In the twelve years since the First Edition of this book was published, the office of the president has continued in its extraordinary fashion to reflect the nation's constantly changing assessment of its needs and priorities. This Second Edition, however, does more than simply fill in with inclusive essays on the presidencies of that period—those of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. It also presents the original essays freshly reviewed and vetted for accuracy and up-to-dateness, in almost every instance by the author. This task produced a good number of corrections and emendations. All of the bibliographies have been similarly reexamined and revised.
Taking into account the expanding public awareness of how White House business is conducted, we have included a comprehensive chapter on the influence that First Ladies have exerted on the presidencies. We have aimed, too, at making all the essays in the book more "personalized" by including portraits of each of the chief executives, and more useful by providing an appendix with a series of details on the presidents' lives and administrations which the user might care to know but which could not be allowed to clutter the main body of the text. Also included is a bibliography of the presidency, a unique guide to further exploration of the endlessly alluring subject of the nation's executive leadership. In a word, this book is now a work of reference that will still more fully serve alike the ordinary reader seeking enlightenment, the high school or college student preparing a paper, and the experienced researcher looking for answers to recondite questions.
In the very eye of almost every national and international issue, the White House is on duty twenty-four hours a day, as the American people sit in judgment on its every move. The role of the presidency in national life described in the introduction to the First Edition seems no less valid today. A tendency noted then has become even more pronounced: the office grows increasingly democratic with each passing year. By means of talk radio and talk television, its occupant has become as familiar to the electorate as a next–door neighbor. Official presidential documents signed with a "Jimmy" or sometimes a "Bill" show one of the ways the chief executives themselves have responded to the development. When the Clinton administration instituted E-mail in 1993 it did not anticipate that it would receive about 125,000 messages on the system in the first seven months alone. Whatever the effect of this latter-day intimacy on the once remote and august office, the ready accessibility of its occupant is opening a new era in the life of the White House. The outcome cannot be foretold. The Presidents: A Reference History, Second Edition, is a quasi-encyclopedic source for perceiving what the presidency has been until the present, and a template for gauging what it may become.
HENRY F. GRAFF
Columbia University, Febru a ry 1996