Running Alone: Presidential Leadership--JFK to Bush II: Why It Has Failed and How We Can Fix It

James MacGregor Burns, Author
James MacGregor Burns, Author Basic Books $26 (278p) ISBN 978-0-465-00832-2
Reviewed on: 09/04/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
Paperback - 278 pages - 978-0-465-00833-9
Open Ebook - 289 pages - 978-0-7867-4857-0
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In this eloquent and tightly written history of late 20th century presidential politics, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author Burns (Transforming Leadership) offers his own take on modern presidents from JFK to George W. Bush, attempting to explain the negative effects of the American electoral process on presidential leadership and why, in his view, ""historians have been too critical of recent presidents."" Focusing on presidents who manipulated constituencies and distanced themselves from their own parties to win elections, Burns finds a prototype in Kennedy, a staunchly anti-Communist social liberal who was ""not afraid to run from his party."" Burns demonstrates through cogent analysis how this kind of maneuvering costs both leaders and voters. While Reagan brought the GOP together, his successor could never find the place where he belonged in his own party and suffered for his anemic allegiance to Republican ideology. Conversely, George W. Bush stood firmly with his party but squandered that fellowship with a number of contentious post-9/11 policies, including the war in Iraq. While the human factor looms large in terms of presidential leadership failures, Burns suggests that such failures could be diminished and sometimes overcome with reforms of the electoral process. Burns' suggested solutions fall second to his considerable insights on the difficulty and sacrifice intrinsic to the role of President.
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