Presidential Leadership: Personality and Political Style

Presidential Leadership: Personality and Political Style

Presidential Leadership: Personality and Political Style

Presidential Leadership: Personality and Political Style

Excerpt

This book is a study of the men who have shaped the modern Presidency. The focus is on their personalities and skills as they have helped or hindered Presidential leadership. Presidents of Action are compared to Presidents of Restraint in terms of the personal drives, skills, and values they have brought to the office, and conclusions are drawn about the consequences of each type of "political personality" and style of leadership for the office.

The three Presidents of Action who have most shaped the Presidential office are the two Roosevelts and Wilson. Each, in his own way, greatly amplified Presidential power. Each was a political artist whose deepest needs and talents were served by a political career. Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson are considered briefly Presidents in this tradition.

The Presidents of Restraint--Taft, Hoover, and Eisenhower--went to the White House from careers as non-political technicians. They did not put a high value on personal or Presidential power, and in the course of their careers they did not develop political skills. Their values were hostile to strong Presidential leadership, to the manipulation of others, to popular emotion, and to politics in general.

American political culture contains two important and conflicting views of the Presidency. The Whig theory, seen in the Presidents of Restraint, is almost an anti-theory, for it preaches that the incumbent should deliberately exercise restraint on his power and influence. It was shaped out of a fear of a strong, popular Presidency. This tradition does not value political skill in the President but rather stresses rectitude and dignity.

The irony is that such a view of the Presidency impedes an effective discharge of Presidential tasks. A sense of power and the willingness to search for it and use it with political skill are essential today.

The other tradition calls for strong Presidential leadership, for . . .

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