Power and Prudence

The Presidency of George H. W. Bush

978-1-58544-291-1 Cloth
6.125 x 9.25. 200 pp.
Pub Date: 01/21/2004
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When George H. W. Bush took office in January 1989, he brought to the presidency an impressive resume. A former member of Congress, national party leader, CIA director, ambassador to China, and two-term vice president, he had the credentials and experience for a uniquely successful presidency. Less than four years later, the American electorate resoundingly proclaimed his administration a failure. Many pundits and scholars have echoed the voters’ judgement. In a considered and balanced reassessment, Mark J. Rozell and Ryan J. Barilleaux ask whether the public and the pundits have applied the wrong criteria of presidential evaluation.

Looking at the context in which Bush came into office, Rozell and Barilleaux argue that his strategy of incrementalism may indeed have been right for the times and the failure may have lain only in Bush’s inability to convince the public of that. Moreover, the authors disagree with the common wisdom that Bush pursued incrementalism only in domestic policy, arguing that it characterized his foreign policy as well.

Power and Prudence is a study in presidential evaluation. It represents a challenge to the conventional wisdom that has developed on the first Bush administration and presents an important reinterpretation of the leadership of a poorly-understood president. This thought-provoking analysis suggests that due to the circumstances of his presidency Bush may not have been in any position to articulate or achieve far-reaching policy objectives. These circumstances included the lack of an electoral mandate, Bush’s succession to a very popular and ideological leader, his inheritance of a daunting budget deficit, and the situation of divided government.

Interviews with members of Bush’s White House staff and recourse to the limited archival record thus far opened to scholars inform the authors’ interpretation of the Bush administration. A fascinating read into the workings of a contemporary presidency, Power and Prudence will appeal to presidential scholars as well as the politically-minded reader.

Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership

Published by Texas A&M University Press