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The American Presidency: A Very Short Introduction [Paperback]

Charles O. Jones
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 10, 2007 0195307011 978-0195307016
The expansion of executive powers amid the war on terrorism has brought the presidency to the center of heated public debate. Now, in The American Presidency, presidential authority Charles O. Jones provides invaluable background to the current controversy, in a compact, reliable guide to the office of the chief executive.

This marvelously concise survey is packed with information about the presidency, some of it quite surprising. We learn, for example, that the Founders adopted the word "president" over "governor" and other alternatives because it suggested a light hand, as in one who presides, rather than rules. Indeed, the Constitutional Convention first agreed to a weak chief executive elected by congress for one seven-year term, later calling for independent election and separation of powers. Jones sheds much light on how assertive leaders, such as Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and FDR enhanced the power of the presidency, and illuminating how such factors as philosophy (Reagan's anti-Communist conservatism), the legacy of previous presidencies (Jimmy Carter following Watergate), relations with Congress, and the impact of outside events have all influenced presidential authority. He also explores the rise of federal power and the dramatic expansion of federal agencies, showing how the president takes a direct hand in this vast bureaucracy, and he examines the political process of selecting presidents, from the days of deadlocked conventions to the rise of the primary after World War II.

"In 200 years," he writes, "the presidency had changed from that of a person--Washington followed by Adams, then Jefferson--to a presidential enterprise with a cast of thousands." Jones explains how this remarkable expansion has occurred and where it may lead in the future.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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Editorial Reviews


"In this brief but timely book, a leading expert takes us back to the creation of the presidency and insightfully explains the challenges of executive leadership in a separated powers system." -- George C. Edwards III, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Texas A&M University

"This crisp and succinct book provides a superb introduction to the American presidency for students and general readers and can be read with profit and pleasure by specialists. I recommend it wholeheartedly." -- Fred I. Greenstein, Professor of Politics Emeritus, Princeton University

"A superb overview of the U.S. Presidency, this slim volume also provides insightful commentary on the U.S. constitutional system by a distinguished scholar who has thought deeply about American government for half a century." -- James P. Pfiffner, University Professor, George Mason School of Public Policy

"Jones breathes new life into the discussions of the executive. He demonstrates the conundrum Presidents face when public expectations of the chief executive are neither supported by the powers invested in the office by the Framers nor by the powers accumulated since 1789. Students and scholars will learn a great deal about the presidency from this book." -- Martha Joynt Kumar, Professor of Political Science, Towson University

About the Author

Charles O. Jones is Hawkins Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His many books include The Presidency in a Separated System, Clinton and Congress, 1993-1996, and Passages to the Presidency.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195307011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195307016
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
No aspect of American politics, and certainly no other political office, attracts as much public attention as the office of the President. And yet, at the very founding of the American Republic, this office was nonexistent, and only came about after the realization that the much looser federation was not effective enough as a union. It took two hundred years plus for the presidency to evolve into what it is today: the most powerful political position in the World.

The book is particularly good at explaining the nitty-gritty of the actual governing. It goes in some detail to explain all the offices and departments that report directly to the president, and explains their role with ample historical examples. This potentially very dry subject is handled adroitly and made interesting even for readers who may not have much interest in this area. The book is a good companion to the other recent very short introduction book on American politics, American Political Parties and Elections: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions).

The chapters in this book, and the topics covered, are:

1. Inventing the Presidency
2. The Presidency Finds Its Place
3. Electing Presidents (and Other Ways to Occupy the Oval Office)
4. Making and Remaking a Presidency
5. Connecting to and Leading the Government
6. Presidents at Work: Making Law and Doing Policy
7. Reform, Change and Prospects for the Future
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read December 22, 2012
By gss1945
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
No one should discuss the pros or cons of any president without reading this book. This book is well researched, accurate, and is extremely interesting.It offers enormous insight into the role of the president and the nature of his job.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He Shall From Time to Time August 2, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The American Presidency is part information and history. From the historical sense it shows the growing pains of the executive branch and the tug of war that has existed between it and the legislature and judiciary, sometimes being pulled between the other two branches, each way being as our Founders intended.This very short introduction describes how the presidency began to define itself through crises and struggle to become what has become today.

Presidents often inherit more responsibility than they want or bargain for. Years of developing programs into law mean the president must devote time to policies that interfere with the changes he wants to make to define him and his presidency, and the president is often credited with or blamed for economic fortunes for which he has less control than the chairman of the Fed. Current circumstances bear this out with President Obama being credited with growth or blamed for economic growth being too slow.

This book always answered questions for answers I wanted but was too lazy to look up. When did the Democratic-Republican Party cease to exist, and when was the Democratic Party born? It turns out it was Andrew Jackson who was the last of one and the first of the other. The book also lists the presidents, their party, their percentage of electoral votes and popular vote, and the least important of all, their vice presidents. Supreme Court decisions affecting the president are also listed.

Author, Charles O. Jones, is trying to convey information rather than interest, and gives more information than I will wager the average American knows.
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