Renowned presidential scholar Stephen Wayne takes a close look at the interplay of personal character, partisan politics, and public opinion on presidential decision-making. In this systematic character study, Wayne considers how President Obama’s policy beliefs and operating style fueled his meteoric success as a candidate, but have had a decidedly mixed impact on his governance as president. Arguing that character matters, Wayne shows that Obama’s personal dimensions both contribute and detract from his policy achievements and political goals.
Taking into account the environment in which he took office up through the “shellacking” of the Democrats in November 2010, the book looks at how Obama has dealt with the troubled economy and a polarized political climate. Wayne sets his study within the larger literature on presidential character and explores the broader questions surrounding presidential leadership in a democratic society: Do presidents lead or follow public opinion? To what extent do leadership skills make a difference? What kind of policy and political impact can presidents have in the twenty-first century?