November 4, 2009

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There are, perhaps, only a few jobs for which you truly cannot prepare, but just leap in and do.

One of those jobs has to be President of the United States. No matter how much you think you've learned--be it in the Senate like Barack Obama, or as the governor of a state, like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, or even as Vice President, like George HW Bush and Lyndon Johnson--the American presidency is a whole other animal. Often insulated and isolated from those who put you in office, the American president must juggle political, economic, foreign, security and partisan interests to lead the Executive Branch--and the free world--to the best of their abilities.

Obviously, some presidencies are more successful than others.

crawford_craig_13aa2.jpgAs journalists assigned to cover the White House, Craig Crawford of CQ Politics and Helen Thomas of the Hearst News Syndicate, together share decades of observing from the White House Press Room. They have watched and noted each success and each blunder. Helen Thomas has covered more presidents than any other present journalist, starting with JFK in 1960, but her career really began in 1945 during Roosevelt's administration. Craig Crawford, who actually interned as a college student in Jimmy Carter's press office, began covering presidential campaigns in 1988 with Ronald Reagan. So there's no shortage of presidential triumphs and stumbles between them, and it is that experience they have collated to create Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do, where they share the attributes of successful presidencies by looking at the choices made by predecessors: from Clinton's prickly and sometimes overly hostile handling of the press to JFK's deft deflectons with humor, from Johnson's brave stance on civil rights, knowing the political costs to him and his party to Reagan's Cold War fight, which alienated him with his conservative base when he began negotiating nuclear disarmament with Gorbachev.

Every presidency is marked with mistakes as the president navigates this unbelievably difficult and occasionally thankless job, but Helen and Craig have listed some basic principles which, if followed, should make any future president successful, such as finding trustworthy advisers, remembering they are not above the law, be honest, have the courage to do the hard thing and keep a clear vision.

I'm happy to have Craig Crawford here with us today to discuss his book, Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do. Please join us to chat on what makes for a successful American presidency.

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