Share this

Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America’s Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership, Kenneth T. Walsh

Reviewed by Mark Nevin



More than 40 years ago, George Reedy, a veteran reporter and former Lyndon B. Johnson press secretary, argued in The Twilight of the Presidency that the growing power and isolation of the modern presidency had rendered presidents deaf to any sources of public opinion beyond the White House and, as a result, had made it impossible for them to govern effectively or democratically.

Kenneth Walsh, a longtime White House correspondent, readily acknowl­edges that the White House can be, in Harry Truman’s words, a “nice prison” (p. 97) and is aware of the dangers of presidential isolation. In fact, he argues that the isolation has only gotten worse over the last four decades. Unlike Reedy, however, Walsh contends that some “prisoners of the White House” have managed to scale the White House walls and stay connected to the people.

Walsh identifies “four fundamental ways in which today’s presidents keep in touch” (p. 12)—intuition, polls, the press, and Congress—and then evaluates various presidents from Franklin Roosevelt through Barack Obama based on their success in using these tools to break out of the White House prison. According to Walsh, four modern presidents, Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and

To continue reading, see options above.

About PSQ's Editor

Demetrios James Caraley

Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.

Editor’s spotlight

North Korea and the West

The Debate over North Korea


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

New APS Book

Continuing Issues in U.S. National Security Policy   CONTINUING ISSUES IN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS