A bold new history of the American presidency, arguing that the successful presidents of the past created unrealistic expectations for every president since JFK, with enormously problematic implications for American politics
In The Impossible Presidency, celebrated historian Jeremi Suri charts the rise and fall of the American presidency, from the limited role envisaged by the Founding Fathers to its current status as the most powerful job in the world. He argues that the presidency is a victim of its own success-the vastness of the job makes it almost impossible to fulfill the expectations placed upon it. As managers of the world's largest economy and military, contemporary presidents must react to a truly globalized world in a twenty-four-hour news cycle. There is little room left for bold vision.
Suri traces America's disenchantment with our recent presidents to the inevitable mismatch between presidential promises and the structural limitations of the office. A masterful reassessment of presidential history, this book is essential reading for anyone trying to understand America's fraught political climate.
About the Author
Jeremi Suri is a professor of history and holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas. He lives in Austin, Texas.
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
"[A] succinct and original volume." —New York Times Book Review
"[A]n illuminating look at the highest office in the land and its occupants....Lively and well-grounded, offering good measures by which to judge our best and worst presidents and their methods of governing." —Kirkus Reviews
"Jeremi Suri's The Impossible Presidency grounds contemporary debates about the presidency in a historical understanding of the office-and shows why its recent occupants don't measure up."—American Interest Magazine
"Why do our elected monarchs continue both to inspire and disappoint us? Jeremi Suri answers that question with a brilliant account of what America's most important presidents accomplished and why they inevitably failed to live up to their promise. Written with grace and authority, his book is one of the wisest histories of U.S. politics I have read in years." —Michael Kazin, author of War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918
"The smart and engaging first half of the book tracks the rise of the presidency, beginning with its origins as a radical new idea.... From there Suri ably documents how the office grew."—Washington Post
"Suri's timely and largely persuasive book explores the ways in which the presidency, which began as a very limited department of a very small government, has sprawled into a hydra-headed behemoth that ultimately thwarts even presidents with strong qualifications for the job.... Suri makes a strong case for one more national conversation we need to have."—Dallas Morning News
"A superb introduction to the challenges of the American presidency. No other book shows more clearly the importance of studying the past in order to understand current predicaments. Jeremi Suri's work is first-rate history as well as a source of inspiration and hope."—Odd Arne Westad, winner of the Bancroft Prize and author of The Cold War: A World History
"At a time when American political institutions are in crisis and when quick assessments and soundbites often seem our best avenues of understanding, Jeremi Suri's deep and thoughtful historical perspective on the construction and destruction of the modern presidency is especially welcome.... A challenging and timely accounting, with interesting suggestions on how the presidency may be reimagined or reconfigured."—Steven Hahn, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830-1910