When he was running for president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that America needed “bold, persistent experimentation” in its public policy. “It is common sense to take a method and try it,” FDR said. “If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” At President Roosevelt’s instigation, the nation did indeed take a number of steps to combat the Great Depression. In the process, the president emerged as the clear leader of American public policy. Most scholars see FDR’s administration as the birth of the “modern presidency,” in which the president dominates both domestic and foreign policy.
Even before FDR, however, presidents played a vital role in the making of public policy. Policy changes advocated by the presidents—often great changes—have always influenced the course of events, and have always sparked debate from the presidents’ opponents. The outcomes of this process have had tremendous effects on the lives of Americans. The President’s Position: Debating the Issues examines the stands the presidents have taken on the major political, social, and economic issues of their times as well as the stands taken by their opponents. The series combines description and analysis of those issues with excerpts from primary documents that illustrate the position of the presidents and their opponents. The result is an informative, accessible, and comprehensive look at the crucial connection between presidents and policy. These volumes will assist students doing historical research, preparing for debates, or fulfilling critical thinking assignments. The general reader interested in American history and politics will also find the series interesting and helpful.