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Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents Hardcover – June 10, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
This well-intended book is an enjoyable exercise in wishful thinking. Historian Troy of McGill University (Morning in America) plays the part of pundit by arguing that moderate presidents have always served the U.S. better than others. Americans are centrists at heart, he says, tracing the ups and downs of national consensus through the Bush administration. Yet Lincoln, one of Troy's heroes, wasn't moderate when it came to secession—he refused to compromise. Troy's definition of best presidents is also open to debate. Does best mean most effective or most conforming to Troy's centrist hopes? The author may think he's swimming in fresh waters, but instead he's offering a venerable American prayer for tranquil and harmonious government. The founders themselves deplored partisanship. And while Troy claims to roam over all American presidential history, he picks and chooses his early subjects, then deals with every president since FDR. Nevertheless, he makes his case in as robust a fashion as possible. That his history is stronger than his argument doesn't detract from the pleasure of the work. (June)
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Not expected: scathing reviews of LBJ and Clinton, both whom I considered to be at least highly capable politicians.
Upshot: You can count decent American presidents on two hands. Most were useless or worse.
Complaints. Troy should have followed his own wisdom and had a history expert review this book for possible oversights before publication. Ex. In a book about making tough decisions, how can you sum up Harry Truman without mentioning the firing of MacArthur?
Troy is also hard on several presidents, even Reagan, for being weak about various Arab nation crimes. But in the discussion how can you not mention that these countries sit on half the world's oil?
Highly recommended for high school or college American Government or US History classes. Skillful, stylish writing. More interesting than the title suggests
"Leaders must try building bridges . . . playing to the center, not to the base."
"Political parties become destructive when they demonize and polarize."
What a dynamic read, what a tour de force! Once again, Gil Troy brings his poetic talents to the realm of american political history, and gives us another masterpiece. Whether you agree with his positions or not, you cannot help but be enthralled by his style and respect his talent for debate.
Leading from the Center is a must-read for anyone with an interest in our country's great political traditions. Not only will you learn much about this timely topic, but you'll have fun doing it!
I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in American political history, or with an interest in the 2008 election. It is an extremely engaging account of moderate presidents, and why they were successful. How timely!