Fred I. Greenstein has long been one of our keenest observers of the modern presidency. In The Presidential Difference, he provides a fascinating and instructive account of the presidential qualities that have served well and poorly in the Oval Office, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt's first hundred days. He surveys each president's political skill, vision, cognitive style, organizational capacity, ability to communicate, and emotional intelligence--and argues that the last is the most important in predicting presidential success. Throughout, Greenstein offers a series of bottom-line judgments on each of his thirteen subjects as well as an overarching theory of why presidents succeed or fail.
In this new edition, Greenstein assesses President George W. Bush in the wake of his two terms. The book also includes a new chapter on the leadership style of President Obama and how we can expect it to affect his presidency and legacy.
What makes a successful president? Greenstein (The Hidden-Hand Presidency), a noted Princeton political scientist, attempts to answer that question by examining the terms of every chief executive of the last 70 years. He considers them in six categories: political communication, organizational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style and emotional intelligence. FDR receives high marks almost across the board; Eisenhower wins the prize for organization and Reagan for vision. In Greenstein's view, "emotional intelligence"--which is his shorthand for maturity and levelheadedness--is the most important attribute: "In its absence, all else may turn to ashes." As negative examples, he points to the terms of LBJ and Nixon, whose impressive respective domestic and foreign achievements were all but destroyed by their stubborn paranoia and mercurial tempers. Unfortunately, the brevity of Greenstein's case leads to some rather cliched observations, evident in such hackneyed chapter titles as "The Paradox of Richard Nixon" and "The Highly Tactical Leadership of George Bush." But what Greenstein loses in depth, he gains in contrast, and his most illuminating lessons come when he weighs the advantages of one president's style against another's (such as Eisenhower's military-like staff organization vs. the freewheeling chaos of the Clinton White House). This book may not become the executive tutorial that Greenstein seems to hope, but it is nonetheless a concise, interesting analysis from one our most knowledgeable presidential scholars.