Political scientist Lara Brown’s new book, Amateur Hour, is a complex and important multi-method study of the presidency, starting from the original conception of the office at the constitutional convention and George Washington’s role as the first occupant of the office. The centerpiece of Amateur Hour: Presidential Character and the Question of Leadership (Routledge, 2020) is the focus on our understanding—from the time of Washington, through Lincoln, to the contemporary period—of the role that character should play, but often has not, of late, in terms of the person elected to the White House and how they conduct themselves in the office and as a leader. Brown’s analysis interrogates the scholarship around the concept of presidential psychology and leadership, while unpacking the connections between leadership in this complicated elected office and how we have, more recently, elected presidents who are often lacking in experience, and why this is problematic.Amateur Hour integrates historical analysis of American political development alongside contemporary methodological tools developed to assess leadership qualities. Brown brings a deep knowledge of the presidency to the evaluation of our contemporary presidents, those elected post-Watergate, and compels the reader to consider the interaction of character, leadership, and the demands of the office on each of the individuals who has been elected to the presidency since 1976. Amateur Hour joins a growing stable of recent books that focus on the American presidency and those who have been elected to the office, with attention to some of the weaknesses we have come to observe in the constitutional structure and functioning of the Executive Branch.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI.