There is one thing that has haunted all of America's modern presidents: Americans' expectations of greatness in the man and the office. While it was impossible for the Framers of the Constitution to predict the circumstances that would make America the greatest and most consequential power on Earth, the Founders never intended this spotlight on the presidency. Venerating our past great presidents has always been safe, compelling, and inspiring. But when it also tempts us with the possibilities of their return, it may not be so benign. The End of Greatness offers a new way to appreciate and evaluate the presidency, a mode of understanding that gives conventional achievement ratings their place but ultimately makes the counterintuitive argument that, in expecting greatness, we have made goodness simply impossible. This book looks at the concept of greatness in presidents - the ways in which it is essential to a nation and the ways in which it has been detrimental. Miller argues that greatness in presidents is an overrated virtue, one that eclipses - and perhaps even thwarts - the real contributions of our presidents.
Aaron David Miller is vice president for New Initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. For two decades, he served as an adviser to Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, helping formulate US policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli peace process. His pieces on the presidency have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, and Foreign Policy, and he appears regularly on CNN, CNN International, NPR, Fox, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, and The Lehrer NewsHour, as well as BBC and Canadian Broadcasting.