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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars solid starting point
This is a briskly paced overview of one hundred years' worth of presidents, from McKinley to Clinton (with a very brief mention of George W. Bush). That Gould starts with McKinley is notable, for historians have tended to place the origins of the modern presidency with his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. In tracing the development of the presidency as an institution,...
Published on August 16, 2004 by Yalensian

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Slick Willie
Lewis Gould mentions William Clinton's impeachment but not the reason for the impeachment: perjury and obstruction of justice. Instead, Gould claims it was the result of "an unfortunate affair" in the White House. Gould was selective in his anecdotal treatment of other presidents. I did not find the book to be useful as a comprehensive research tool. It was...
Published 4 months ago by David S. McQueen


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars solid starting point, August 16, 2004
This review is from: The Modern American Presidency (Paperback)
This is a briskly paced overview of one hundred years' worth of presidents, from McKinley to Clinton (with a very brief mention of George W. Bush). That Gould starts with McKinley is notable, for historians have tended to place the origins of the modern presidency with his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. In tracing the development of the presidency as an institution, Gould follows a handful of key themes: (1) the rise of mass media and its effects on the presidency; (2) the rise of continual campaigning; (3) problem-ridden second terms; and (4) the decline of parties and its consequences. Only the fourth receives unsatisfactory treatment: Gould mentions it as a theme and never really follows up on it, and while parties as nominating and institutional forces may have declined with the spread of primaries, they surely play a larger role in today's polarized political atmosphere.

Each president is assessed, and except for the somewhat unique argument for McKinley, the analyses are not surprising. Gould, for the most part, agrees with other historians' assessments. Not enough time has lapsed since Clinton, and the chapter he gets is weak; Gould opted to focus on the scandals and controversies. Most interesting of all, perhaps, is Gould's conclusion that the modern presidency is ill-equipped to deal with the problems of this century.

Overall, a solid overview of the presidency.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of Presidency from McKinley to GW Bush, March 18, 2004
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This book is both erudite and accessible, and it's an excellent survey of the modern Presidency, which Gould, a respected University of Texas historian, points out has been transformed in roughly the past hundred years from an intimate, folksy, at times nearly one-man operation into an unwieldy, unworkable, and dangerously out-of-touch apparatus that has far less to do with running the country than it does with raising cash, making meaningless appearances and feeding the media, and getting re-elected to a Constitutionally-allowed (and historically-mandated) second term that in most cases is a failure compared with the first term. (Can you think of a President since Franklin Roosevelt whose second term was more successful than the first?)
Other reviewers of this book have pointed out that Gould's position on the evolution of the presidency is a paradox, since in order to be effective, the modern president must be a master of the perpetual campaign, and yet the perpetual campaign is what Gould believes is the bane of the presidency, transforming it into a position of celebrity and spectacle rather than one of leadership and policy. However, that is a paradox that needs to be examined more deeply in a philosophical context; this book is a survey, not a political science text, and Gould gets points for raising the paradox, which is a provocative one, in the first place.
The book is full of anecdotes and lucid detail about the modern presidents, along with Gould's snappy and precise evaluations of the strengths and weaknesses of each, and the factors in the broader political culture of each man's term in office that changed the presidency forever. He is not particularly partisan in his political stance; he has good and bad to say about each president. There are many surprises in this short but rewarding book, and there are excellent suggestions for further reading at the back.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very helpful in the classroom, January 30, 2012
For our course on the modern presidency this semester, the professor has assigned three books: Gould's Modern American Presidency; McPherson's edited To the Best of My Ability; and Greenstein's The Presidential Difference. While each book has its strengths, I prefer Gould's treatment of the subject. He provides a concise overview of each president from McKinley to the present. He always stays on point: that is, he seeks to explain "how did the institution of the presidency evolve over the twentieth century?" Gould carefully describes exactly how each chief executive contributed to the making of a "modern" presidency. In our class discussions, other students have commented that they also prefer Gould's approach. He is thoroughly familiar with the history of each administration. We have speculated as to Dr. Gould's political affiliation but cannot reach a decision. He is even-handed throughout. Like most other college seniors, especially history majors, I often feel swamped with the heavy reading load. But I never mind the time I must spend with this book. In fact, I actually enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Slick Willie, April 16, 2014
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Lewis Gould mentions William Clinton's impeachment but not the reason for the impeachment: perjury and obstruction of justice. Instead, Gould claims it was the result of "an unfortunate affair" in the White House. Gould was selective in his anecdotal treatment of other presidents. I did not find the book to be useful as a comprehensive research tool. It was more of a re-write of history, presenting some presidents in a favorable light and others, not so much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Academic work, but a great read!, January 24, 2014
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I read this for a class during my senior year at Webster and really loved it. This book tells the story of the Office of the President of the United States in the modern era. It really gets into how the various men who have sat on the hot seat, have molded and shaped the Presidency over the past hundred years or so. I really enjoyed it as I said and it is one which is still on my bookshelf, as I am sure I will use it as a reference and possible resource in the classes I hope to teach after I finish grad school next year.
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The Modern American Presidency
The Modern American Presidency by Lewis L. Gould (Paperback - Feb. 2004)
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