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By Tevi Troy, The Corner, The National Review, 8-3-09

Lest anyone think complaints about President Obama honoring Mary Robinson with a Medal of Freedom are just a conservative thing, I point out this piece by Gil Troy (yes relation) on the Jerusalem Post website. Gil is my brother, but does not share my political inclinations. He is also a respected academic historian, a self-described “muscular moderate” who wrote a book called Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents, and is affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center. His regular column is even titled “Center Field.”

Gil’s piece lays out the case against Robinson in a clear, concise, and, yes, centrist fashion. As Gil puts it, “At a time when Barack Obama should be honoring Winston Churchills in the fight against anti-Semitism, he has chosen a Neville Chamberlain.” Read the piece to see why the White House really dropped the ball on this one.

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Gil Troy “The First 100 Days: George Washington Set the Standard for All Future Presidents”

U.S. News & World Report, 2-19-09

Adds historian Gil Troy in Leading From the Center: “Washington was a muscular moderate, far shrewder than many acknowledged. Emotionally disciplined, philosophically faithful to an enlightened, democratic ’empire’ of reason, Washington passionately advocated political moderation. Acknowledging his own shortcomings as a human being, he tolerated and welcomed others’ views. He realized that others might reasonably reach different conclusions about important issues. Washington’s idea of democratic politics was to seek common ground and blaze a centrist trail.”

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Leading from the Center

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Leading from the Center (Kindle Edition)

by Gil Troy (Author)

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Events: A night with author Gil Troy  

Direct download: Gil_Troy_book_party_remarks.mp4

Where

The Source
575 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC  20001

When

Sep 16    6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Attendance limited to 50.

Downloads:

Direct download: Gil_Troy_book_party_remarks.mp4
Podcast

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University in Montreal and a Visiting Scholar affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

His book Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents was published this June by Basic Books. In the spring, the University Press of Kansas released the paperback edition of his book Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady, having been published in hard cover in 2006. Troy is the author of Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s, published in 2005 by Princeton University Press and released in paperback in 2007. It has been called a “masterly study of Ronald Reagan’s presidency – the best single book we have on his administration to date.” His two other works in American history were Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons (2000) – first
published by The Free Press as Affairs of State: The Rise and Rejection of the Presidential Couple Since World War II and See How They Ran: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate, originally published by the Free Press in 1991, then released in an updated paperback edition by Harvard University Press in 1997.

Troy is also the author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. The book has been hailed as a “must read,” and the most persuasive presentation of the Zionist case “in decades.” It has been released in a third expanded and updated edition, having sold over 15,000 copies.

Troy is a native of Queens, New York. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. After receiving his Ph. D in History in 1988, he taught History and Literature at Harvard for two years. In September 1990, Troy became an assistant professor of history at McGill University. In 1995, Troy was promoted to Associate Professor and granted tenure. From 1997 to 1998 he served as chairman of McGill’s history department. In March, 1999 he was promoted to Full Professor. Maclean’s magazine has repeatedly labeled him one of McGill’s “Popular Profs” and the History News Network designated him one of its first 12 “Top Young Historians”. He can be reached via email at gtroy@videotron.ca 

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Reviewed by Hubert Bauch, The Montreal Gazette, September 28, 2008

Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents

Gil Troy

Basic Books

341 pp., $29.50

– – – –

It’s a pity that this book had to go to press before the tickets for this year’s U.S. presidential election shaped up. It is nevertheless timely, coming as it does at the start of the sprint stage of the marathon that is a U.S. presidential race, which essentially begins the day after the last one ends.

Gil Troy’s review of past presidencies is an instructive guide to rating this year’s contenders. His thesis is that the most successful presidents have practised constructive moderation by embracing and defining the political centre of their times, rejecting extremism of the left and right, but at the same time seeking to reconcile conflicting currents of thought with enlightened compromise.

Going for the centre may sound like a no-brainer. It is the hoariest of political wisdom that the leader who best positions himself at the political centre that encompasses the broad majority of voters will be blessed with success. But as the Queens-born Troy, who now teaches history at McGill University, expounds in Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents, that’s easier said than done.

“It is a high-wire balancing act,” he writes. “Leaning too far in any one direction or holding on too tight to heavy baggage risks a steep fall, often with no safety net.

“Vigorous responses have to be rationally based. Shrill debates obscure real dangers and risk hysterical overreactions.”

The successful practitioner must be a visionary, but cautious in the application of vision, able to compromise without abdicating principle, capable of firing the public imagination while respecting the bounds of realism. It takes not just moderates, as Troy puts it, but muscular moderates; not just centrists, but passionate centrists.

The governing idea is to think creatively, cultivate broad alliances and “push voters just enough so they move forward without losing their balance.”

Those who have masterfully succeeded at this in Troy’s book include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Teddy and Franklin Delano and, most lately, Ronald Reagan.

Prominent among those he counts as falling short on one essential count or the other include Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

He suggests Washington, with his power of personality, modesty of manner and diligent striving for common cause in forging a nation from a gaggle of disparate colonies, set a lasting tone for American democracy at its best, when it works in a spirit of civility and centrism.

Troy makes the point that the centre path is by no means the easy way.

