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Presidential Power: Theories and Dilemmas, John P. Burke

Reviewed by Diane J. Heith



For students of the presidency, the roots and sources of presidential power are critical to understanding the office. Axiomatic since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s long tenure in office, the dilemmas and paradoxes for the modern president stem from the difficulties of relying on the limited design of the office with the burden of the weight of modern expectations.

In Presidential Power: Theories and Dilemmas, John P. Burke explores these fundamental principles and problems by summarizing and investigating the now-standard means for evaluating the president’s efforts to achieve an agenda. Burke’s effort is rather unique as it is not a comprehensive textbook per se but rather a treatise on presidential power. The focus for Burke is to explore what scholars, citizens, and presidents understand about power and leadership.

The key to the presidency is to appreciate the sources of presidential power and how those sources structure the use of power. Burke walks the reader through the core components of presidential power: individual skill, political context, constitutional components, and the public. On this walk, Burke also takes the reader on a tour of the watershed scholarship for each component. Consequently, Burke introduces, summarizes, and then questions the continued relevance of Richard Neustadt (the power of skill), Stephen Sk

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