leadership in the modern presidencyby fred i. greenstein

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  • Leadership in the Modern Presidency by Fred I. GreensteinReview by: Leo P. RibuffoThe American Historical Review, Vol. 95, No. 1 (Feb., 1990), pp. 287-288Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2163178 .Accessed: 28/06/2014 10:38

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  • United States 287

    understanding of the dynamic of urban and suburban growth.


    Franklin and Marshall College

    DOUGLAS L. SMITH. The New Deal in the Urban South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 1988. Pp. 287. $29.95.

    According to Douglas L. Smith, the impact of the Great Depression and the New Deal caused southern cities to become somewhat more like their northern counter- parts and like the modern metropolitan areas they would later become, yet that impact did not depose the reigning conservative ethos, regional values, and com- mercial-business elite that maintained traditional racial and socioeconomic patterns in the urban South of the 1930s. As such, Smith's book buttresses the scholarship of Blaine Brownell and David Goldfield, emphasizing the uniqueness of the South's cities in the twentieth century. And it augments the current prevailing inter- pretation that rejects both the view of the New Deal as a watershed that fundamentally changed the American system and the New Left argument that the so-called "Roosevelt Revolution" neither altered nor improved American life significantly.

    While never minimizing the shortcomings of the New Deal, Smith credits it with promoting municipal service activities and with advancing the principle of public welfare and an urban consciousness in the South. In his discussion of Atlanta, Birmingham, Mem- phis, and New Orleans, the four largest southeastern cities of the time, Smith demonstrates how the various federal assistance programs of the 1930s proved both the worth of welfare projects and the necessity for urban planning as well as for permanent local welfare institutions. Similarly, despite mighty forces arrayed against it, the New Deal housing effort provided jobs and shelter for many thousands in need, while it also stimulated local agencies to confront the problems of urban blight and poverty as public responsibilities. The growth of organized labor and of an increasingly militant civil rights movement, moreover, prodded the four cities to accept some changes in the traditional southern way of life. Gradually, such values as social order and fiscal parsimony grudgingly accommodated new concepts of community well-being.

    This book is hardly exciting or easy reading. It is bereft of a single vivid quotation or colorful character, and the abundance of data overwhelms the minimal effort at analysis and interpretation. Too often, Smith fails either to grapple with the meaning of the evidence he presents or to articulate the judgments he has reached. Yet, Smith's extensive and careful research in the records of New Deal agencies, the manuscripts of southern municipal leaders, and the relevant daily, labor, and black newspapers gives us a gold mine of vital information on the workings of the New Deal at the local level. His industriousness and careful objec-

    tivity make his book a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on southern cities. Perhaps it will stimulate other monographs that can match the excel- lent works on the New Deal and the agrarian South.


    University of New Hampshire

    FRED I. GREENSTEIN, EDITOR. Leadership in the Modern Presidency. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1988. Pp. 430. $29.95.

    In this uneven collection, nine authors discuss the presidents who have served since 1933. Five historians who have written notable books on U.S. presidents here reiterate or reconsider their earlier views. Al- though William E. Leuchtenburg remains impressed with Franklin D. Roosevelt's legislative leadership and shrewd use of the media, he concedes that Roosevelt may have contributed to what Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., calls the "imperial presidency." Alonzo L. Hamby writes that Harry S. Truman transcended provincial- ism and an erratic personality to lead a largely success- ful administration, marked especially by the "dazzling achievement" (p. 70) of bipartisan foreign policy. Still convinced that Dwight D. Eisenhower is insufficiently appreciated, Fred I. Greenstein presents Eisenhower's sensible reflections on the nature of leadership and demolishes the notion that he brought a "military" style to the White House. Chronicling the John F. Kennedy administration's underrated legislative record, ambiva- lent foreign policy, and strained alliance with the civil rights movement, Carl M. Brauer stresses that Ken- nedy himself was "inspirational in a way that few Presidents have been" (p. 109). After briefly showing that the Great Society offered "something for every- body" (p. 135), Larry Berman concentrates on Lyndon B. Johnson's conduct of the Vietnam War, concluding that Johnson's suspicion, hypersensitivity, and pen- chant for secrecy kept him from understanding the conflict he escalated.

    The two most interesting essays present synopses of larger works in progress. Joan Hoff-Wilson notes Ri- chard M. Nixon's fondness for acting boldly in real or imagined crises, adding that such behavior trans- formed Watergate from a "second-rate, second-story job into a first-rate constitutional crisis" (p. 168). Yet she deliberately slights both Nixon's personality and the Watergate scandal to concentrate on his efforts to reorganize and centralize government administration, social services, and foreign policy. Though properly skeptical of his foreign policy, she gives Nixon too much credit for extensions of the welfare state that occurred during his term. Erwin C. Hargrove rightly places Jimmy Carter in the southern Progressive, as opposed to Populist, tradition, sees his obsession with "comprehensive" solutions as a major strategic handi- cap, and acknowledges important similarities between the Carter and Ronald Reagan administrations. This attempt to move beyond prevailing cliches is admirable

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  • 288 Reviews of Books

    and generally successful. But Hargrove misinterprets the impact of Carter's "born again" religion, offers unduly generous assessments of his energy policy and the Camp David Accords, and takes at face value Carter's claim to stand above politics.

    The weakest essays deal with Gerald R. Ford and Reagan. After recounting the major decisions and internal squabbles of Ford's "healing" administration, Roger Porter concludes that the president used dif- ferent leadership styles on different occasions. Porter makes no further effort to appraise Ford's record, perhaps because he relies too much on self-serving memoirs and oral histories; apparently he examined none of the contemporary records now available at the Ford presidential library. Quoting extensively from interviews with White House speech writers, William K. Muir, Jr., analyzes Reagan's rhetoric instead of his policies. This approach might be productive if the analysis were less thin. According to Muir, Reagan used religious themes, revived the "traditional notion of evil" (p. 273), which he temporarily applied to the Soviet Union, and stressed national "teamwork." From the reverent explication here, we might mistake Rea- gan for an original theorist on a par with Herbert Hoover if not John C. Calhoun. Unfortunately, Muir does not seem to know, for example, that emphasis on national unity has been a rhetorical convention since the Progressive era and that Eisenhower and Nixon promoted "teamwork," too.

    In introductory and concluding essays, Greenstein tries hard to draw the articles together. Yet the book as a whole seems internally contradictory because, with the exception of Berman, the authors praise their respective presidents, presidents who would not neces- sarily have praised one another. For example, if read- ers hail Roosevelt, Truman, and Johnson for creating a welfare state in chapters 1, 2, and 5, how can they share the authors' enthusiasm for Eisenhower, Ford, and Reagan, who try to shrink the welfare state in chapters 3, 7, and 9? Moreover, although iconoclastic books on the presidency are scarce, Greenstein's selection of contributors so fond of their respective subjects makes this one unusually bland. We might have learned more if Greenstein had asked Leuchtenburg to write on Reagan (whom he has elsewhere compared to Roosevelt), asked Hamby to write on Ford (who com- pared himself to Truman


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