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I finished "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House," by Jon Meacham today. Andrew Jackson was the 7th American President. He won the popular vote for President in 1824, 1828 and 1832, but only ended up getting the position in 1828 and 1832. This book looks at his presidential experience. It's important because during his presidency he created the first real political party (that we might recognise today) and was the president who pretty much forced the US into a structure we have today, with a strong executive president that leads the country and expects the states to fall in behind him.

The big issue I have with the book is that I'm not altogether sure I liked the guy. He effectively re-defined the presidency, and to do that you have to have a very clear vision and the stubbornness to see it through. The thing is, while he was a populist, and I can see why Americans like him, he (to me at least) epitomises all that I find wrong about America. He pushed through a number of reforms that created greater political involvement in the population, but at a cost that ensured that future presidents only mirror popular sentiment, rather than trying to lead it.

If you want to understand the American presidency, you really need to read this book, but if you do, expect to be as infuriated as you are educated. Incidentally, if you view yourself as a "strict constructionist," read this book. If nothing else it might show you than even at the time the constitution was viewed as something that could be interpreted over time.

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