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Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians? (American Intellectual Culture)

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0742508262
ISBN-10: 0742508269
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Academics and intellectuals have long bemoaned their lack of influence over governmental policy, but this book traces the significant role of intellectuals (loosely defined) in the process of presidential advising and policymaking since the era of John Kennedy. The deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Labor and former policy director for Sen. John Ashcroft, Troy believes it is essential for presidential candidates to align themselves with highly visible academics. This has led to the rise of the "professional intellectual" and the public use of these men and women for developing presidential proposals, giving intellectual heft to these ideas, and demonstrating that the candidate, and later president, is a person of gravitas. While the author overstates the influence of these intellectuals over the president, it is clear that the increased use, and sometimes misuse, of these figures from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Strobe Talbot has played an increasingly prominent role in presidential politics. This useful and interesting book highlights an important element in presidential politics and is recommended for those interested in the presidency and the history of ideas. Michael Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


In this witty and wise study, Tevi Troy tells how modern presidents have increasingly been surrounded, and at times hounded, by academics, writers, and other intellectuals. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 'brain trust' through John F. Kennedy's 'best and brightest' right down to the present, the White House has become a haven both for political operatives who specialize in winning votes and intellectual personalities who specialize in spinning ideas. Troy superbly profiles how presidents from Roosevelt to George W. Bush and their top political advisers have coped, co-opted, or crossed swords with intellectuals. For anyone with a serious interest in how we got where we are in American politics and the presidency, this book is must-reading. (John J. DiIulio, Jr., former director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives)

Any man or woman who decides to run for President of the United States would be wise to read Intellectuals and the American Presidency. In his seminal work Tevi Troy identifies and explains the key to a successful presidency―and does so clearly and persuasively. As a Republican I hope Democrats do not read it―but if they do it will be good for our country. (Martin Anderson, Hoover Institution)

Tevi Troy has given us a fascinating slice of history, in a well-written, balanced, and meticulously researched package. Intellectuals and the American Presidency provides illumination about both the modern presidency and the role of ideas (and idea people) in American politics and policy. (Norm Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute)

Love them or hate them, intellectuals are players in American politics. Good politicians realize this, and act accordingly. Tevi Troy smartly chronicles the surprising successes and occasional humorous failures of presidents who courted America's elusive yet vocal intellectual establishment. This lively and readable study is must-reading for lovers of history and politics alike. (Jack Valenti, chairman, Motion Picture Association of America)

Tevi Troy has done the impossible! He's written an interesting and engaging analysis of the role of White House eggheads without resorting to excessive nudity or violence. (Jonah Goldberg, syndicated columnist and editor-at-large, National Review Online)

Tevi Troy tells the delicious tale of how presidents exploit the ambition and insecurity of intellectuals―or ignore them at their peril. Highly recommended for thinkers who thirst to be on cable t.v. (Stephen Hess, Brookings Institution)

Tevi Troy's Intellectuals and the American Presidency is original and readable―required reading for intellectuals, Presidents, and the rest of us. (Ben Wattenberg, American Enterprise Institute)

As presidential politics grows more superficial, the general assumption is that intellectuals―people who deal in ideas―grow less relevant. Tevi Troy shows how wrong and lazy that assumption is. With striking clarity and in rich historical detail, he reveals that, for better and for worse, intellectuals are crucial to the success and survival of a modern president. (Peter Beinart, The New Republic)

The tale of presidents and intellectuals, sometimes awkward, sometimes cozy, invariably important, is too often ignored. Not so in Tevi Troy's illuminating and enlightening new study. A fitting read for the talking head era. (Jay Winik, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America)

Since the early 1960s, the administrations of each president have brought intellectuals into their folds, with a view toward using their ideas to come up with good public policy. The extent to which they have succeeded―or failed―at this is the subject of Tevi Troy's Intellectuals and the American Presidency, a book that bids fair to become the definitive work on the subject―and which will deliver to its readers some interesting surprises about the role of intellectuals in politics and public policy. (Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report)

