In Presidential Leadership at the Crossroads: William Howard Taft and the Modern Presidency, Michael J. Korzi examines Taft’s presidency against the backdrop of early twentieth century politics, placing particular emphasis on Taft’s theory of presidential leadership. Though Taft’s legacy is often overshadowed by those of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, his predecessor and successor, respectively, Taft’s model of presidential leadership was complex and nuanced, forged in a time of changing expectations, at the crossroads between traditional and modern views of what the role of a president should be. This focus on Taft’s leadership adds new dimension to our understandings of the Progressive era and presidential leadership in general.
Ultimately, Taft’s leadership represented a middle-ground position, one that faced serious challenges from both conservative as well as radical forces, particularly the latter. While embodying some features of the modern presidency, Taft’s model also represented a partial challenge to, and critique of, modern presidential leadership. Korzi reveals that Taft was considerably more modern in his leadership aspirations than previously thought and that his shift to traditionalism, or conservativism, only emerged with the threat of a third Roosevelt term on the horizon.
Presidential Leadership at the Crossroads makes an important contribution to our understanding of presidents and their leadership. Taft’s model is particularly relevant today, given the prominence of the modern presidency and its values and expectations. Taft’s moderate, middle-way position provides a foundation for critiquing the excesses of the modern presidency, while offering a vision for strong, if disciplined, presidential leadership.
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Published by Texas A&M University Press