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

Gergen, David

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ISBN 10: 0743203224 / ISBN 13: 9780743203227
Published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000
Condition: Very good Hardcover
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About this Item

382, [2] pages. Notes. Index. Inscribed by author on fep. Pencil erasure residue on fep. David Richmond Gergen (born May 9, 1942) is an American political commentator and former presidential adviser who served during the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. He is currently a senior political analyst for CNN and a professor of public service and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. Gergen is also the former editor at large of U.S. News and World Report and a contributor to CNN and Parade Magazine. He has twice been a member of election coverage teams that won Peabody awards-in 1988 with MacNeil-Lehrer, and in 2008 with CNN. Gergen joined the Nixon White House in 1971, as a staff assistant on the speechwriting team, becoming director of speechwriting two years later. He served as director of communications for both Ford and Reagan, and as a senior adviser to Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher. As a commentator his admirers consider him an objective political voice because he has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. He has been awarded 25 honorary degrees. From a Kirkus review: Historic insider's insights into presidential qualities. Gergen directed communications for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, counseled Clinton, edited U.S. News & World Report, and is a significant TV pundit who teaches government at Duke and Harvard. He discusses the last several presidents' strengths and weaknesses without partisanship, and, he has some anecdotes to share. He offers seven prerequisites for success in the White House. The first is possession of a character that inspires trust. Gergen admits that Nixon was paranoid whereas Reagan, the Great Communicator, oozed sincerity. Moral vision comes next, followed by canny political skills. Clinton is highly rated for the ability to mobilize followers, while Reagan's friends did not feel as well used. Nixon and Clinton had experience with crises, but Gergen praises Ford for weathering the post-Watergate storm, and Reagan for enduring an assassination attempt and the air-traffic controllers' strike. As far as working with staff, the Nixon-Kissinger team is lauded the most highly. The last criterion involves a legacy, and accomplishments like détente and an economic boom make us wonder what other candidates might achieve. Bookseller Inventory # 74810

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Eyewitness to Power; The Essence of ...

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, New York

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Very good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very good

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: Seventh printing [stated].

About this title

Synopsis:

Leadership: The Ultimate Guide
Few Americans have observed the ups and downs of presidential leadership more closely over the past thirty years -- from Nixon to Clinton and Watergate to Whitewater -- than David Gergen. A White House adviser to four presidents, both Republican and Democrat, he offers a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of their struggles to exercise power and draws from them key lessons for leaders of the future. Taking us inside the administrations of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, Gergen reflects on everything from why Nixon was the best global strategist among recent presidents to how the Bill-and-Hillary seesaw rocked the White House during Clinton's tenure as president.
Gergen argues that, as the twenty-first century begins, our success as a country will depend heavily upon the success of a new generation in power. Drawing upon his many experiences in the White House, he offers seven vital elements for future leaders. What they must have, he says, are inner mastery; a central, compelling purpose rooted in moral values; a capacity to persuade; skills in working within the system; a fast start; a strong, effective team; and a passion that inspires others to keep the flame alive.

Review:

David Gergen is probably the only person to have served at high levels in both the Reagan and Clinton White Houses--not to mention his posts in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He's a consummate Washington insider, a man who appears regularly as a centrist political commentator on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and works as editor at large for U.S. News & World Report. Eyewitness to Power, his first book, draws upon this unique experience. It's part memoir, part political history, part portrait of White House culture, but it's mostly a meditation on what it takes to be a great political leader. Gergen focuses on the four presidents he has known best--Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton--and offers pointed assessments of each. He calls Reagan "the best leader in the White House since Franklin Roosevelt," and says Clinton "is one of the smartest men ever elected president and has done some of the dumbest things." Gergen does not hesitate to offer harsh criticism: Nixon was hateful, Ford was overwhelmed by his predecessor's scandals, Reagan was often detached, and Clinton was not in control of his appetites. Yet there's a reflective admiration for each man.

What makes this volume rise above the mountain of books on leadership (usually written for executives) is its spot-on observations about the way Washington works, drawn from years of experience: "Republicans like hierarchy and order; they're not like Democrats, as I saw later on, who thrive on chaos and creativity"; the Nixon view of Watergate "was the same as the Victorians had of adultery: the sin was not in the doing of it but in getting caught"; "In most institutions, the power of a leader grows over time. A CEO, a university president, the head of a union, acquire stature through the quality of their long-term performance. The presidency is just the opposite: power tends to evaporate quickly."

Gergen concludes by describing the seven leadership qualities a great president must have: personal integrity, a sense of mission, the ability to persuade, the ability to work with other politicians, a strong start after inauguration, skilled advisers, and the ability to inspire. Those traits, of course, will serve people well from all walks of life--and Eyewitness to Power will appeal not just to readers interested in the presidency but to anyone occupying a position of responsibility (or interested in getting there). --John J. Miller

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