This useful and interesting book highlights an important element in presidential politics and is recommended for those interested in the presidency and the history of ideas (Michael Genovese Library Journal)

Tevi Troy's engaging Intellectuals and the American Presidency chronicles, among much else, FDR's 'brain trust,' the academic sycophants of Kennedy's Camelot, and the thinkers who gave George W. Bush his 'compassionate conservativism' [and] raises questions as old as political philosophy itself: Where should our leaders look for wisdom? Whom should they seek to please? (The Wall Street Journal)

[Tevi Troy's] smart, engaging volume, Intellectuals and the American Presidency takes us from Franklin Roosevelt's Brain Trust through Kennedy's Camelot, to the present day to show the dangers as well as the virtues of professional thinkers in politics. (Glenn Elmers Precepts, (Claremont Institute))

Intellectuals and the American Presidency is a lively tale and well told, and certainly not meant for academics only. . . . It's all here and much more as Mr. Troy describes the changing presidency, the intellectuals' role in presidential politics, and the ever mutating media. It's quite a ride. (The Washington Times)

Intellectuals have been attaching themselves to the White House since the New Deal, and presidents have been attaching themselves to intellectuals, with results that have at times been amusing, at times infuriating, and even at times―though not many―mutally rewarding, yet apart from a handful of memoirs by egghead lapdogs the subject of this peculiar relationship has been widely ignored. Tevi Troy fills this void. (Jonathan Yardley The Washington Post)

Intellectuals and the American Presidency is an engaging, well-researched book. (James Nuechterlein COMMENTARY)

Intellectuals and the American Presidency is a wonderfully written insight into politics today. It reminds readers of the temptations of power and the dangers of political pandering that are endemic to government. It also has a postive message that no matter how slick or well-marketed, in the world of politics nothing is more powerful than men of action emboldened by real ideas and a dedication to principle. (Claremont Review of Books)

Intellectuals and the American Presidency is not merely a history of the role of public intellectuals in the White House. Instead it describes the strategies presidents employ when they deal with the American intellectual community. Troy is able to argue convincingly that these strategic decisions about intellectuals have real consequences for the president's leadership and political authority. (Colleen J. Shogan, George Mason University Humane Studies Review)

The book is well-researched and readable, perhaps the definitive work on the role of the intellectual in the success of the modern presidency. It belongs with the classics of Neustadt and Barber. (Frank Coppa Perspectives on Political Science)

A splendid antidote. . . . In this tightly written book, Tevi Troy shoes that the intellectual's place in the White House is usually a subordinate one. Presidents use professors for their own purposes, not the other way around. Aspiring White House aides should know about the services they could render, as well as the severe limitations of their role. They may find their own clues in Tevi Troy's excellent study. (John J. Pitney Jr., Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics, Claremont McKenna College Claremont Review of Books)

Tevi Troy's new book Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians? offers a readable and compelling account of the influence that intellectuals have had upon presidents. (Jackson Murphy Enterstageright.Com)

Troy's book offers an engaging account of the often-overlooked role that intellectuals play in the White House―and a welcome reminder that a successful president needs more than just polls and political positioning. (Troy K. Schneider Nationaljournal.com)

This is a very readable book for both those in and out of government as well as for those in and out of 'the business.' It is, at once, interesting personality description and previously untold history mixed with intriguing analysis. (Seth Leibsohn Techcentralstation.Com)

For the politically savvy, Troy's book is a valuable resource as a scholarly study colored with insightful analysis. (Shira Schoenberg Journal Of The Royal Musical Association)

The strength of this book―apart from its arguements and learning―lies in its anecdotes, its telling and often delightful details. His will be the book to consult for years to come. (Jay Nordlinger New York Sun)

In fact, intellectuals are so important to the American presidency that U.S. presidents 'ignore the intellectuals at their peril.' This is the thesis of Tevi Troy's important and absorbing book Intellectuals and the American Presidency. (The Public Interest)

Troy's book is engagingly written, thoroughly researched, and well argued. (Political Studies Review)

