My Review of Robert W Merry’s President McKinley: The Art of Stealthy Leadership

Robert W Merry has done justice to the 25th President of the United States with his new work President McKinley: The Art of Stealthy Leadership (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

William McKinley, a Union Civil War veteran, US Congressman, and Ohio Govenor, is often ranked in the top 20 of Presidents, generally ahead of his predecessor Grover Cleveland, but in the shadow of his second Vice-President the energetic and highly regarded, Theodore Roosevelt, who assumed the Presidency on September 14 1901 following McKinley’s assassination.

Merry seeks to at least move Teddy Roosevelt’s shadow aside (if one could move TR’s shadow aside!) for a least several hundred pages and bring to light a President who oversaw (and perhaps was swallowed up by, at times) a United States emerging out of the Civil War/Reconstruction era and into the twentieth-century. This reviewer believes that he accomplishes that task and reveals a President who knew how to use executive power in ways that allowed him to accomplish his goals. And the book’s subtitle, The Art of Stealthy Leadership, reveals how McKinley does that – through a stealthy approach – in which personal influence and relationship account for a great deal.

In this approach, this reviewer believes that Merry does for McKinley’s presidency what Karl Rove did for McKinley the Presidential Candidate and Campaigner in his The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters. They reveal a man whose exterior, plain to some, dull to others, hid a methodical mind that allowing him to move the levers of power and influence to accomplish his task.

I liked this book because it is a wonderful introduction to the 25th President to a new generation of readers and students of history and politics. Merry is able to describe the complex issues and events over which McKinley governed in simple and clean prose. He is sympathetic to McKinley but points out his slow and deliberate way of working often got him in difficulties or forced him to act before he was perhaps ready to act.

I believe that this book will be a wonderful book for undergraduate and graduate programs in history and political science classe, book clubs, and like this reviewer, for those interested in Presidential biographies and autobiographies.

I gave this book a five star rating on Goodreads

Note: I received an electronic ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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