The Strategic President
Persuation and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership
How do presidents lead? If presidential power is the power to persuade, why is there a lack of evidence of presidential persuasion? George Edwards, one of the leading scholars of the American presidency, skillfully uses this contradiction as a springboard to examine--and ultimately challenge--the dominant paradigm of presidential leadership. The Strategic President contends that presidents cannot create opportunities for change by persuading others to support their policies. Instead, successful presidents facilitate change by recognizing opportunities and fashioning strategies and tactics to exploit them.
Edwards considers three extraordinary presidents--Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan--and shows that despite their considerable rhetorical skills, the public was unresponsive to their appeals for support. To achieve change, these leaders capitalized on existing public opinion. Edwards then explores the prospects for other presidents to do the same to advance their policies. Turning to Congress, he focuses first on the productive legislative periods of FDR, Lyndon Johnson, and Reagan, and finds that these presidents recognized especially favorable conditions for passing their agendas and effectively exploited these circumstances while they lasted. Edwards looks at presidents governing in less auspicious circumstances, and reveals that whatever successes these presidents enjoyed also resulted from the interplay of conditions and the presidents' skills at understanding and exploiting them.
The Strategic President revises the common assumptions of presidential scholarship and presents significant lessons for presidents' basic strategies of governance.
George C. Edwards III is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Jordan Chair in Presidential Studies at Texas A&M University. His books include
Overreach: Leadership in the Obama Presidency (Princeton) and
On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit. He is the editor of
Presidential Studies Quarterly.
One of Choice?s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2009 "The book should be read and reread by occupants of the White House, as well as by students and scholars of the presidency."--Brandice Canes-Wrone, Princeton University, Presidential Studies Quarterly. "This book should be required reading for scholars of the U.S. presidency."--A.L. Warber, Choice "[This] book has the merit of provoking new thinking about presidential governing strategies and the value of 'going public.' Scholars of the presidency will ... find much of interest in [this work]."--Daniel DiSalvo, Perspectives on Politics "Well organized and meticulously written... It contains the clearest and most complete information to be found on the subject. The Strategic President is worth reading. Not only is it entertaining reading by any definition, it is also highly informative."--Feryal Cubukcu, Journal of American Studies of Turkey