Cover

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Front matter

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

Tables and Figures

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p. ix

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

This is a book about getting and using advice. It examines the decisions of two American presidents and explains why they were able to learn more from Cabinet officials, staff experts, friends, and even opponents in some cases than in others. Taking on such a project, I naturally sought advice myself. I now owe a great debt to many people. From the beginning, the guidance and...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-9

It may be lonely at the top, but hardly ever so lonely that important decisions in government and business are made by only one person. Even presidents and prime ministers must rely on others. In fact, the most powerful leaders generally confront such a range of problems that they require assistance and advice more frequently than less prominent figures. Small wonder, then, that...

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2. Who Learns, and When?

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pp. 11-30

It is easy to think of moments in history when the fate of many hinged on the actions of a few. This does not mean that scholars would always be well-advised to concentrate their attention on the qualities of those few individuals. Apart from historical curiosity, investigating the character traits or decision-making abilities...

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3. Eisenhower and Reagan: Comparing Learning Styles

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pp. 31-59

“He was enormously popular during his eight years in the White House. In contrast to Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter, he not only entered but also left office riding high in the polls. Yet when he stepped down the experts who make it their business to observe presidents closely did not join in the public adulation.”1 The coy ambiguity of this description, written...

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4. Learning

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pp. 61-95

Learning is a common enough phenomenon. Not only people, but also animals and computers are capable of it. Even politicians occasionally learn although, as A. J. P. Taylor pointed out, they may well learn the wrong lessons from history.1 Military leaders are likewise criticized on occasion for having learned the lessons of the last war (and for being unprepared to fight the next...

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5. Groupthink

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pp. 97-124

Warnings against the dangers of groupthink are standard fare in schools of business and government. Excessive concurrence-seeking in policy-making groups has been offered as the chief explanation for poor decision making culminating in disasters ranging from Pearl Harbor and Watergate to the ill-fated Challenger...

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6. Deadlock

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pp. 125-150

Conventional wisdom has it that Ronald Reagan was poorly informed about many of the major issues of his day. This view was not only held by his political opponents but also encouraged by a spate of critical insider-accounts published by former associates. Accordingly, Reagan seems an obvious choice for a discussion of learning failures. Unlike the Eisenhower revisionists (and...

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7. Conclusion

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pp. 151-167

Five hundred years ago, Niccolò Machiavelli urged princes to pay close attention to their need for advice. Amid the exhortations for which he became famous—that rulers must be cunning, ruthless, and sometimes even cruel—Machiavelli also insists that kings and princes need help. Like modern presidents, however, princes face a dilemma. They must seek counsel, but they must...

Notes

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pp. 169-230

Bibliography

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pp. 231-256

Index

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pp. 257-265