BOOKS: REVIEWS; the Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush, by Stephen Graubard, Penguin Books, Pounds 12.99. Reviewed by Jack Doyle
Byline: Jack Doyle
From the perspective of the early 21st century, the American presidency looks like an office unrivalled in influence and opportunity. That it remains so is perhaps incontestable.
More significantly what, for good or bad, have the most powerful men in the world done with that influence in the century just passed?
Stephen Graubard attacks this question with great narrative drive and intelligence. Even with more than 700 pages to play with, reducing the 18 American presidents the author concerns himself with is a mammoth undertaking.
Still, every new chapter sustains the pace of the last, and brings renewed critique to each individual and their relative successes and failures.
Of the recent past, the historian gives little credit to either Bush Snr or Jnr, or the Democrat in the middle, Bill Clinton. Reagan gets some praise, but is seen as an indolent, if benign force around whom great events unfolded without his direction or control.
Even though he's relieved with an ambiguous question mark in the chapter heading, Richard Nixon is still "The Villain? …