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The Imperial Presidency Paperback – August 12, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (August 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618420010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618420018
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER, JR., the author of sixteen books, was a renowned historian and social critic. He twice won the Pulitzer Prize, in 1946 for The Age of Jackson and in 1966 for A Thousand Days. He was also the winner of the National Book Award for both A Thousand Days and Robert Kennedy and His Times (1979). In 1998 he was awarded the prestigious National Humanities Medal.

Customer Reviews

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I used this book primarily for a study on the Presidency of Richard Nixon.
Colin Walker
I will repeatedly refer back to it whenever I have questions about what powers our presidents have and how they got them.
Mike Baum
I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in presidential history.
Ronald D, Birch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Mike Baum on December 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Whatever his shortcomings (see below), historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. has a great mind and writes with a silver pen. I am immensely impressed with his book on the growth of presidential power in America and cannot imagine a better introduction to my future studies on this important subject.
The book's organization is superb. Appropriately, it first discusses the Founding Fathers' likely intentions in regard to the Presidency and where they disagreed amongst themselves. Next it explains the Presidency and its war power, tracing its development through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, and paying special attention to the Second World War, the Korean War and Vietnam. Most of a 64-page chapter is devoted to President Richard M. Nixon's radical ideas and practices. Democracy and foreign policy is then treated, followed by the Presidency and its powers of secrecy, and finally, the Presidency and its future. As these subjects are dealt with, many facts are thrown at the reader, the totality being hard to absorb. Fortunately, nothing is explained in isolation. The author constantly backtracks, providing new historical context and rehashing material already covered. This practice, plus good organization and a high degree of literary skill (Dr. Schlesinger can *write*), make this book highly readable.
Of particular interest is Dr. Schlesinger's discussion of philosopher John Locke's idea of presidential prerogative, of which I was previously unaware (and which I am still mulling over). This is the view that extraordinary national emergencies create temporary exceptions to normal constitutional restrictions on a president's power to act.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By G M. Stathis on October 28, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The year before George W. Bush took office as president I attended a professional conference where a graduate student offered a paper that posed the question whether Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s "Imperial Presidency" was still valid. Quite a debate ensued. Today, in the wake of the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war, and its application in Iraq, I am compelled to offer that this revised volume, with new introduction, answers the previous question with a resounding yea. This has been a very important volume in the study of the presidency, especially regarding the constitution, foreign policy, and war. In the shadow of the Iraqi affair, I would go one step further and say it is a vital work in these troubled times. No, the era of the Imperial Presidency never really went away; and yes, it is a vital concern for the future of the republic and global stability. Schlesinger has recognized this and once again warns us of pending dangers.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William Whipple III VINE VOICE on June 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Note: The Imperial Presidency was published in 1973, not long before President Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal. The author subsequently revisited the theme several times, as attested to by the epilogue (1989) and first introduction (2004) in this edition.

As Schlesinger sees it, there is bound to be some jockeying for power under the US Constitution, which provides for a separation of powers between the three branches of government. Given the president's ability to act quickly and decisively, the pendulum generally swings in favor of the Executive Branch when it comes to military matters or international relations. Congress may play a more prominent role in the domestic arena.

Numerous illustrations are presented of how the roles of Congress and the president have fluctuated since 1789. Many issues between the branches that we tend to view as of recent vintage have come up before - truly, as the saying goes, "there is nothing new under the sun."

The powers of the presidency greatly expanded during the Great Depression and World War II, due in part to the challenges faced by the nation and in part to FDR's personality.

After WWII, the pendulum did not swing back to more congressional control as it had after previous wars; the US was now a world power engaged in a Cold War with the USSR. Truman and Johnson tended to exercise their powers aggressively in the international arena and resist compromises with political opponents. Eisenhower was no fan of big government, but he was fond of keeping secrets. Kennedy (in whose White House Schlesinger served) was open-minded and straightforward, a real straight shooter.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Fix on March 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Although this book focuses on Richard Nixon's abuse of Presidential power, it can apply to the present day as well. Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush have all extended the power of the Presidency in ways the framers of the Constitution would never have dreamed of. I agree with the reviewer who commented about the favoritism towards Kennedy and Roosevelt hence the four stars rather than five. A great read for anyone interested in the American Constitution as it relates to the powers of the President.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Orlando Citizen on May 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
We read this in college and it was one of the best books we ever saw on American politics and I read it again last week. Ir shows that it is not a good idea always to have presidents who get too powerful.
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