3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Good insight and opinion, however there are certain things brushed over,
This review is from: American Caesars: Lives of the US Presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush (Paperback)
I found American Caesars a really good book, a fascinating and often opionated view of the Imperial presidency. It's not a bad thing that the author has these views, especially since he puts the truth above it and isn't dogmatic about it, yet there are times where he simply glosses over some inconvenient truths. Hiroshima and Nagasaki merit very little in the Truman chapter, something pivotal to that presidency, and the coups organised and greenlighted by Eisenhower aren't mentioned in any real detail, surely something noteworthy in dealing with the 'imperial' presidency (He does in all fairness mention the coups in Guatemala and Iran, but only in a single sentence. Eisenhower may have been a good leader to the U.S., but given these acts he was a terrrible leader to the these two countries which he so harmed) FDR's chapter is dominated almost exclusivley by the second world war, which reads more like a general history of the war rather than the U.S.'s involvement (this wouldn't be a problem had there not already been such a wide range of books on WWII), and his new deal and other acts are only dealt with in minor detail despite the war only covering half of his presidency, albeit his most memorable part. His chapters on the JFK, LBJ and Nixon were extremely good and the best overall in the book, revealing much I didn't know about these presidents and the America's involvement in Vietnam. The latter half of book is much in the same light, and enjoyable.
In each of the chapters a valuable lesson leadership is presented and one gets the feeling that the author was trying to act in the manner similar to Roman histories such as Suetonius' 'twelve caesars' which the book's structure is based on. For American Caesars is not just a general summer history book, but also an exploration into leadership and gloabl politics. FDR comes across as the ideal political leader, just and fair, but also effective as a leader. Truman, Eisenhower and JFK also come across in the same way and the author presents the time of these four presidents as being America's golden age of leadership. LBJ is shown as a tragic figure who is forced into commiting troops into Vietnam in order to beat the right wing Hawk Barry Goldwater, and thus becomes one of the most reviled U.S. presidents. The presidency of Nixon is shown as being a Shakespearean tragedy, with a shadowy and paranoid leader acting in a horrid manner. Ford and Carter are shown as being moral and well intended men, yet the former as being too simple and the latter to ineffective and more humanitarian than emperor. Reagan comes across as the opposite of Carter, a hawk popular with the population and one who is a poor human being, yet a formidable leader. His succesor Bush snr. comes across as being a compromising figure, putting aside his dislike for various racists and extremely right wingers in order to gain support. Clinton is shown as being an effective, intelligent and good leader, yet a narcassistic, manipulative and immoral. And then comes Bush, the idiot controlled by his much more experienced vulcans. Along the way he also deals with the roles of first ladies, generals and advisors, who often exert a large role behind the scene.
Overall 'American Caesars' was a good general read in history with valuable insights and commentary on leadership and gloabl politics.