The Atlantic

The Presidency Is Too Big to Succeed

The problems of presidential gigantism can’t be solved by finding the right giant—the office is dying from its own undisciplined growth.
Source: Mary Altaffer / AP

The American presidency is broken, and everyone seems to know it. Many of its challenges are, by now, familiar. Presidents are bombarded by a 24-hour news media, populated by journalists looking to expose any appearance of negligence or wrong-doing. The range of crises—foreign and domestic—has expanded as the country has grown. And yes, presidents are more isolated than ever before.

But the country has long had a vicious media culture, a wide array of daily crises, and isolated leaders. Presidents including Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt all complained about these problems—and to greater or lesser extents, succeeded in spite of them. So why is the contemporary office doomed to failure? The fundamental problem is that the expectations surrounding presidential power have created an unending series of demands, at home and abroad. Presidents are simply trying to do too much in too many places.

In September, I published a history of the American presidency, and its rise and decline over two centuries. In April, John Dickerson published in the that recounted many of the same problems with

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