In 2011 Barack Obama invited ten distinguished biographers to the White House to ask them one question: which past American president should I emulate? This was not the first time Obama asked scholars this, but the answer he received would differ as presidential legacies waxed and waned. In 2008 Obama chose Lincoln; in 2009, Reagan; and in 2010, Theodore Roosevelt.
Perspectives on Presidential Leadership is an examination of presidential legacy, and in particular an analysis of the first ever UK ranking of American presidents which took place in 2011. In thirteen chapters, thirteen individual presidential administrations are assessed. Some presidents have been considered a success, others a failure; both types are featured in these thirteen case studies in a measured attempt to understand how the perception of presidential leadership evolves, shifts, and contorts across three centuries of American politics. The case studies also derive from the expertise of the collected British, Irish and Canadian authors, all of whom are leading scholars in their fields, and many of which took part in the 2011 survey.
At a time when understanding presidential legacy is in high demand, this book offers a unique international perspective. Through extended commentary and inter-disciplinary study of the UK perspective it provides groundbreaking research.
"US presidential leadership studies are making a significant comeback with several recent books by leading scholars. This is probably due to a broader context of crises of US power, the ‘decline’ of the west, and the changing landscape of global power distributions. Unlike other studies, however, this book opens up the question to international scrutiny by scholars from Canada, Britain, and Ireland. The result is an interesting and highly significant work that recognizes a fundamental of world power since 1945: the chief executive of the United States matters, both at home and abroad, even if there are significant structural and contingent factors in explaining presidential effectiveness and stature. This is a significant volume that, it is hoped, will be followed up with an even broader array of international assessments of US presidential leadership."
—Inderjeet Parmar, City University London
"An original and thought-provoking look at the American presidency. The combination of well-known presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt with lesser-known ones like Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding gives a fresh take and new insights into presidential legacies and sets up well a ‘work-in-progress’ evaluation of the current incumbent, Barack Obama."
—Martin Folly, Brunel University, London
Introduction: Rating America’s Presidents, a UK Perspective; Iwan Morgan. 1. The Meanings of Going First: George Washington and the Presidency; Finn Pollard 2. John Quincy Adams: An Exceptionally Average President?; Peter O’Connor 3. A Poetic Presidency: Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman and the "Second American Revolution"; Clare Elliott. 4. Andrew Johnson: The Wrong Man in the Wrong Place; Iwan Morgan 5. A (Near) Great President: Theodore Roosevelt as the First Modern President; Michael Patrick Cullinane 6. Re-evaluating the Presidency of Warren G. Harding; Niall Palmer 7. Simply the Best: FDR as America’s Number One President; Tony McCulloch 8. King’s Last President: A Canadian Prime Minister’s Perspective on Harry S. Truman’s First Term; Hector Mackenzie 9. LBJ: If not for Vietnam; Sylvia Ellis 10. The Reagan Presidency in Retrospect: An Assessment of Reagan's Legacy; Sally-Ann Treharne 11. George H.W. Bush and Presidential Peacemaking in Ranking American Presidents; J Simon Rofe 12. President Bill Clinton: Ranking, Reputation, and Legacy; John Dumbrell 13. An Obama Doctrine?; Omer Aziz and David G. Haglund