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Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of the American Presidents Hardcover – September 26, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gerald Ford once said, "We have not an imperial Presidency; we have an imperiled Presidency." In recent years, presidents have bemoaned the red tape, complained about the limitations of the position, and even lambasted the press for the ineffectiveness of the office. In Hail to the Chief, Robert Dallek argues that the institution of the Presidency is blamed too often for the shortcomings of its occupants. Character, he says, is what makes Abraham Lincoln stand out from Millard Fillmore, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt overshadow Jimmy Carter. Stellar presidents, he maintains, possess vision, pragmatism, persuasiveness, charisma, and credibility--qualities that a great majority of our nation's leaders have sorely lacked.

From Publishers Weekly

Dallek's roster of great Presidents includes Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, FDR and Reagan, all of whom had clear, long-term visions of where they wanted to lead the nation. The most astute chiefs, in this UCLA history professor's assessment, were charismatic because they understood that the President is a privileged actor on the world stage and in our national mythology (Jefferson, Eisenhower, JFK). Effective leaders, he stresses, exploit consensus politics in the service of national renewal: for instance, Wilson's consolidation of the progressive impulse, Roosevelt's leading of a New Deal coalition and LBJ's support for affordable health care for the elderly. Other Presidents lost credibility and public trust through overreaching, deviousness, willful blindness or political crises (Andrew Johnson, Hoover, Ford, Carter, Nixon). Dallek seems intimately familiar with the quirks, strengths and flaws of all those who served in the White House, making this a trenchant, provocative, often surprising portrait gallery. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (September 26, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078686205X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786862054
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,136,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Dallek is the author of Nixon and Kissinger, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, among other books. His writing has appeared in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Vanity Fair. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Society of American Historians, for which he served as president in 2004-2005. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Timothy McGrath on December 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
Despite the other review posted at Amazon.com, 'Hail to the Chief' is not only thoroughly researched and written, but entertaining to those who are interested in the American Presidency and the tools necessary to be a successful president. As someone who has had the pleasure of taking two college courses with Professor Dallek, reading his books have been helpful in his courses, and also have proven to be invaluable in my quest to learn more about American government.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jim on October 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
Dallek is one of the foremost historians in terms of the Presidents of the United States. His books about JFK, LBJ, and Nixon are certainly outstanding, and worth a read.

This book is not a biography but an overview of the responsibilities, and qualities of good and not so good Presidents. Dallek has a wealth of knowledge in terms of Presidents and makes connections which are not always obvious. Dallek believes that Vision (chapter 1) is one of the most important things for a President (most other Presidential scholars would agree). He also identifies other aspects for a good President. This short book is certainly worth a read not only for those interested in the Presidency, but also political science.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Dallek writes a very informative and thourough review on the highlights and nadirs of presidential terms. He points out how and why presidents were elected and what , if anything, they did to change America. This book serves a purpose as a reference, but not for political reading.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on November 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Robert Dallek is one of my professors at Boston University. His class is amazing, as is this book. Although the average reader may not enjoy it so much, Hail to the Chief is a great book for anyone interested in American presidents and politics. I highly recommend it :)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Whetstone Guy on August 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a good place to start reading about American presidents. After reading more detailed biographies, one will probably come to different conclusions than Professor Dallek.
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