The Crisis of Authority in American Government
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A trenchant analysis of the last eight years of American political history.

George W. Bush is usually either lauded as a courageous visionary or damned as an imperialistic ideologue. Rare is the voice that offers sober, balanced assessment, but Roberts (Public Administration/Syracuse Univ.; Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age, 2006, etc.) seems to have found it. Despite a title that suggests another left-wing screed, the book contextualizes the major claims and initiatives of the Bush administration in the light of recent American history. In today’s sprawling and complicated federal government, the author states, even the most far-reaching chief executive is hard-put to make his imprint on domestic and foreign policy. While conventional wisdom says that Bush broke with long-standing American policy by launching a preemptive war against Iraq, for example, Roberts argues that in fact America has been slowly approaching war in the region since halfway through the second Clinton administration, if not as far back as Bush I. To the frequent claim that Bush has expanded executive power in an “Imperial Presidency,” the author counters that the increasingly complex and bloated organism known as the federal government has diminished the presidency as at perhaps no other time in our history. Roberts is far from being an apologist for the administration, faulting it for incompetence, lack of foresight and failure to adapt to changing realities. But America’s problems are much greater than a single person or administration, he contends, which makes solutions that much harder to come by.

A work of rare insight that fills gaps glaringly evident in most public discourse. One minor complaint: The author spends too much time in this slender book rehashing events of the last decades and quoting from other books written about them.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8147-7606-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: New York Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2007