PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITIONS FROM EISENHOWER THROUGH REAGAN: Peril and Opportunity by Carl M. Brauer

PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITIONS FROM EISENHOWER THROUGH REAGAN: Peril and Opportunity

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A specialized work of political science dealing with the interregnum between presidencies and the first months of new incumbencies. Brauer (government/Harvard) covers five presidents from their elections to 6 to 12 months into their first terms. For reasons of relevance, he has chosen to examine only post-22nd Amendment, nuclear-era presidents who were taking over from a president of the opposing party, i.e., Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan. There are common difficulties that surface in each of these transitions--the scope of which includes, basically, personnel, policy, and organizations--such as problems caused by each incoming president's own background, the trap of overconfidence, misunderstandings between incoming and outgoing administrations, false expectations of the Cabinet system, and the problems of making the right appointments. What emerges--predictably--is a picture of each individual's strengths and weaknesses. Eisenhower profited by being above politics, but his inability to mobilize Congress behind his programs stemmed from his ""outsider"" status. The same problem also hurt Carter, who further aggravated the problem by bringing along with him a whole panoply of outsiders. Kennedy suffered from inexperience in executive affairs (witness the Bay of Pigs), while his newness lent an air of high hopes and promise to his administration. Reagan came in with a clear vision buttressed by his ideology, but that same vision often blinded him to political realities. Nixon suffered from overconfidence. The presidencies of these men, to Brauer, seem more motivated by their predecessors than inspired by any great ideal: ""In reaction to Truman, Eisenhower was too anti-political. In reaction to Eisenhower, Kennedy was too anti-organizational. In reaction to Nixon, Carter was too 'anti-imperial.' In reaction to Carter, Reagan was too ideological."" The best book on the subject since Laurin Henry's Presidential Transitions.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press