The Paradoxes of the American Presidency

By Thomas E. Cronin; Michael A. Genovese | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Presidential Power
and Leadership

Taken by and large, the history of the presidency is a history of aggrandizement, but the story is a highly discontinuous one. Of the . . . individuals who have filled the office not more than one in three has contributed to the development of its powers; under other incumbents things have either stood still or gone backward. That is to say, what the presidency is at any particular moment depends in important measure on who is President. . . . Edward S. Corwin, The President: Office and Powers ( New York University Press, 1957), pp. 29-30

Though the powers of the office have sometimes been grossly abused, though the presidency has become almost impossible to manage, and though the caliber of the people who have served as chief executive has declined erratically but persistently from the day George Washington left office, the presidency has been responsible for less harm and more good, in the nation and in the world, than perhaps any other secular institution in history. Forrest McDonald, The American Presidency: An Intellectual History ( University Press of Kansas, 1994), p. 481

Anyone can lead where people already want to go; true leaders take them where only their better selves are willing to tread. That's where the leader's own values come in. They must want to do something with their power, not just for the powerful. Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, December 3, 1990

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