The Exemplary Presidency

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition

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The American presidency has fascinated and confounded scholars for over two hundred years. Is the institution redefined by each new occupant, or is the presidency merely a cog in the constitutional machine created in 1787? Philip Abbott argues that the presidency can best be viewed as an "exemplary" institution from which occupants attempt to "read" and then shape political culture through the imaginative and selective adaptation of the thought, policies, and leadership styles of past leaders. He identifies four of the most powerful exemplars in American history - Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln - and tests his theory through an examination of the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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