Overreach: Leadership in the Obama Presidency

George C. Edwards III. Princeton Univ, $29.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-691-15368-1
Obama’s team entered office under the assumption that “the recession left public opinion malleable and highly responsive to bold leadership,” but this study of Obama’s efforts to achieve too much too quickly shows how wrong this belief was. Political scientist Edwards (The Strategic President), a presidency scholar at Texas A&M, points out that given the recession, Bush’s massive TARP program, and several industry bailouts, a risk averse public was wary of new governmental initiatives. Using the bruising and barely won battle over health care reform as a case study, he reveals that a plurality of the public never favored it while the president has had difficulty framing the debate against a welter of competing media voices. Edwards’s analysis is particularly strong on the collapse of bipartisanship in Congress, and he marshals an impressive amount of data on public opinion and congressional voting records. However, his overall thesis that presidents “are not in strong positions to create opportunities for legislative success” but must use existing opportunities, is not fully fleshed out. He also falls short by ending with a discussion of the 2011 debt ceiling showdown instead of potential ways for Obama’s administration to move forward. Despite such omissions, this remains a clear, well-documented study of the limits on presidential power and influence. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
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