Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency

Case Studies in Presidential Leadership, 2nd Edition

by Maxmillian Angerholzer III, James Kitfield, Norman Ornstein, and Stephen Skowronek, Editors


The presidency of Franklin Roosevelt marked the beginning of the modern U.S. presidency.

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Cover image for Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency

April 2016


Pages 451
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/Presidential Studies
  Politics, Law, and Government/U.S. Public Policy and Administration

Applying the lessons of presidential history, this anthology of case studies—written by leading political scientists, historians, and subject matter experts—delves into the many facets of the presidency and promotes a greater understanding of the presidency for policymakers, academics, students, and general readers alike.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history." One hundred and fifty years later, this statement remains true: the lessons of history are increasingly important at a time of political deadlock and growing skepticism of leadership among the American public. An established classic in its field, Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency underscores the importance of looking back to set an intelligent course for the future and promotes a better understanding of the U.S. presidency. This updated and revised second edition offers rare insights on presidential leadership since 2001 and adds considerable new information related to inter-term transitions.

The case studies in this single-volume work cover an unparalleled scope of "modern presidential history" and related topics, beginning with the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt and continuing to the presidency of Barack Obama. Examples of the events and subject matter of the case studies include the interstate transport system, the building of the social safety net, the civil rights movement, the space program, environmental protection, education reform, the IT revolution, energy policy, the budget, economic policy, foreign policy, national security, defense policy, and presidential scandals. Each case study highlights a historical lesson and is authored by a different political scientist, historian, or subject matter expert, offering readers a multidisciplinary examination of the presidency.


  • Provides a breadth of perspectives on the many facets of the president's role and powers from leading political scientists, historians, and subject-matter experts
  • Offers case studies that provide readers with an unparalleled scope of presidential history and topics
  • Includes a section devoted to an analysis of the first 100 days of each of these presidents
  • Promotes transformational leadership in the presidency
Author Info

Maxmillian Angerholzer III serves as president and CEO of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC). He is also a senior adviser and the corporate secretary of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, a philanthropic institution in Washington, DC, that awards grants primarily in science and technology policy, education, international relations, and security. Angerholzer has served as the Special Assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) and as an adviser to the CSIS Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy (AILA). He holds a bachelor of arts (magna cum laude) in political science from The University of the South and a master of arts from The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.

James Kitfield has written on defense, national security, and foreign policy issues for more than two decades. Currently a contributing editor at National Journal, he is a three-time winner of the Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense and a five-time winner of the Military Reporters and Editors Association and Medill School of Journalism's top prize for excellence in reporting, largely for his coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kitfield's many other awards include the Association of Former Intelligence Officers' Stewart Alsop Media Excellence Award, the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence, and the German Marshall Fund's Peter R. Weitz Prize. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kitfield is the author of two books: War and Destiny: How the Bush Revolution in Foreign and Military Affairs Redefined American Power and Prodigal Soldiers: How the Generation of Officers Born of Vietnam Revolutionized the American Style of War.

Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic. Named as one of 2012's Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, Ornstein led a working group that helped shape the campaign finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold. His many books include The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track and most recently, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, a New York Times bestseller. Ornstein's vast experience includes positions over the last two decades at USA Today, Roll Call, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, CBS News, and the Council of Foreign Relations.

Stephen Skowronek, PhD, is Pelatiah Perit Professor of Political and Social Science at Yale University. He has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and has held the chair in American civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His published work includes Building a New American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877–1920; The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton; The Search for American Political Development; and Presidential Leadership in Political Time: Reprise and Reappraisal. Skowronek's research concerns American national institutions and American political history. Among other activities, he was cofounder of the journal Studies in American Political Development, which he edited between 1986 and 2007, and he provided the episode structure and thematic content for the PBS miniseries The American President. Skowronek received his doctorate in political science from Cornell University.



"For this presidential election year, this book presents an illuminating and timely update."Library Journal


"Churchill once said that he who can see farther back can see farther ahead. And so it is with the modern presidency. The new president who takes office in January 2017—along with an accompanying team—will face a multitude of tough challenges. They will all see farther ahead by reading this valuable new book, Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency. Once again, the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress deserves a hearty salute."—David Gergen, former White House adviser to four U.S. presidents, codirector and professor of public service, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School

"Robert Penn Warren once observed that 'history cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.' This insightful CSPC anthology is testament to that—using engaging case studies from presidencies past to inform and inspire the policymakers of tomorrow."—Mack McLarty, former White House Chief of Staff, Counselor to the President, Special Envoy for the Americas under President Clinton, Chairman and Cofounder of McLarty Associates, and Chairman of McLarty Companies

"When facing crisis, our leaders can often forget the valuable lessons of history and the solutions they suggest. Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency is an important resource for both policymakers and citizens to better understand the highest office in the land, the men who have occupied it, and the presidency's role in Washington, at home, and abroad."—Thomas J. Ridge, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, former Governor of the State of Pennsylvania and Chairman of Ridge Global

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