When the Bush presidency began to collapse, pundits were quick to tell a tale of the "imperial presidency" gone awry, a story of secretive, power-hungry ideologues who guided an arrogant president down the road to ruin. But the inside story of the failures of the Bush administration is both much more complex and alarming, says leading policy analyst Alasdair Roberts. In the most comprehensive, balanced view of the Bush presidency to date, Roberts portrays a surprisingly weak president, hamstrung by bureaucratic, constitutional, cultural and economic barriers and strikingly unable to wield authority even within his own executive branch. The Collapse of Fortress Bush shows how the president fought-and lost-key battles with the defense and intelligence communities. From Homeland Security to Katrina, Bush could not coordinate agencies to meet domestic threats or disasters. Either the Bush administration refused to exercise authority, was thwarted in the attempt to exercise authority, or wielded authority but could not meet the test of legitimacy needed to enact their goals. Ultimately, the vaunted White House discipline gave way to public recriminations among key advisers.
Condemned for secretiveness, the Bush administration became one of the most closely scrutinized presidencies in the modern era. Roberts links the collapse of the Bush presidency to deeper currents in American politics and culture, especially a new militarism and the supremacy of the Reagan-era consensus on low taxes, limited government, and free markets. Only in this setting was it possible to have a "total war on terrorism" in which taxes were reduced, private consumption was encouraged, and businesses were lightly regulated. A balanced, incisive account by a skilled observer of U.S. government, The Collapse of Fortress Bush turns the spotlight from the powerful cabal that launched the war in Iraq to tell a much more disturbing story about American power and the failure of executive leadership.
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(5817mm x 3887mm x 25mm)
New York University Press
Publisher: New York University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
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. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Alasdair Roberts
Alasdair Roberts is Professor of Public Administration in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He is also a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Public Policy, University College, London. He received his Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Toronto. He is the author of Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age, winner of the 2007 Book Award from the American Society for Public Administration's Section on Public Administration Research, the 2007 Best Book Award of the Academy of Management's Public and Non-Profit Division, the International Political Science Association's 2007 Levine Book Prize, and the 2006 Louis Brownlow Book Award from the National Academy of Public Administration.