His successful centrists tend to have in common that they catch flack from both sides of the ideological divide between left and right, including from their own partisans. Lincoln was reviled by both slavers and abolitionists for his incremental approach to emancipation, initially willing to allow some slavery in the interest of preserving the union; in his day, FDR was denounced as a stooge for both commies and capitalists.

Clinton gets marked down as a failure even though Troy hails him as a “political virtuoso” and an instinctive centrist. He gets written off for being bigger on talk than action, reluctant to stake his popularity on risky endeavours. The conclusion is drawn that “presidents who love to be loved too much fail to accomplish much.”

Bush II fails the moderation grade for the opposite reason. Where Clinton’s moderation lacked muscle, Bush came on with an excess of muscle and a dearth of moderation, content to be president of half the country and damn the rest.

This is a scholarly book, but most accessible to anyone with a serious interest in politics. It offers a sprightly tour of U.S. presidential history liberally sprinkled with bon mots and eloquently expressed insights, both Troy’s and those he quotes.

Another pity is that the book is entirely devoted to U.S. politics. It would have been interesting to get a take on how his thesis applies to Canada, and why the U.S. political centre is so markedly skewed to the right of where it lies in Canada.

But then, that could make for a whole other book.

Hubert Bauch is The Montreal Gazette’s senior political writer.

© The Edmonton Journal 2008

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Muscular moderates; Gil Troy: Centrists make best Presidents

HUBERT BAUCH, The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, Sptember 13, 2008, WEEKEND: BOOKS; Pg. I6

Leading from the Center By Gil Troy

Leading from the Center By Gil Troy

It’s a pity that this book had to go to press before the tickets for this year’s U.S. presidential election shaped up. It is nevertheless timely, coming as it does at the start of the sprint stage of the marathon that is a U.S. presidential race, which essentially begins the day after the last one ends.

Gil Troy’s review of past presidencies is an instructive guide to rating this year’s contenders. His thesis is that the most successful presidents have practiced constructive moderation by embracing and defining the political centre of their times, rejecting extremism of the left and right, but at the same time seeking to reconcile conflicting currents of thought with enlightened compromise.

Going for the centre may sound like a no-brainer. It is the hoariest of political wisdom that the leader who best positions himself at the political centre that encompasses the broad majority of

voters will be blessed with success. But as the Queens-born Troy, who now teaches history at McGill University, expounds in Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents, that’s easier said than done.

“It is a high-wire balancing act,” he writes. “Leaning too far in any one direction or holding on too tight to heavy baggage risks a steep fall, often with no safety net. … Vigorous responses have to be rationally based. Shrill debates obscure real dangers and risk hysterical overreactions.”

The successful practitioner must be a visionary, but cautious in the application of vision, able to compromise without abdicating principle, capable of firing the public imagination while respecting the bounds of realism. It takes not just moderates, as Troy puts it, but muscular moderates; not just centrists, but passionate centrists. The governing idea is to think creatively, cultivate broad alliances and “push voters just enough so they move forward without losing their balance.”

Those who have masterfully succeeded at this in Troy’s book include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Teddy and Franklin Delano and, most lately, Ronald Reagan. Prominent among those he counts as falling short on one essential count or the other include Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

He suggests Washington, with his power of personality, modesty of manner and diligent striving for common cause in forging a nation from a gaggle of disparate colonies, set a lasting tone for American democracy at its best, when it works in a spirit of civility and centrism.

Troy makes the point that the centre path is by no means the easy way. His successful centrists tend to have in common that they catch flack from both sides of the ideological divide between left and right, including from their own partisans. Lincoln was reviled by both slavers and abolitionists for his incremental approach to emancipation, initially willing to allow some slavery in the interest of preserving the union; in his day, F.D.R. was denounced as a stooge for both commies and capitalists.

Clinton gets marked down as a failure even though Troy hails him as a “political virtuoso” and an instinctive centrist. He gets written off for being bigger on talk than action, reluctant to stake his popularity on risky endeavours. The conclusion is drawn that “presidents who love to be loved too much fail to accomplish much.”

Bush II fails the moderation grade for the opposite reason. Where Clinton’s moderation lacked muscle, Bush came on with an excess of muscle and a dearth of moderation, content to be president of half the country and damn the rest.

This is a scholarly book, but most accessible to anyone with a serious interest in politics. It offers a sprightly tour of U.S. presidential history liberally sprinkled with bon mots and eloquently expressed insights, both Troy’s and those he quotes.

Another pity is that the book is entirely devoted to U.S. politics. It would have been interesting to get a take on how his thesis applies to Canada, and why the U.S. political centre is so markedly skewed to the right of where it lies in Canada.

But then, that could make for a whole other book.

Hubert Bauch is The Gazette’s senior political writer.

LEADING FROM THE CENTER: WHY MODERATES MAKE THE BEST PRESIDENTS

By Gil Troy

Basic Books,

341 pages, $29.50

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Why Moderates Make The Best Presidents

July 14, 2008, 89.3 KPCC

(Listen)

Larry Mantle talks with author and historian Gil Troy about his new book, “Leading from the Center,” which presents evidence why the best American Presidents were able to avoid partisan extremes and work to lead from a more centrist point of view.

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