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Posted : 2012-03-09 16:40
Updated : 2012-03-09 16:40

Dissecting the presidential mind


U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the Daimler Trucks North America Mount Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant in Mount Holly, N.C., Wednesday. “Presidential Leadership: 15 Decisions That Changed the Nation” covers some of the biggest decisions by presidents in U.S. history, starting with Thomas Jefferson and concluding with Obama. / AP-Yonhap

By Do Je-hae

Just what drove Harry Truman to fire Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War (1950-1953)? Why did John F. Kennedy challenge America to reach for the moon?

The Korean version of “Presidential Leadership: 15 Decisions That Changed the Nation” has just been published, giving readers a glimpse into the thought process behind some of these biggest decisions by presidents in American history, starting with Thomas Jefferson and concluding with Barack Obama.

Year of politics

The publication of the Korean translation is timely, ahead of two upcoming elections. At the forefront of the voters’ mind will be that the decisions their new leader make will be crucial in shaping the future course of the country.

Koreans will choose new members of the National Assembly in April and a successor to President Lee Myung-bak in December in this all-important year of major elections.

Naturally, publishers have been making full use of the “year of politics” with a host of new books on political leadership.
Through his book, political columnist Nick Ragone introduces local readers to 15 major presidential decisions — including Truman dropping the nuclear bomb; Nixon going to China; Jefferson purchasing the Louisiana Territory — that changed the course of the United States since the early 1800s.

Ragone dissects the 15 decisions in presidential history and provides a sharp analysis of their impact on the U.S. Each chapter concisely summarizes a challenge, like the fall of Communism, and the context in which the decision was made.
With a prologue that assesses President Obama’s first year in office and reviews his major decisions, this book will appeal to history buffs in particular, as well as devotees of politics, students and anyone interested in decision-making at the highest and most influential level.

There are some lessons that Korean politicians should pay attention to when making long-term policy decisions.

Conviction, persistence

What are the factors that go into making a great presidential decision? The author puts it this way.

“The line between presidential success and failure has always been a fine one. It’s a bit of a mystery why some decisions take hold while others do not. To reduce presidential achievement to a few axioms would be shortsighted and difficult; there are simply too many variables that factor into the equation. That being the case, there are two traits that seem to stand out the most: conviction and persistence,” Ragone wrote.

“Decisions born of either, or both, tend to stand the best chance at creating policies that shape the long-term trajectory of the nation, and typically come to define the narrative of their presidency.”

The writer is a seasoned political columnist and author of several books, including “The Everything American Government Book,” “Essential American Government” and “President’s Most Wanted: The Top Ten Book of Extraordinary Executives, Colorful Campaigns, and White House Oddities.” He has written on recent presidential history and current events for USNewsWorldReport.com and has also appeared on The CBS Early Show, CNBC, ABC News, and Wall Street Journal TV. He is a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network.

Since its publication in 2011, the book has received positive reviews.

“Ragone deftly mines pivotal moments in American history as he takes us through this clear-eyed and intelligent exploration of presidential deliberation. The result is an engaging look at the workings of the presidency, and, more broadly, the very process of high-stakes decision-making” said Peter S. Goodman, business editor of the Huffington Post.

Who do you regard as the greatest U.S. president?

Ronald Reagan - 19%
Abraham Lincoln - 14%
Bill Clinton - 13%
John F. Kennedy - 11%
George Washington -10%


Source: Gallup Poll released Feb. 21, 2011

Members of the Reagan administration applaud during the dedication of the President Ronald Reagan commemorative postage stamp in this 2005 file photo. The 40th U.S. president devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War.

/ Korea Times file

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