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The Paradoxes of the American Presidency

Fourth Edition

Thomas E. Cronin and Michael A. Genovese

Publication Date - December 2012

ISBN: 9780199861040

384 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $69.95

Elegantly written, timely, and accessible, this text considers the crucial questions--and paradoxes--surrounding the American presidency


In The Paradoxes of the American Presidency, two prize-winning presidential scholars, Thomas E. Cronin and Michael A. Genovese, explore the complex institution of the American presidency by presenting a series of paradoxes that shape and define the office. Rewritten and updated to reflect recent political events--including the controversial presidency of George W. Bush, the vice presidency of Dick Cheney, the presidency of Barack Obama, and the 2010 and 2012 elections--this must-read fourth edition incorporates findings from the latest scholarship, recent elections and court cases, and essential survey research.

New to this Edition

  • Updated to reflect the most recent events in American politics
  • Findings from the latest scholarship, the most recent elections and court cases, and relevant survey research incorporated
  • Review and analysis of the controversial and consequential presidency of George W. Bush
  • Further examine the vice presidency of Dick Cheney
  • Additional material on the Barack Obama presidency, as well as on the 2010 and 2012 elections

About the Author(s)

Thomas E. Cronin is McHugh Professor of American Institutions and Leadership at Colorado College and President Emeritus at Whitman College. He is the author of more than 150 articles and author, coauthor, or editor of a dozen books, including Colorado Politics: Governing a Purple State (2012), Leadership Matters (2012), and On the Presidency (2008).

Michael A. Genovese is the Loyola Chair of Leadership Studies, Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of more than thirty books, including A Presidential Nation: Causes, Consequences, and Cures (2012), Leadership Matters (2012), and the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency (2009).

Previous Publication Date(s)

September 2008
December 2003
January 1998


"In terms of scholarship, depth of understanding of the presidential office, and inclusion of vast amounts of literature, The Paradoxes of the American Presidency is superior to any other textbook that I have seen."--Margaret S. Hrezo, Radford University

"The most comprehensive, well organized, coherent, and highly readable presidency textbook on the market today."--Anthony J. Eksterowicz, James Madison University

"The authors provide numerous and engaging examples from specific administrations to present their points in a way that students should be able to better understand the complex nature of executive branch politics."--Adam L. Warber, Clemson University

"The book raises important questions, all of which can be the foundation for extended class discussion and ample opportunity for in-class elaboration."--Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, University of North Texas

