White House Politics and the Environment: Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Author:Ostrander, Ian
Position:Book review

White House Politics and the Environment: Franklin D, Roosevelt to George W. Bush. By Byron W. Daynes and Glen Sussman. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010. 300 pp.

Presidents, with their power to influence the agenda, oversee implementation, and bargain with legislators or foreign leaders, are perhaps the single most powerful individual in the policy-making process. Given these powers, Daynes and Sussman seek to determine what impact "any one president" can have on an issue as complex and broad in scope as the environment (p. vii). This question is further motivated by the increasing importance of environmental issues in modern politics as well as the prominent role that past presidents have played in creating conservationist and environmental policy.

To investigate, the authors develop and apply systematic criteria for evaluating how the twelve modern presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush each chose to use the powers of their office with respect to the environment. Specifically, the authors introduce four broad categories of executive power upon which these twelve presidents are compared and contrasted: political communication, legislative leadership, administrative actions, and environmental diplomacy. Given such tools, a president's environmental success is defined as the creation of new protections, combined with the continued enforcement of existing provisions.

The substance of the book is organized into three parts where presidents are grouped according to whether their impact on the environment was positive, mixed, or negative. Each separate part consists of chronologically ordered evaluations of presidents within these respective groups, using the evaluative criteria discussed above. In this way, part one evaluates the "positive" presidents (Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Bil Clinton) while "mixed" (Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush) and "negative" (Ronald Reagan and G. W. Bush) presidents are evaluated in the second and third parts, respectively.

The book concludes with an analysis comparing all presidents over time within a "continuum of greenness" (p. 215). The authors also address several conclusions that follow from their full investigation. Most importantly, they find that presidents, as well as their key administration officials, do make a difference in shaping policy as either pro-r antienvironment. Other patterns that...

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