Monday, January 5, 2009

Presidential Leadership or Legacy of Ashes

Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House

Author: James Taranto

What makes a president great? Two of America's most prominent institutions, The Wall Street Journal and the Federalist Society, with the help of a wide array of eminent scholars, journalists, and political leaders, tackle this question in Presidential Leadership, the definitive ranking of our nation's chief executives.

Based on a survey conducted by the Federalist Society and the Journal, Presidential Leadership examines presidential performance in this collection of provocative, enlightening essays written by a distinguished and diverse group of authors.

The survey included seventy-eight liberal and conservative scholars, balancing the sample to reflect the political makeup of the U.S. population as a whole. It represents the first national survey in book form that provides a complete ranking of the presidents, along with an appendix that explains the methodology in detail and includes a wide range of valuable data. The result is an important, fresh, and engaging book, rating the presidents from Washington to Clinton and including an early assessment of George W. Bush's presidency by Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot. Nearly fifty contributors provide their insights, with one essay on each president or on a broader issue of presidential leadership.

Their compelling essays, packed with fascinating and often surprising insights, analyze the best and worst of our commanders in chief. Presidential Leadership is the lively result, at once a valuable reference and a tremendously readable collection.

Table of Contents:
FOREWORD: Presidents, Greatness, and History by William J. Bennett

INTRODUCTION: The Presidency, Federalist No. 10, and the Constitution by Steven G. Calabresi


The Presidents

1. George Washington (1789-97) by Richard Brookhiser

2. John Adams (1797-1801) by Matthew Spalding

3. Thomas Jefferson (1801-09) by Forrest McDonald

4. James Madison (1809-17) by Lynne Cheney

5. James Monroe (1817-25) by David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Mark Wendell DeLaquil

6. John Quincy Adams (1825-29) by Richard Norton Smith

7. Andrew Jackson (1829-37) by H. W. Brands

8. Martin Van Buren (1837-41) by John Steele Gordon

9. William Henry Harrison (1841) by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

10. John Tyler (1841-45) by John S. Baker, Jr.

11. James Knox Polk (1845-49) by Douglas G. Brinkley

12. Zachary Taylor (1849-50) by Brendan Miniter

13. Millard Fillmore (1850-53) by Melanie Kirkpatrick

14. Franklin Pierce (1853-57) by Cynthia Crossen

15. James Buchanan (1857-61) by Christopher Buckley

16. Abraham Lincoln (1861-65) by Jay Winik

17. Andrew Johnson (1865-69) by Jeffrey K. Tulis

18. Ulysses Simpson Grant (1869-77) by Michael Barone

19. Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1877-81) by Ari Hoogenboom

20. James Abram Garfield (1881) by Allan Peskin

21. Chester Alan Arthur (1881-85) by John J. DiIulio, Jr.

22. & 24. Stephen Grover Cleveland (1885-89, 1893-97) by Suzanne Garment

23. Benjamin Harrison (1889-93) by Jessica King

25. William McKinley (1897-1901) by Fred Barnes

26. TheodoreRoosevelt (1901-09) by John S. McCain

27. William Howard Taft (1909-13) by Theodore B. Olson

28. Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1913-21) by Max Boot

29. Warren Gamaliel Harding (1921-23) by Jeremy Rabkin

30. John Calvin Coolidge (1923-29) by John O. McGinnis

31. Herbert Clark Hoover (1929-33) by Robert H. Ferrell

32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-45) by Robert H. Bork

33. Harry S. Truman (1945-53) by Terry Eastland

34. Dwight David Eisenhower (1953-61) by Edwin Meese III

35. John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961-63) by Peggy Noonan

36. Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-69) by Robert Dallek

37. Richard Milhous Nixon (1969-74) by Kenneth W. Starr

38. Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (1974-77) by Thomas J. Bray

39. James Earl Carter, Jr. (1977-81) by Joshua Muravchik

40. Ronald Wilson Reagan (1981-89) by Harvey C. Mansfield

41. George Herbert Walker Bush (1989-93) by Pete du Pont

42. William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001) by Paul Johnson

43. George Walker Bush (2001-yyyy) by Paul A. Gigot

Issues in Presidential Leadership

Presidential Leadership in Economic Policy by Robert L. Bartley

Presidential Leadership During Wartime by Victor Davis Hanson

Presidential Leadership and the Judiciary by Robert P. George

Presidential Leadership After Disputed Elections by James Taranto


1. Methodology of Rankings by James Lindgren

2. Survey Participants

3. Election Data, 1789-2000



Read also American Architect from the Colonial Era to the Present or Managing Service Operations

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

Author: Tim Weiner

With shocking revelations that made headlines in papers across the country, Pulitzer-Prize-winner Tim Weiner gets at the truth behind the CIA and uncovers here why nearly every CIA Director has left the agency in worse shape than when he found it; and how these profound failures jeopardize our national security.

