Looking for stories of strong presidential leadership, I recently read two worthy books on Dwight Eisenhower: David A. Nichols's Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy and Michael Doran's Ike's Gamble: America's Rise to Dominance in the Middle East. Nichols looks at how Eisenhower worked behind the scenes to marginalize Wisconsin senator Joe McCarthy, even going to great lengths to avoid saying McCarthy's name. When it came to emasculating McCarthy, though, Ike wanted it to happen in as public a way as possible. Both Ike and Senate Democratic leader Lyndon Johnson pushed to have the Army–McCarthy hearings televised, understanding, as Nichols understatedly puts it, that "television was not kind to McCarthy." Indeed, it was not.
As for Doran, he shows that Ike was initially not a big fan of Israel. Over time, though, his views on the matter changed. As Doran puts it, "he expressed regret for having treated his allies so harshly at Suez, and he came to see Israel as a strategic asset." Doran also paints a vivid picture of Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser, who liked denouncing the West but also indulged in trappings of Western culture. Nasser would visit U.S. diplomat William Lakeland for hot dogs and movies. Nasser, it seems, "had a soft spot for Esther Williams."
Candice Millard in Hero of the Empire, on Winston Churchill's escape during the Boer War, details the incident that made Churchill a household name. Given my interest in leaders and their reading habits, I was fascinated by how much time Churchill devoted to reading: "He read for four or five hours every day, everything from Plato's Republic to Aristotle's Politics to Schopenhauer, Malthus and Darwin."
For a less enlightened form of leadership, you may want to look at Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes's Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign. Caveat emptor, though. Clinton aides are a foul-mouthed bunch, and my ten-year-old flipped through the book with a shocked look, saying, "There are a lot of bad words in this book." They had a lot to cuss about, as Parnes and Allen show us that the Hillary campaign was just as dysfunctional as all of us imagined.
Also worth looking at are: Eliot Cohen in The Big Stick makes a compelling case for the limits of soft power; Kay S. Hymowitz's The New Brooklyn, an excellent look at how crime-ridden Brooklyn became the coolest place on earth; and Al Felzenberg's A Man and His Presidents, which includes entertaining tales of the interactions of a "persistent" teenage Felzenberg with National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. Don't miss them, and happy reading.