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Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton

April 28, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 90

In this book by David Gergen from 2000, Gergen offers more access to the White House than a former President of the United States could. David Gergen served in a total of six capacities for four presidents. This makes David Gergen the consummate insider to the beltway and the inner workings of presidential administrations.

The first part of the title of this book is an ironically modest choice of words. David Gergen is not just an eyewitness to power. He has the expertise on power that reflects having been powerful and having researched political power with the greatest dedication. This book shows the insight of a great scholar, not a mere eyewitness.

The title is also misleading to readers who just want to read the observations of an eyewitness of recent presidencies. This book has too much complexity for an eyewitness book. It is not for readers who just want to read about what it means to watch a handful of presidencies in action. "Eyewitness to Power" is a book that grades the effectiveness of past presidents, explains what leadership itself is, explains what creates an effective leader, and even gives limited analysis of past presidents' psychology. "Eyewitness to Power" is not just a book that records presidencies from a firsthand perspective. It is a timeless work that delivers great insight.

The insights of this book do not just come from the perspective of an insider. Gergen is also capable of delivering his commentary because he is one of America's top political scholars. "Eyewitness to Power" gives a level of insight that must come from a writer who sees the presidency and the presidents from a distance as well as from inside the White House. Gergen delivers an in-depth look at the American presidency and also dissects the presidency with an outsider's curiosity.

However, Gergen's dissection of presidents and their administrations is not done in a critical way. Anyone looking for analysis that harshly criticizes the presidencies will not find that refreshing perspective. Instead, the reader will find the most generous portrayals of presidents and presidencies that are still wise. Gergen has criticism of former presidents in his book, but he portrays each former president in a flattering light. He clearly loves and admires any President of the United States that he has known. This book comes from the perspective of a writer with bias from emotional attachment to presidents and his personal investment in the careers of presidents as a White House staffer.

David Gergen also seems a little starstruck by presidents and the status of the American presidency. He makes direct comparisons between each president and greater leaders in an overly flattering way. The most extreme example is when he compares Nixon to Mahatma Gandhi in a couple of instances. Another example is his close comparison between FDR and Reagan.

Gergen is still not too generous to presidents to be a great journalist. He is candid about their lower qualifications for the presidency. He expresses deep personal frustration over examples of poor decisions by presidents. He also delivers a completely nonpartisan view of presidents and their work.

In our mass media age, journalists tend to put the President of the United States on a pedestal and then readily humiliate important figures for catchy headlines. This book contrasts with the usual presidential coverage by humanizing presidents, exposing their flaws, and analyzing their qualifications with great detail.

Source: EzineArticles
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