The Postmodern President

The Postmodern President

The Postmodern President

The Postmodern President


"Richard Rose has produced an exceptional book, not just about presidents but also about how they connect:-or fail to connect:-with Washington and the world. His unique comparative approach:-blending process with politics and policy:-results in an insightful, engaging treatment of the presidency and its place in the broader American system." - I. M. Destler, University of Maryland


This book has been a long time in the making. I began systematic research on Presidential politics at the height of Watergate in 1974, following two decades of examining comparative politics and public policy in Europe. The initial product was a study of White House relations with the agencies, Managing Presidential Objectives. It was followed by Presidents and Prime Ministers, which examined differences in the ways that democratic leaders address common problems of directing government. Alexander Heard, editing a study of the American presidential selection process, then asked me: What difference does it make that the American President is recruited very differently from leaders of other democratic nations? This book is the answer.

Viewing the White House in a global perspective is different from viewing the White House on television, or reading journalistic accounts written by experts about what is happening inside the Washington Beltway. It is how the man now in the Oval Office views the Presidency; President Bush gives first priority to the challenge of world events.

The way in which the President meets the world has changed greatly in the past half century. In his first term of office, Franklin D. Roosevelt established the modern Presidency while avoiding entangling alliances abroad. His immediate successors added global commitments to the role of the modern Presidency. As the world has changed since, the President has had to change the way he meets the world. The opening chapters explain how the modern Presidency has evolved into the postmodern Presidency, in which the President's international success depends upon what other nations do as well as on what happens inside the Beltway.

The first edition of this book was written as the Reagan Presidency was drawing to a close. Ronald Reagan demonstrated that success is possible in a world of interdependence, securing agreements with Mikhail Gorbachev that led to the end of the cold war. Reagan's Presidency also demonstrated failure, as in the Iran-contra fiasco.

George Bush's Presidency offers an opportunity to test in the 1990s generalizations of the first edition. In the Persian Gulf crisis, acting as a postmodern President, George Bush put together an international alliance to justify war and then used American military power to win it. But domestically, the President has avoided facing the federal budget deficit. Instead, the . . .

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