The Washington Post - David Wise

Weiner…cannot be accused of kicking the agency when it is down. It is his thesis, amply documented, that the CIA was never up. He paints a devastating portrait of an agency run, during the height of its power in the Cold War years, by Ivy League incompetents, "old Grotonians" who lied to presidents—an agency that, more often than not, failed to foresee major world events, violated human rights, spied on Americans, plotted assassinations of foreign leaders, and put so much of its energy and resources into bungled covert operations that it failed in its core mission of collecting and analyzing information…Legacy of Ashes succeeds as both journalism and history, and it is must reading for anyone interested in the CIA or American intelligence since World War II.

The New York Times Book Review - Evan Thomas

Tim Weiner's engrossing, comprehensive Legacy of Ashes is a litany of failure, from the C.I.A.'s early days, when hundreds of agents were dropped behind the Iron Curtain to be killed or doubled (almost without exception), to more recent humiliations, like George Tenet's now infamous "slam dunk" line…by using tens of thousands of declassified documents and on-the-record recollections of dozens of chagrined spymasters, Weiner paints what may be the most disturbing picture yet of C.I.A. ineptitude.

The New York Times - Michael Beschloss

Anyone tempted to write this book off as an anti-C.I.A. screed had better look at Mr. Weiner's sources. The author has impressively studied the archival record, teased out newly declassified primary documents and done numerous interviews to glean as much as can be publicly known about the agency's history. Some of the most damning criticism of the C.I.A.'s past performance in this book comes not from gadflies or ideologues but from ex-officials and long-secret authorized accounts by C.I.A. historians…The most notorious muckraking C.I.A. books of the 1970s aspired to shatter the agency and make sure Americans never tried to create one again. Mr. Weiner's goal is just the opposite. He hopes that his book will "serve as a warning," insisting that "this nation may not long endure as a great power unless it finds the eyes to see things as they are in the world."

Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize-winner Weiner combed through the history books and recently declassified records to offer up this fascinating, comprehensive and sometimes appalling history of the Central Intelligence Agency. Weiner documents everything from the agency's formation in the aftermath of WWII to its failure to prevent the events of September 11, 2001, and every misstep, blunder and international incident in between. For an important book like this one, it's important for an audiobook narrator to have a certain gravitas, and Rudnicki has plenty. His deep, resonant voice keeps the listener riveted and is ideally suited to the serious, historical-and often grim-subject matter. Rudnicki occasionally uses accents to add flavor to the text when reading quotations, but for the most part wisely eschews this practice and simply brings Weiner's words to life. Rudnicki is one of the best narrators in the business, and he's in top form here-Legacy of Ashesis one of the best audiobooks of the year. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Reviews, June 4). (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews

The CIA started off on the wrong foot in 1947 and never regained it, maintains Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Weiner (Blank Check, 1990, etc.). Presidents Truman and Eisenhower believed intelligence could prevent another Pearl Harbor by uncovering Soviet intentions, but the CIA never predicted an important Soviet or terrorist move, the author avers. The agency devotes most of its budget to covert operations, most of them bungled. Aided by an avalanche of documents declassified since 2000, Weiner offers a dismal litany of failed operations the agency did its best to cover up. Thousands of potential insurgents or saboteurs sent into Russia and its satellites, North Korea, China and Vietnam were quickly eliminated. Clumsy attempts to overthrow unfriendly (i.e. neutral) governments usually failed. Two widely praised successes-the 1953 Iranian coup that placed the Shah on the throne and the overthrow of a leftist Guatemalan government in 1954-are now considered mistakes. Suppressing news of the 1961 invasion at Cuba's Bay of Pigs was impossible, but even that disaster did not put an end to covert operations, because presidents valued them. Readers will wince at the CIA's involvement in plots to murder Fidel Castro, the brutal 1973 coup in Chile and massive spying on American protest groups. The Soviet collapse, unpredicted as usual, was a blow from which the agency has not recovered, states the author. The military has taken over much responsibility for covert action, with no greater success. Though highly critical of the CIA, Weiner makes two important mitigating points. First, democracies are not obligated to fight fire with fire: CIA money won more hearts and minds than pseudo-KGBruthlessness, and KGB debacles contributed mightily to the USSR's decline. Second, many presidents demanded bad intelligence. Chief executives either ignored or angrily demanded recasting of such good information as the reports that North Vietnam was nowhere near defeat, Soviet missile capacity was overrated and evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was feeble. Absorbing, appalling history.

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