Tevi Troy's Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosphers, Jesters, or Technicians shows how we professors who advise politicians envision ourselves as philosophers but generally fall into the second or third camp. (WORLD)

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Product Details

  • Series: American Intellectual Culture
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (July 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742508269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742508262
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,101,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tevi Troy has written an interesting and highly engaging chronicle of the ever-increasing relevance of public intellectuals and think tank denizens on how the Presidents govern. Intellectuals and the American Presidency is also one of the most important books recently written about the Presidency, and its pages teach us that a key ingredient for Oval Office success is a coherence of ideas, the presence of which can multiply the perceived strength of any President.
Troy identifies Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., from the Kennedy era, as the first true "court intellectual" in the White House. Although there were surely precursors in FDR's administration, Schlesinger was the first to serve on the White House staff, and he was followed by men performing more or less similar functions in subsequent Administrations. The contemporaneous rise of two institutions made this new kind of behind-the-scenes influence possible. The G.I. Bill democratized higher education and conferred a newfound popular respect upon full-time academics. The growth of the institutional Presidency, with an expanding universe of aides performing ever-more specific tasks, made it possible for such an unconventional position to be created.
Initially, the intellectual's purpose in the White House was rather limited. Schlesinger and Eric Goldman (Schlesinger's immediate successor in the Johnson Administration) were regularly derided as "East Wing" aides, far away from the West Wing whirlwind. Both served in a capacity that was more public liaison than policy-oriented. Their job was to represent the President to an increasingly influential intellectual community, rather than to shape policy.
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Format: Hardcover
Hats off to author Tevi Troy, who has offered a surprisingly interesting and enjoyable read about how White House administrations joined intellectualism and politics. Instead of being a boring, blow-by-blow account of just one aspect of presidential goings on, "Intellectuals and the American Presidency" provided an educational angle that taught me how presidents utilize specialized personnel to provide political advice, manage ideas, court the intellectual community, and even act as a political lighting rod. No matter how much you know about the administrations from JFK to George W., I would recommend this book to add another layer to anyone's understanding of recent presidential history.

Although I wouldn't categorize this book as a "page turner," I still found myself sticking with it a lot longer in an attempt to retain continuity within chapters. In addition to providing lots of insight into some very interesting political thinkers, Mr. Troy also compares the differences in how intellectual roles were modeled from one administration to the next. One example: after Lyndon Johnson's administration, a shift occurred whereby the intellectual community began to garner representation from the right (neo-conservatives); however, under Nixon, this representation came from one who was decidedly more liberal on numerous issues, namely, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The author is very fair in his perception of those presidents who had effective relations with the intellectual community (e.g., Kennedy, Clinton), those who lacked intellectual guidance (e.g., Carter, Ford), and those who used intellectuals not to formulate policy, but to carry forth presidential viewpoints into the mainstream media and populace (e.g., Reagan, Bush II). Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book that tells an eight-part saga about American intellectuals and their struggle for influence in the most powerful institution in the world.
Starting with Arthur Schelsinger Jr., Troy gives the reader an intimate look at the vanity and egos of scholars, academics, and pointy-heads who want to stroke and be stroked.
Troy writes with engaging verve, taking what could have been a dry scholarly dissertation about self-involved intellectuals and effortlessly adding humorous anecdotes as well as thoughtful observations.
This book is different from so many political works because it explores failure as readily as success and puts the reader in the historical moment of each presidency by tapping primary sources, memos and interviews.
Woven through the biographical sketches is the story of ideas and their conflict with the political status quo.
From Eric Goldman's humiliating service to LBJ (in which he wrote speeches for LBJ's teenage daughters) to the political courage of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the story runs the gamut of how White House intellectuals have aided, abetted, and occasionally crippled the presidency.
Readers who invest in this book will get more than just their money's worth. They will get a unique book that melds politics with philosophy, idealism with cynical calculation, and shows the cost to a presidency when the occupant has no ideological commitment outside the next election.
Whether you are a reader on the right or the left, it is an solid contribution to scholarship and contains important lessons for viewing the current political climate.
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