Whatever Possessed the President? Academic Experts and Presidential Policy, 1960-1988

Whatever Possessed the President? Academic Experts and Presidential Policy, 1960-1988

Whatever Possessed the President? Academic Experts and Presidential Policy, 1960-1988

Whatever Possessed the President? Academic Experts and Presidential Policy, 1960-1988

Synopsis

Focusing on domestic, economic and social policy, Wood examines the influence of academic advisers on presidential decision-making from the Kennedy-Johnson years through the Reagan administration. He considers the recent shift from reliance on knowledge-based advisers to ideological loyalists.

Excerpt

Over the space of the last forty-two years I have worked for four American presidents and watched with considerable professional interest the performance of all nine. My first introduction to the presidency was in 1950 with the Truman administration as a junior staff member in the Bureau of the Budget (now the Office of Management and Budget) of the Executive Office of the President. My principal assignments were to develop administrative measures designed to prevent crime and corruption in the executive branch and to provide timely assistance in communities striken by floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. I was not entirely successful in either endeavor. But I learned a lot.

I continued my work for two years of the Eisenhower administration where I still explored instances of crime and corruption and tried to mediate between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service with respect to their jurisdictional boundaries. I came back to the office as a member of the Academic Advisory Committee for John Kennedy and his Preinaugural Task Force on Housing. I chaired the first two task forces on Urban and Metropolitan Problems for President Lyndon Johnson and then served as Undersecretary and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1966 to 1969. So, I have worked in and near the White House, in the land of long knives, across two decades.

Thereafter, from several academic posts, I have observed President Johnson's successors. Occasionally I have served as a temporary or part- time adviser in the Nixon, Carter, and Bush administrations. But for the most part, in recent years I have moved from the playing field of politics and government to the academic bleachers.

Nine years ago Wesleyan University and the Henry R. Luce Foundation provided me the explicit opportunity to explore the interaction of academic experts, presidents, and the presidential office in shaping policy. the Henry Luce Chair in Democratic Institutions and the Social Order . . .

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