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PRESIDENCY AND THE
POLITICS OF THE USA 1
Richard E. Neustadt. Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan. The Free Press, 1991 Stephen Skowronek. Presidential Leadership in Political Time: Reprise and Reappraisal (2nd ed.). University Press of Kansas, 2011 Stephen Skowronek. The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1997 Douglas J. Hoekstra (1999). The Politics of Politics: Skowronek and Presidential Research. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 29:3 Peri E. Arnold (1995). Determinism and Contingency in Skowronek's Political Time. Polity, 27:3 Curt Nichols (2011). The Presidency and the Political Order: in Context. Polity, 43 Brandice Canes-Wrone, William G. Howell & David E. Lewis (2008). Toward a Broader Understanding of Presidential Power: a Re-evaluation of the Two Presidencies Thesis. The Journal of Politics, 70:1 Matthew Laing (2012). Towards a Pragmatic Presidency? Exploring the Waning of Political Time. Polity, 44 James P. Pfiffner (ed.). The Managerial Presidency. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999 (2nd ed.) Ryan Black, et al. (2011). Assessing Congressional Responses to Growing Presidential Powers: The Case of Recess Appointments. PresStudQ, 41 John B. Gilmour (2011). Political Theatre or Bargaining Failure: Why Presidents Veto. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 41:3 Andrew Whitford (2012). Signing Statements as Bargaining Outcomes: Evidence from the Administration of George W. Bush. PresStudQ, 42 Bryan Marshall & Brandon Prins (2011). Power or Posturing? Policy Availability and Congressional Influence on US Presidential Decisions to Use Force. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 41 Daniel Ponder (2012). Presidential Leverage and the Politics of Policy Formulation. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 42 Jeffrey Cohen (2011). Presidents, Polarisation and Divided Government. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 41 Hans Noel (2011). Ten Things Political Scientists Know that You Don't. The Forum Joseph Pika & John Anthony Maltese (2013). The Politics of the Presidency, CQ Press 2
Theda Skocpol & Lawrence Jacobs (2012). Accomplished and Embattled: Understanding Obama's Presidency. Political Science Quarterly, 127 Stephen Benedict Dyson (2010). George W. Bush: the Surge, and Presidential Leadership. Political Science Quarterly, 125 William Howell & Jon Rogowski (2012). War, the Presidency and Legislative Voting Behaviour. American Journal of Political Science, 127
3 Richard E. Neustadt. Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan. The Free Press, 1991 Chapter 2: Three Cases of Command
The appearance of self-executing orders requires the following as necessary conditions, which are a very rare combination. Really, 'presidential power is the power to persuade': a president cannot succeed by barking orders, cf. Eisenhower's frustration. (a) Unambiguous presidential involvement. MacArthur called for enemy surrender in Korea despite knowing that the President was about to call for a negotiated compromise; but the message was communicated indirectly, so MacArthur thought he could get away with being bold; (b) Unambiguous presidential instruction. Faubus knew the President wanted desegregation; but they met alone, so it was possible to feign misunderstanding; (c) Publicity of instruction. Secretary Sawyer refused to implement Truman's solution to the steelworks crisis, which was communicated privately; (d) Executees' full competence. Mobilisation director Wilson was unable to settle labour dispute without a strike but could not control the disputing parties; (e) Confidence in presidential authority.
Command is still a 'method of persuasion' because the president still has to contend with people who have the power to resist his instructions; the accomplishment is 'transitory' because, as a last resort, it cannot be self-sustaining. (1) MacArthur began making unauthorised statements about Korea, which undermined planned presidential announcements. (2) Steelworks fiasco happened when Truman ordered United Steelworkers to carry on working despite failure of collective bargaining with plants, as he referred issue to Wage Stabilisation Board; industry rejected proposals, which administration could not disavow; Truman offered price relief to encourage settlement but this was rejected - he nationalised the steelworks two hours before planned strike to guarantee supplies for Korea. SCOTUS decided in diverse set of judgements that the seizure was unconstitutional. (3) Little Rock: Arkansas governor sent National Guardsmen to prevent black children
from entering school, ostensibly to stop a violent mob reaction. Federal judge ordered troops to step aside, the mob stepped in - and Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce integration. Chapter 3: The Power to Persuade
There is no separation of powers, but 'of separated institutions sharing powers'. Presidential and congressional formal powers are so intertwined that neither can accomplish very much without the acquiescence of the other: each can resist the other's demands. Actors share independent authority, so are mutually dependent; the president 4
just has an exceptionally strong bargaining hand from his status and authority (persuasion is not just about logic or charm) - it's difficult to say 'no' in the Oval Office!
The same is true of presidential power within the executive: the president 'does not monopolise effective power' within the White House. Cabinet members, agency heads and staffers have the power to delay or 'forget' presidential orders, able to use a degree of autonomy to operate as they please; their responsibilities to themselves, clients and Congress can cause them to override a presidential instruction. Well-placed aides can convert their status and into power, which they might even use against the president.
'The probabilities of power do not derive from the literary theory of the Constitution': a junior congressman might be more pliant than a senior staffer. Bureau chiefs may have reserves of power, deriving from their independence from the president.
