The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2007, 5th Edition

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CQ Press, 2008 - History - 530 pages
Now in a new fifth edition, The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2007&BAD:mdash;winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for History, Politics, and Philosophy&BAD:mdash;examines both the constitutional precepts of the presidency and the social, economic, political, and international conditions that continue to shape it. Authors Sidney Milkis and Michael Nelson analyze the origins of the modern presidency and discuss the patterns of presidential conduct that developed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and continue into the twenty-first. With careful consideration of every presidential administration, attention is focused more on how individual presidents shaped the institution, and less on the idiosyncrasies of their personalities. Unlike other texts on the presidency that divide executive politics into discrete topical chapters, The American Presidency integrates all aspects of the presidency into a dynamic whole and examines the variation of presidential relationships and roles from administration to administration. Students gain both an understanding of the office as it really exists and a solid historical foundation from which to better appreciate its evolution.Thoroughly updated, the fifth edition provides complete coverage of the George W. Bush administration, up to and including the 2004 and 2006 elections. The authors meticulously take into account new research on the presidency, while continuing to refine the writing and analysis of what has become a classic in the field.

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The American Presidency is a vast repository historical fact on the beginning of the thought of how an American President would and could govern a new democracy. That’s what the Federalist papers we so important to American Society because of their input into shaping the Constitution after the utter failure of the Articles of Federation. The book takes you thru the creation of the Federalist papers and how they influenced the Convention to create not only a Unitary Executive (pg 28) but a Vice President who had other functions than as a stop gap for a disabled President or as we later found out to include assassinated presidents to presidents who die from extreme gastritis. The Vice President had one other very important function other than succession and that was as the head of the Senate (pg. 55). The Federalist according to the book are stanch defenders of the Presidency (pg 59) but the Federalist papers seemed to me to be more about self reliance and government than a complete blueprint of a Unitary Executive.
The contents of the book were more than enjoyable to read; the content was succinct and chronologically accurate. The information was welled researched example I have often wondered how George Washington came to be President, what happened as he rode thru the states to become our nation’s first President (pg 68-70). I imagine the admiration and pride the thousands of American who lined the roads and cities that George Washington traveled on his way to New York to swear in as the United States first president. Without the Federalist papers 73-74 there might have not have been a President who was born in America maybe we would have had a royal from Prussia or Norway, this was not uncommon according to the book. Americans would have found it acceptable being use to Kings being imported from other countries as most European countries practiced this form of governance.
The four hundred or more pages of Presidential history is full of facts that few discuss such as Jefferson’s war with the Judiciary as he sought to expand the power of the President and curtail the power of Judicial review(pg 101). Jackson was even more expansive in his search for Unitary Power. All in all my reaction to the book was more than positive I plan on citing this book to teach and to use to further my research of the Unitary Executive.
To conclude this reaction paper I found this information contained in this book well organized and presented in a fashion that was designed to inform the reader. The book covers issues and ideology such as conservative republicanism to the consolidation of the powers of the President in modern times. I myself have done research on divided government such as what happened after the election of 1968 and again during the first term of the Bush presidency. Finally I conclude with an analogy the American Presidency is an ever changing institution that has no firm hand to guide it as in the Constitution take care clause leaves plenty of leeway for the president to serve the American public.



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About the author (2008)

Sidney M. Milkis is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Politics and Assistant Director of Academic Programs at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. He has a B.A. from Muhlenberg College and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania. His books include: The President and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System Since the New Deal (1993); Political Parties and Constitutional Government: Remaking American Democracy (1999); Presidential Greatness (2000), co-authored with Marc Landy; and The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2007, 5th edition (2003), co-authored with Michael Nelson. He is co-editor with Jerome Mileur of three volumes on twentieth-century political reform: Progressivism and the New Democracy (1999); The New Deal and the Triumph of Liberalism (2002); and The Great Society and the High Tide of Liberalism (2005). During the 2005-2006 academic year, he served as the president of the American Political Science Association's Politics and History Section.

Nelson is a professor of Political Science at Rhodes College.

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