The American presidency has fascinated and confounded scholars for over 200 years. Is the institution redefined by each new occupant, or is the presidency merely a cog in the constitutional machine created in 1787? Philip Abbott argues that the presidency can best be viewed as an institution framed by the patterns on American political thought and culture. Presidents govern most effectively when they are able to intuit and interpret basic predispositions in political culture as epitomized by the policies and leadership of past presidents. The presidency is an "exemplary" institution from which occupants attempt to "read" and then shape political culture through the imaginative and selective adaptation of the thought, policies and leadership styles of past leaders.