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Preparing to be President

The Memos of Richard E. Neustadt

By Charles O. Jones
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Shortly after the publication of Presidential Power—the most influential modern book on the Presidency—in 1960, then Senator John F. Kennedy asked author Richard E. Neustadt to write a series of memos to plan for the transition into office. Neustadt obliged the request and later prepared transition memos for Ronald Regan, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton. Preparing to Be President presents the previously unpublished memos of the man Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., calls “our most brilliant commentator on the Presidency” along with new essays by Neustadt and volume editor Charles O. Jones.

Neustadt’s historically important memos provide new information about the workings of several presidential campaigns and administrations. Neustadt addresses such questions as how to organize a transition team, how to staff the President-elect and then the White House, whether cabinet government has value, and what the roles of the Vice President and first lady should be.

In addition to the memos, Preparing to be President features substantial original scholarship by Neustadt. He reveals for the first time how he came to advise the various Presidents-elect and candidates and the thinking behind the recommendations he made in his memos. He also offers reflections on how the role of the transition adviser has changed over the years and what is relevant for transitions today. Jones contributes to the volume an analysis of the memos and a bibliographical essay looking at the relationship between the Neustadt memos and transisiton memos that others have written.

Preparing to be President provides interesting historical accounts and critical insights for anyone who wants to understand how a new administration takes shape—and what takes place between Election Day and the inaguration.

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