The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President

Palgrave Macmillan. Oct. 2014. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9781137279002. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781137464460. POL SCI
"We can no longer have a truly great president," writes political commentator Miller, "we seldom need one, and…we may not want one, either." The United States has had just three great presidents, he argues—George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Each possessed the "three Cs" that to Miller define presidential greatness: they encountered a severely threatening crisis, possessed the character necessary for greatness, and had the capacity to turn crisis into transformative change for the nation. Other presidents showed "traces of greatness," most recently, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ronald Reagan, but none passes all of Miller's tests, and he predicts that no future president will, owing to polarized politics, unrealistic expectations, a fishbowl media environment, the complexity of today's problems, and the unlikelihood of another crisis as bleak as those faced by our three greats.
VERDICT The best part of Miller's book is his final chapter on President Barack Obama, in which he discusses unrealistic expectations. He would have been better served expanding that analysis into a long essay. Much of the rest of the volume is repetitive and not especially novel.
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