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1. Presidential Paradoxes
    Paradox #1
    Americans want decisive leadership, yet we distrust authority and fear the abuse of power.
    Paradox #2
    We yearn for the democratic "common person" who also has an uncommon genius, charisma, and star quality.
    Paradox #3
    We want a decent, caring, and compassionate president, yet we admire a cunning, guileful, and, on occasions that warrant it, even a ruthless, manipulative president.
    Paradox #4
    We admire an "above politics," nonpartisan, bipartisan, or "postpartisan" style of leadership, and yet the presidency is perhaps the most political office in the American political system: it requires an entrepreneurial master politician. Similarly, we want presidents who can both unify us and make the necessary bold and unpopular decisions that are likely to upset us.
    Paradox #5
    We want our presidents to provide visionary, innovative, programmatic leadership and at the same time to respond pragmatically to the will of public opinion majorities; that is, presidents must lead and follow, educate and listen.
    Paradox #6
    Americans want resolute, self-confident presidential leadership. Yet we are inherently suspicious of leaders who are arrogant, above criticism, and unwilling to learn from mistakes. We want presidents, in other words, with strong but not swollen egos.
    Paradox #7
    What and who it takes to become president may not be what and who are needed to govern the nation.
    Paradox #8
    Presidents are order affirming, order shattering, and order creating.
    Paradox #9
    Rich states in presidential elections tend to vote for the Democratic candidate, while poor states tend to vote Republican, yet rich voters generally vote Republican and have done so for decades.
    Chapter 2. How We Evaluate Presidents
    What the Framers Expected?
    What Was Expected in the Nineteenth Century?
    Public Expectations toward Presidents in Recent Times
    Qualities Americans Look For in Presidents
    Leadership the Public Wants
    How Americans Judge Incumbent Presidents
    Why Disapproval Ratings Rise
    What Can a President Do?
    How the Public Judges Presidents
    How Experts Judge Presidents
    Can We Predict Presidential Effectiveness?
    What Is Presidential Greatness?
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Chapter 3. How We Elect Presidents
    Who Becomes President?
    Why Voters Vote the Way They Do
    The Invisible Primary
    Presidential Primaries
    National Conventions
    Incumbency: Advantage or Disadvantage?
    Incumbency and the Obama Presidency: Lame Duck, Sitting Duck, or Dead Duck?
    General Elections: What Matters?
    The Electoral College Debate
    How the Electoral College Works Today
    The Case for Retaining the Electoral College
    The Case against the Electoral College
    The Case for the Direct Election of Presidents
    From Election to Governing
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Chapter 4. Presidential Power and Leadership
    The Moods and Cycles of American Politics
    The Vagaries of Presidential Power
    Unresolved Questions
    Persuasion and Power
    Power-Maximizing Strategies
    Presidential Leadership
    The Building Blocks of Presidential Leadership
    Political Timing
    The "Conditions" of Power
    Are We Too Presidency-Centric?
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Chapter 5. The Presidential Job Description in a System of Shared Powers
    The Presidency as Defined and Debated in 1787
    The Presidency as Redefined by Washington and His Successors
    The Presidency as Redefined by FDR and the Modern Presidents
    The Job of the Modern President
    The Foreign Affairs Presidency
    The Economic Presidency
    The Domestic Presidency
    The Multidimensional Presidency
    Crisis Management
    Symbolic, Morale-Building, and Shamanistic Leadership
    Vision, Priority Setting, and Program Design
    Recruitment Leadership
    Legislative and Political Coalition Building
    Policy Implementation and Evaluation
    Oversight and Early-Warning System
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Chapter 6. Presidents and Congress
    Separate Institutions/Shared Powers
    The President's Constitutional Place
    The Politics of Shared Power
    The President in the Legislative Arena
    Parties and Presidents: An Awkward Alliance
    The "No Party" Presidency
    Presidents and Use of Party Appeal in Congress
    The Presidential Veto
    Presidents and Congress in Foreign Affairs
    Bush, the Congress, and Iraq
    The "Imperial Presidency" Argument
    Presidential War-Making Powers Before 1974
    The Continuing Debate over War Powers
    Confirmation Politics
    Fusing What the Framers Separated
    The Continuing Struggle
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Chapter 7. Presidents as Chief Executives: Challenges and Resources
    Presidents and the Cabinet
    Selecting Cabinet Advisers
    The Job of a Cabinet Member
    The West Wing Wants Loyalty along with Competence
    The Role of the Cabinet in Policymaking
    A Cabinet of Unequals
    The Inner Cabinet
    A National Security Cabinet
    Attorneys General
    Treasury Secretary
    The Outer Cabinet
    Outer-Cabinet Isolation
    The Rise of the Administrative Presidency
    The Executive Office of the President, Continued
    The President's Spouse
    The White House Staff
    White House Chief of Staff
    National Security Adviser
    The Chief White House Political Counselor
    White House Press Secretary
    Advocacy Conflicts
    Dealing with the Bureaucracy
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Chapter 8. The American Vice Presidency
    Traditional Problems
    President of the Senate
    Vice Presidents as "Assistant Presidents"
    Psychological Problems or the "Throttlebottom Complex"
    The Mondale Experience
    The George H. W. Bush Experience
    The Gore Experience
    The Dick Cheney Vice Presidency
    The Biden Vice Presidency
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Chapter 9. Presidents and the Court
    Presidential Nominations to the Court
    Confirmation Battles
    Wayward Justices
    The Temptation to Move beyond The Law
    The President's Emergency Power
    Presidential Action in Times of Emergency Court Decisions and Presidential Power
    Presidential Losses before The Supreme Court
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Chapter 10. The Future of the American Presidency
    Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
    Holding Presidents to Account
    The Presidency and Democratic Theory
    "Votes of No Confidence?"
    What About a "President's Question Hour in Congress"?
    A Third Party to the Rescue?
    Should We Repeal the Twenty-second (Two-term Limit) Amendment?
    Should Presidents Be Granted an Item Veto?
    Limiting the President's War Powers
    The Ultimate Check: Impeachment and Removal
    Campaign Finance Reform--Again
    Accountability in an Age of Terrorism
    The Necessity for Politics and Democratic Accountability
    For Discussion
    Debate Questions
    Internet Links
    Selected Bibliography
    Presidential Election Results