Drawing on twenty-four years of experience in government, Michael H. Armacost explores how the contours of the U.S. presidential election system influence the content and conduct of American foreign policy. He examines how the nomination battle impels candidates to express deference to the foreign policy DNA of their party and may force an incumbent to make wholesale policy adjustments to fend off an intra-party challenge for the nomination. He describes the way reelection campaigns can prod a chief executive to fix long-neglected problems, kick intractable policy dilemmas down the road, settle for modest course corrections, or scapegoat others for policies gone awry.
Armacost begins his book with the quest for the presidential nomination and then moves through the general election campaign, the ten-week transition period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, and the early months of a new administration. He notes that campaigns rarely illuminate the tough foreign policy choices that the leader of the nation must make, and he offers rare insight into the challenge of aligning the roles of an outgoing incumbent (who performs official duties despite ebbing power) and the incoming successor (who has no official role but possesses a fresh political mandate). He pays particular attention to the pressure for new presidents to act boldly abroad in the early months of his tenure, even before a national security team is in place, decision-making procedures are set, or policy priorities are firmly established. He concludes with an appraisal of the virtues and liabilities of the system, including suggestions for modestly adjusting some of its features while preserving its distinct character.
Books will be available to purchase at the event. Published by Columbia University Press.
David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus at Stanford University. He earned his Ph.D., Yale University, 1968, American Studies, M.A., Yale University, 1964, American Studies and B.A., Stanford University, 1963, History. Reflecting his interdisciplinary training in American Studies, which combined the fields of history, literature, and economics, Professor Kennedy's scholarship is notable for its integration of economic and cultural analysis with social and political history. His 1970 book, Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger, embraced the medical, legal, political, and religious dimensions of the subject and helped to pioneer the emerging field of women's history. Over Here: The First World War and American Society (1980) used the history of American involvement in World War I to analyze the American political system, economy, and culture in the early twentieth century. Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War (1999) recounts the history of the United States in the two great crises of the Great Depression and World War II.