Tough Times for the President: Political Adversity and the Sources of Executive Power

by Ryan J. Barilleaux and Jewerl Maxwell


“A fascinating, challenging, and important book. It looks at presidents in trouble, and the authors rightly claim that presidents are in trouble more often than they are in good times. … Barilleaux and Maxwell examine how presidents respond to tough times and what strategies they might employ to govern under such difficult and common circumstances. … Barilleaux and Maxwell have given presidency scholars much to chew on. … given the frequency of tough times, it behooves a president to explore the alternative approaches to governing outlined in this book.” – Presidential Studies Quarterly

“This is the perfect book for our times. Enough hero worship and media pandering about mere mortals in the White House. The Framers of our Constitution understood how virtue, or character, was shaped by political adversity. Given that most presidents suffer more adversity than greatness, these richly detailed case studies of nine modern presidents since Truman argue forcefully that adversity can become an opportunity for leadership through ‘situational leverage’ if—but only if—unilateral presidential power is employed rather than the mythical power to persuade as devotees of Richard Neustadt maintain. Tough Times for the President is absolutely essential reading not only for presidency scholars but anyone intrigued by the exercise of presidential power.” – Raymond Tatalovich, Professor of Political Science, Loyola University Chicago

“For modern presidents, non-action is not an option. Barilleaux and Maxwell demonstrate how presidents experiencing tough times react and innovate in order to stay relevant in the making of public policy. The authors' concept of ‘situational leverage’ adds much to the literature on presidential power by helping us to stop treating all presidents as equal and all situations as amenable to the same tactics and strategies. Tough Times for the Presidentgoes far in correcting the record in our understanding of presidential power by showing how much is thought of as the ‘Modern Presidency’ has been built by presidents attempting to govern from a position of weakness. This book will be a valuable addition to our literature on executive leadership.” – Gary L. Gregg, Mitch McConnell Chair in Leadership, University of Louisville

“I found myself actually eager to turn the page, which doesn't happen often in academic books. The authors write exceedingly well. The military studies past mistakes in presidential decision making as guides for military action, but political scientists don't often focus on the mistakes that presidents make. Tough Times for the President thus fills a gap by providing very clear case studies of how past presidential actions should be used as guides in future cases. The authors also provide an excellent analysis of why Neustadt's application of presidential power is currently acceptable: prerogative power. A well-done study!" – Shirley Anne Warshaw, Harold G. Evans Chair of Eisenhower Leadership Studies, Gettysburg College


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