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George W. Bush in Political Time: The Janus Presidency

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Abstract:

This essay places George W. Bush's presidency and the Bush administration in some historical context by applying the model of “political time” developed in recent books by Stephen Skowronek (2008) and Keith Whittington (2007). My thesis is that Bush's political failure during his second term was largely the result of structural tensions created by the attacks of September 11, 2001, that no leader could have overcome. This argument is an extension of Skowronek's and Whittington's views that the executive branch's relationship to other governing institutions is shaped primarily by the president's relative position in the party system. In essence, 9/11 undermined the coalition forged by Ronald Reagan by pushing President George W. Bush to pursue radical change. These actions could not be squared with his need, as the leader of the majority party, to maintain electoral stability. A presidency divided against itself in this way cannot, and did not, stand.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-4469.2009.01153.x

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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