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Inventing the Job of President

Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson

Fred I. Greenstein
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Inventing the Job of President
    Book Description:

    From George Washington's decision to buy time for the new nation by signing the less-than-ideal Jay Treaty with Great Britain in 1795 to George W. Bush's order of a military intervention in Iraq in 2003, the matter of who is president of the United States is of the utmost importance. In this book, Fred Greenstein examines the leadership styles of the earliest presidents, men who served at a time when it was by no means certain that the American experiment in free government would succeed.

    In his groundbreaking bookThe Presidential Difference, Greenstein evaluated the personal strengths and weaknesses of the modern presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here, he takes us back to the very founding of the republic to apply the same yardsticks to the first seven presidents from Washington to Andrew Jackson, giving his no-nonsense assessment of the qualities that did and did not serve them well in office. For each president, Greenstein provides a concise history of his life and presidency, and evaluates him in the areas of public communication, organizational capacity, political skill, policy vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. Washington, for example, used his organizational prowess--honed as a military commander and plantation owner--to lead an orderly administration. In contrast, John Adams was erudite but emotionally volatile, and his presidency was an organizational disaster.

    Inventing the Job of Presidentexplains how these early presidents and their successors shaped the American presidency we know today and helped the new republic prosper despite profound challenges at home and abroad.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3136-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Presidential Difference in the Early Republic
    (pp. 1-8)

    From George Washington’s decision to buy time for the new nation by signing the less-than-ideal Jay Treaty with Great Britain in 1795 to George W. Bush’s order of a military intervention in Iraq in 2003, the matter of who happens to be president of the United States has sometimes had momentous consequences. The most telling illustration of the difference a White House occupant can make comes from the nuclear age. In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy learned that the Soviet Union had secretly installed ballistic missiles in Cuba that were capable of striking much of the United States. His...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Foundational Presidency of George Washington
    (pp. 9-23)

    The powers accorded the presidency by the Constitution “would not have been so great,” one of its framers recalled, if he and his colleagues had not “cast their eyes toward General Washington as president and shaped their ideas of the powers to be given to a president by their opinions of his virtue.”¹ In the aftermath of their experience with the British monarch, it went against the grain for Americans to go along with strong leaders, but they were prepared to make an exception for Washington. Two decades before a nation existed in which it was possible for him to...

  6. CHAPTER 3 John Adams: Absentee Chief Executive
    (pp. 25-33)

    It would be difficult to imagine a pair of men who brought more divergent qualities to the presidency than George Washington and John Adams. Washington radiated authority and solidness, even in his appearance and comportment. Adams, in contrast, was short, pudgy, and susceptible to seemingly unprovoked rages. He has been described as “self-righteous,” “irritable,” and “contentious.” The most quoted such assertion is that of Benjamin Franklin, who described Adams as “always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.”¹

    John Adams was born on October 30, 1735, in a part...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Thomas Jefferson and the Art of Governance
    (pp. 35-49)

    Two pre–Civil War presidents were chosen to be immortalized on Mount Rushmore—George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Washington’s place in the presidential pantheon has remained constant over the years, but Jefferson’s reputation has risen and fallen.¹ For much of the nineteenth century, the Sage of Monticello was dismissed as an impractical idealist whose vision of a nation of small farmers was irrelevant to an age of industrialization and urban growth. But in the Progressive Era and the New Deal years, he became a liberal icon. By the late twentieth century, however, Jefferson was again in disfavor as attention shifted...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Anticlimactic Presidency of James Madison
    (pp. 51-61)

    James Madison played a leading part in the framing, defense, and ratification of the Constitution. He was a key member of the House of Representatives in the nation’s first decade, secretary of state in the Jefferson administration, and chief executive in his own right. Madison’s contributions to the nation’s founding were unequaled, but as secretary of state he was a party to the problematic foreign policy of Jefferson’s second term, and his presidency is widely viewed as the undistinguished anticlimax to an exceptionally distinguished career.

    Madison was born on March 16, 1751, and raised on his family’s plantation in Orange...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Political Competence of James Monroe
    (pp. 63-73)

    James Monroe was a more effective president than a number of his more illustrious predecessors, particularly John Adams and James Madison, both of whom made major contributions to the nation’s founding but were weak chief executives. Monroe brought an unpretentious capacity for hard work to his presidential responsibilities. In that and in not being a college graduate, he resembled the twentieth-century president Harry S. Truman. Monroe was also like Truman in adhering to the prevailing notion of executive leadership. However, in Monroe’s time, it was held that a president should at least give the impression of deferring to Congress, and...

  10. CHAPTER 7 The Political Incompetence of John Quincy Adams
    (pp. 75-83)

    John Quincy Adams’ career as a public servant began at age fourteen, when he traveled to Russia to serve as an aide to the American minister. It ended at age eighty, when he died after suffering a stroke on the floor of Congress. In the course of his public service, Adams was minister to the Netherlands, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain and headed the delegation that negotiated the end of the War of 1812. He also served in the U.S. Senate, was an exceptionally effective secretary of state, and went on to become president. Adams’ public life was capped by...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Andrew Jackson: Force of Nature
    (pp. 85-95)

    Andrew Jackson was an improbable institutional innovator. He was barely educated and emerged from the most unpromising of circumstances, yet he succeeded in redefining the role of the chief executive in important respects. Jackson established a precedent for conceiving of the presidency as a policymaking institution that derives its power directly from the American people, rather than an office principally responsible for carrying out the will of Congress. He anticipated the practice of modern presidents in his extensive reliance on advisors and aides. Jackson also transformed the veto from a rarely used instrument for negating unconstitutional measures to a means...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Presidents, Leadership Qualities, and Political Development
    (pp. 96-104)

    The Constitution of the United States has been said to have an “unfinished character.” This is particularly true of its sparsely worded second article, which devotes a little more than a thousand words to its characterization of the presidency and only the 146 words just quoted to the specific responsibilities of the chief executive. It is no wonder that the leaders of the new nation almost immediately found themselves at odds about the powers of the president. The first of the many debates on that topic took place in George Washington’s first term, when Alexander Hamilton defended the constitutionality of...

  13. APPENDIX Background on the Early Presidencies
    (pp. 105-122)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 123-136)
    (pp. 137-150)
    (pp. 151-152)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 153-165)