will be of special value to those interested in American history, of course, but also to those who are CEOs of organizations, especially of publicly owned corporations whose CEOs must accommodate the needs and interests of so many different (often antagonistic) constituencies.

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