The Polarized Presidency of George W. Bush

The Polarized Presidency of George W. Bush

The Polarized Presidency of George W. Bush

The Polarized Presidency of George W. Bush


This collection examines the foreign and domestic policies of President George W Bush's administration. The analysis begins with an account of how highly polarized - in terms of public opinion and electoral patterns - this presidency has proved to be (in a chapter by the editors). This is followed by chapters on the use of unilateral executive powers (by Louis Fisher and William Howell) and pre-rogative powers (by Richard Pious). Because the policy choices of the Bush presidency have hadsuch fundamental effects both in domestic policy and in US foreign policy, three contributors (Thomas Langston, John Burke, James Pfiffner) then address the processes of decision making especially in respect to the war against Iraq. How the administration governs by a recurring process of campaigning is examined in chapters on public opinion and war (by Gary Jacobson), the promotional presidency (by Larry Jacobs), mobilizing congressional support for war (by Scott Blinder) and the White House communications system (by Martha Kumar). Finally the way in which the Bush White House relates to congress and the process of building congressional coalitions to enact laws is the subject of chapters on 'executive style' of this administration (by Charles O Jones) and the failure to reform social security (by Fiona Ross). It will be essential reading for anyone wishing to understand one of the most controversial administrations in recent years.


George C. Edwards III and Desmond S. King

George W. Bush already has a distinctive legacy. Beginning with the protracted denouement of his election in 2000 and punctuated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and major changes in domestic policy, his presidency has polarized American politics and left durable impressions on public policy (Hacker and Pierson 2005). Elected in 2000 on what seemed to be a moderate platform in domestic policy and a cautious approach to international relations, George W. Bush has transformed policy in each. The administration's response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, its desire to reorient fundamental aspects of domestic policy, and its efforts to build a lasting Republican majority are some of the most important political developments in the past generation.

As befits a president who has sought to reconfigure public policy and build a lasting governing coalition, there are two widely held and divergent views of his performance. To his detractors, Bush is a parochial, intellectually shallow, close-minded, hard-right cultural warrior who combines smug ideological certitude with a stunning indifference to facts and evidence. Opponents dismiss the president as unequal to the demands of the office, incapable of thoughtful reflection, an intellectually passive ignoramus robotically repeating platitudes. They see him as impervious to lessons of experience, unwilling to admit or correct mistakes, and unable to adapt his preconceptions to inconvenient realities. They complain that he suppresses dissent among his advisers and uses them as an ideological echo chamber rather than a source of competing views.

There is also a positive view. In this perspective, Bush is a mature and confident leader who is comfortable with himself and in wielding power. He is a president who is willing to tackle the large—and difficult—issues such as Social Security and the war on terrorism, with decisiveness and serene resolution. Moreover, an ideological coherence drives this administration, which, at least in the first term, often pursued its goals in an effective strategic . . .

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