American has had 44 presidents since its independence in1776. It is a long list of leaders to form a whole volume of historical insights and perspectives. The American presidency will attract lots of interest from historians because of the intricacies and politics that surround the American presidency. It is seen as the most powerful position in the world by virtue of the president holding lots of powers in the economic and military terms. In recent times, the American presidency has almost become a cult as media, social organizations, and the international community look up to the American president who is to provide guidance to a number of challenges, such as terrorism, economic woes, military intentions, etc. Lewis L. Gould has captured the recent American presidency in an insightful and analytical manner laced with a scholarly interpretation. This paper is a review of Gould’s masterpiece book titled The Modern American Presidency.
Gould captures the modern American presidency in an interpretative and lively analysis that highlights the achievements and failures of the 20th century American presidents. He makes a well-documented analysis of the evolution and growth of the American presidency that has become a world prominent and most respected position not only in the United States of America but also in the whole world. Amongst the factors that Gould traces is the party system decline and the increasing importance of the role of the media in highlighting the functions of the president. Specifically, he outlines the contribution that the media has played in elevating the American presidency not only as the diplomatic core but also as a celebrity in the popular culture. The exposition and trailing of the White House staff and the bureaucracies surrounding the executive does not evade Gould’s eye. He spends time outlining how the second term presidents may have been made or broken by their seeking for the second term. His research on the succession of the American presidency from democrats to republicans is above the par because of the information that he exhumes in his analysis. One of the intriguing discoveries that Gould makes in his analysis of the modern American presidency is that some of the presidents would have come out of their presidency more dignified if they had not sought for the second term in office.
With a tone that keeps the reader glued to the book, the writer exhumes knowledge of the unrecognized accomplishments of little known presidents. From the plans for the Defense Department to anticipation of budgets, he explores how little known occupants of the Oval Office left an indelible mark in the history of the American presidency by their unpolished accomplishments. He also explores such intricacies like President Nixon’s preoccupation with reelection and why Clinton’s removal precipitated the weakening of the impeachment power. He also touches on the murky waters into which President George W. Bush found himself waging after the September 11 attack in 2001. A notable and surprising observation made by Gould is that despite the continued respect and awe that the American presidency continues to receive in and out of the country, the modern American presidency is less empowered or rather less enthusiastic about dealing with the challenges facing the world today. In particular, he notes that the modern American presidency advocates for rational and free thinking. It is much to the contrary expectations of the people who are still holding the office with higher esteem than it is held by the occupants of the Oval Office themselves.
The laid out of the presidency is almost chronological. It allows Gould to analyze each president from McKinley to Clinton exhaustively but objectively. The ten chapters in the book are devoted to the analysis of presidents in pairs. Though, there are cases when the author thinks that there is a need for further exposition on the president. For instance, Gould treats presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton separately because he feels that there is something more to these presidents than the others he pairs up. This is an oversight on the part of Gould as some of the presidents he has paired up actually have greater historical information in their presidency if to compare with other presidents in the American history.
Gould’s approach turns away from the conventional historical analysis. It comes out as more of an institutional rather than a doctrinal analysis. On the face of the presidency, there is the modern American president who must inculcate the institutional foundations in the Oval Office while remaining trendy with the modern expectations. According to Gould, the onus that is on each president is to play his cards well and ensure that inasmuch as the institutional hence traditional foundations of the American presidency are upheld. The president must struggle to establish an identity with the modern culture. In a way, he dwells on President McKinley and his breakaway from the tradition of refraining from campaigns in the second term. It forms precedence to the subsequent presidents in the Oval Office.
In conclusion, a critique concerning Gould’s masterpiece could be that he tries to make some presidents seen as failed deities while others are seen as successful. However, this might be because he intends to analyze each presidency with an objective approach based on the argument that the public judgment is not always the best form of judgment. Thus, he acts as a reasonable voice to presidents who do not have a voice to defend their accomplishment and who remain vilified despite their great achievements in office.