Fred Greenstein, 88, Dies; Political ‘Psychologist’ Assessed Presidents

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Fred Greenstein

Fred Greenstein, a pre-eminent scholar of political psychology who devised a systematic approach to evaluating the leadership styles of American presidents and who helped breathe new life into the reputation of Dwight D. Eisenhower, died on Dec. 3 at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 88.

His wife, Barbara Greenstein, said the cause was complications of a form of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Greenstein, who taught politics at Princeton University for nearly three decades, first made his mark with a reconsideration of Eisenhower, who was long perceived as disengaged from the job. Dr. Greenstein’s book, “The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader” (1982), upended that view. It showed the genial golf-playing president to be a man of action behind the scenes, “the Clark Kent of the American presidency.”

While writing that book, Dr. Greenstein was absorbed by a longer-term project that would enable him, over time, to evaluate 30 of the nation’s presidents on the basis of their effectiveness as leaders, rather than by their policies or accomplishments.

He devised a checklist of six qualities by which to evaluate success or failure in the Oval Office: public communication; organizational capacity; political skill; vision; cognitive style; and emotional intelligence. ...

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