Presidential persuasion requires inducing people to believe that what the president wants of them is 'what their own appraisal of their own responsibilities requires them to do in their interest, not his'. Differences in outlook stem from differences in duty - bargain!
Case Study: The Marshall Plan was passed swiftly despite a Republican Congress and perceptions that Truman was a lame duck: Truman had to coordinate disparate interests to cooperate, at a price - e.g., he was forced to appoint Vandenberg's desired candidate (a Republican) to head the administering agency, over his own preference. The president was exceptionally well placed to call public attention to what was required of Congress.
5 Stephen Skowronek. Presidential Leadership in Political Time: Reprise and Reappraisal (2nd ed.). University Press of Kansas, 2011
1. The Presidency in American Political Development: A Third Look
It was hoped that institutionalising the presidency would bolster its effectiveness in the face of fluctuating competences of presidents: the NSC and Council of Economic Advisers were designed by reformers 'sceptical' of Truman's personal capabilities.
Presidents' actions have systemic effects: incumbents do not simply act within a system, but influence the 'political assumptions and aspirations' of their successors - this was dramatic with FDR, but also prevalent with other presidents. 'The institutional power of American presidents almost always exceeds their political authority'.
The presidency is simultaneously disruptive and conservative, swearing to 'execute the office' but also 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution'. Hence, the problem of agency boils down to legitimation: how can the president 'sustain the politically disruptive effects of exercising the independent powers of the office'?
Neustadt's analysis is particularised to the mid-century. It was an 'unusual period of political consensus on the basic contours of economic and foreign policy', such that presidential unilateralism always bore a net cost; structural conditions favoured a bargaining style of leadership, but intra-elite disagreement has improved the capacities for unilateralism by increasing the prospects of shaking things up. As power structures evolve, new leadership strategies displace the old ones.
BUT considerations of authority depend on the 'political time': 'the medium through which presidents encounter received commitments of ideology and interest and claim authority to intervene in their development'. Political time is 'reset periodically by a great repudiator, like Reagan', who seek to 'redefine the terms and conditions of legitimate national government'. There are greater similarities between 'presidents located in different historical periods at parallel moments in these interactive sequences' than with their challengers: affiliated leaders, 'who appear to exemplify incompetence, if not political paralysis' tend to be paired up with insurgent successors who 'seem to exemplify political mastery' (think Hoover-Roosevelt, Carter-Reagan) and resolve 'nationwide crises of political legitimacy [with]... the production of new and relatively durable political orders'.
The Constitution was designed to 'arrest the degenerative tendency' of republics to fall prey to sectarianism, but it only institutionalised it: framers did not foresee the capacity of the presidency to drive politics towards 'flashpoint crises of legitimacy before wrenching it in a new direction'.
2. Presidential Leadership in Political Time
The implicit assumption behind personal evaluations of presidents is that the system presents them all with the same challenge - this is not true!
o American politics has been punctuated by insurgencies of political coalitions that secure dominance for an extended time by 'gearing the federal government to favour a particular approach to public policy questions'; constitutional institutions freeze this by making the concerted change necessary to dislodge it difficult. As the nation changes and the coalition becomes more myopic and encumbered by special interests, it fails to address big issues properly.
SS? So presidents face special problems if they are, for example, from outside the dominant paradigm, like Eisenhower in the liberal period.
SS? The 'greats' (Washington, Lincoln, FDR) came to power in an abrupt break from a long-established order; and their new order gradually degenerated (see Jefferson to John Quincy Adams).
Three pairs of Democrats, which each shared the same moment in political time: (1) Regime reconstruction (FDR and Jackson): The previously dominant party is discredited and displaced from power in crisis; opposition from the residual interests and supports of the old regime push the new one to deal with the immediate crisis through reconstructive structural reform; it then seeks to eliminate institutional opposition and forge a more coherent party base; a new ruling coalition arises as the country fragments again. Presidents can enjoy varying successes on twin tests of institutional reconstruction and rebuilding the party.
O? FDR began as a 'national healer', trying to build a broad bipartisan base, but turned to structural reform when his programmes were frustrated: the 'Second New Deal' tightened regulation and introduced graduated taxation; 'court-packing' was meant to neutralise the remaining threat within the government but it split the governing coalition. FDR successfully redefined the terms of legitimate government -a long time till a president repudiated liberalism. (2) Regime management (JFK and Polk): Presidents inherit highly structured regime politics, in which they must carefully accommodate conflicting interests within the ruling coalition as times change: when interest-management fails, presidents adopt a bold commitment to vindicate party orthodoxy against internal troubles.
O? JFK's challenge was to hold the northern liberals and southern conservatives together by focusing on foreign issues, but was forced to adopt an affirmative stance on the civil rights agenda. He took on Texan LBJ to balance the coalition. He withheld the civil rights issue from Congress in order to put himself in a stronger position to press the issue later; he then moved to promote civil rights through executive action (directing the Justice Dept, establishing new agencies), thereby avoiding a legislative debate. Civil rights demonstrations and police brutality allowed JFK to take the legislative initiative to prevent social disintegration. 7
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