Examining the style and responsibilities of a succession of scholars and generalists to play intellectual mascot at the White House, Tevi Troy tackles their common lack of a clear job description. Even back in the Kennedy White House, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. suffered from this problem. Although he helped draft speeches, set up a White House library, and served as emissary to the Northeastern intellectual elite, it was said that his job came with "a good address, but no clear responsibilities."
Perhaps even more instructive than Schlesinger's storied career is the tale Troy tells of Eric Goldman, Princeton historian and resident egghead in the Johnson White House.
In a chapter that should serve as a warning to people of brains who come to Washington looking for power, we learn that the Ivy League professor stooped not only to drafting speeches for the first lady but also for her teenaged daughters.
Goldman's humiliation hardly ended there. He bucked the odds to generate significant buzz for a one-day festival of the arts to be hosted at Johnson's White House. The hottest ticket in town, however, became a publicity disaster when Robert Lowell, who'd already accepted an invitation to read from his poetry, wrote back to say that he wouldn't be coming on account of the administration's "strange" and "chauvinistic" actions in Vietnam. Goldman's Kennedyesque festival of the arts became the centerpiece for a news cycle of stories about Johnson's un-Kennedyesque relations with intellectuals.
In "Intellectuals and the American Presidency" Troy also takes a close look at the incredible energy of Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Nixon White House. But after Moynihan the story became less romantic, as presidencies grew less salon-like and think tanks more important than brainy freelancers. It wasn't until Clinton that the position came back into vogue. Troy's chapter on the 1990s opens with a profile of William Galston and ends with a profile of Sidney Blumenthal--which shows the decline of the Clinton presidency during its eight years.