This article was written three weeks before George W. Bush was inaugurated in 2001, and makes predictions for the nature of his administration given his character traits and how they match the character traits of past presidents. Greenstein makes some rather accurate predictions about how Bush’s personality has so far influenced the ups and downs of his time in office.
It has long been thought that personal qualities of a president affect the quality of leadership he provides, and the first quality Greenstein examines is George W. Bush’s ability to communicate effectively with the public. During the presidential campaign, Bush’s oratorical style was hit or miss. He would do well not to make the mistakes of his father and shut himself off from the media in terms of policy-making decisions. Bush would also give consistently good speeches if he employed speechwriters familiar with his particular mannerisms and plainspoken nature. So far, Bush has been enjoying popularity at least in terms of his public speaking goes by following this advice.
When comparing Bush’s organizational capacity, political skill, and policy vision, the former president Bush is compared to most heavily is Lyndon Johnson. Although Johnson was a details-oriented person, and Bush is not, they both did well by surrounding themselves with experts. The problem Bush needs to avoid is bullying his experts into agreeing for the sake of peace, which is how Lyndon Johnson sabotaged his presidency.
In terms of policy vision, both LBJ’s and Bush’s gubernatorial administration lacked long-term goals. Should Bush not develop a long-range plan, he could get himself sucked into another Vietnam. This is an especially alarming prediction given the mess of things in Iraq. On a positive note, both Johnson and Bush were exceptionally skilled politically and at making necessary contacts for ease of maneuvering later.
Because Bush lacks a strong cognitive style, he will need to rely on experts who are comfortable debating issues like Jack Kennedy did with great success when making difficult decisions.
The category of emotional intelligence is anyone’s call as of the time this article was published. Bush displayed poor emotional intelligence until the age of forty when he kicked his drug habit. After that, his governorship was not marked by noticeable highs or lows in terms of Bush’s emotions.
This article was originally published in PS, Political Science and Politics 34 no 1 (March 2001).