A 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.
Mr. Suri explores the presidency by analyzing some of the country’s most consequential chief executives. What emerges from his account is a narrative of evolution, from George Washington’s 'fatherly mode of executive leadership' to FDR’s expansive 'superpower presidency' and beyond to our most recent leaders ... It’s an intriguing thesis—and a debatable one. True, a crisis of governance has chewed up some recent presidents, but is the problem the presidency or the presidents? Perhaps we simply haven’t found a chief executive, yet, who can handle the modern requirements of the office. Mr. Suri’s case is further marred by historically questionable pronouncements ... Yes, the country is only just muddling through these days, and maybe Mr. Suri’s thesis about a broken presidency explains much of the problem. History tells us, though, that America will surmount its current crisis through bold and imaginative leadership—or it won’t surmount it at all.
Jeremi Suri’s succinct and original volume, The Impossible Presidency, lacks the fortuitous timing of Schlesinger’s book ... Suri, a professor of history at the University of Texas, here studies a series of chief executives in a sporadically revisionist effort to trace what he considers to be the 'rise and fall of America’s highest office' ...argues that after reaching its apex with F.D.R., the presidency fell under a shadow that endures to this day because 'the continued increase in presidential power exceeded executive capacity' ... Sticking to the main theme of his book, Suri contends that the voters who had to choose a chief executive last November found the job 'too big, and ultimately too demanding'...hence decided that 'no one could master the modern presidency,' opting instead for 'a brash personality who rejected the entire history of the office, to blow it all up.'
Suri is long on diagnosis and short on cure, but he does have a few suggestions for rethinking and resizing the presidency, the most novel of which would add an elected "prime minister" to share the presidential burden. Imagine getting that constitutional amendment passed today. Still, Suri makes a strong case for one more national conversation we need to have.