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Podcast

Why presidents fail

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Elaine Kamarck, senior fellow in Governance Studies and director of the Center for Effective Public Management, talks about why we need a managerial presidency, a central argument in her most recent book “Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again.”

“In all these cases, something was knowable about the failure, but that doesn’t mean that the failures could have been totally avoided,” Kamarck says. “The purpose of the book is to say, ‘How does the president reduce the probability of failure as opposed to eliminating it, which is of course impossible?’”

“The first thing to do is look at the government and say, ‘What’s going to blow up on us?’ What presidents learn only too late is that … even though you may have nothing to do with it, even though the problems may have started decades before under different presidents, you get the blame,” Kamarck suggests. “It’s all well and good to get a piece of legislation passed, to give a bunch of speeches about it. But if it blows up on you … none of your pretty words make a difference.”

Also in this podcast, Aaron Klein, fellow in Economic Studies and policy director of the Initiative on Business and Public Policy, discusses what inspires him in public policy and public service. Finally, Steve Hess looks back on his time in the Eisenhower White House.

Show Notes:

Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again

State of the Union: Obama’s complicated victory lap 

Mending the Affordable Care Act … and the democratic message

Lessons from the shutdown: Management matters, even for presidents 

Thanks to audio producer Mark Hoelscher and producer Vanessa Sauter, and also thanks for additional support from Jessica Pavone, Eric Abalahin, and Rebecca Viser.

Subscribe to the Brookings Cafeteria on iTunes, listen in all the usual places, and send feedback email to BCP@Brookings.edu.

 

 

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