The Hard Years: A Look at Contemporary America and American Institutions

By Eugene J. McCarthy | Go to book overview

1
Toward a More Responsible Presidency

For many years commentators, political scientists, party activists, and some Presidents advocated and supported what they called "a strong presidency," as being necessary to deal with our problems at home and abroad. Power was the fascinating and central word, and the assumption was that only a "powerful" President could be "effective."

Today students of the presidency are not so sure of their earlier conception of the office. They are taking a new look at it. Many now advocate limits on the power of the President and show greater respect for his sharing of power and responsibility with the Congress and other agencies of government. Among those who suggest that limits on presidential power are needed are George Reedy, who was press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., an adviser in the administration of John Kennedy. Reedy, in his book The Twilight of the Presidency, calls the presidential office "the American monarchy" and severely criticizes that concept. Schlesinger, in his recent book The Imperial Presidency, warns against that same concept of the office.

There were Presidents in our earlier history who were labeled "strong" or "weak." But "strength," when it was the mark of an administration, was related more to immediate demands, as in the case of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, than to a concept of the office. And it was not accompanied by the personalization of the office or by the use of the personal power of the office that has marked recent administrations.

Contemporary historians have generally characterized the Eisenhower presidency as a weak presidency and an impersonal one. It was neither. Although Dwight Eisenhower did not demonstrate leadership in proposing and carrying out new programs, he did show a

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The Hard Years: A Look at Contemporary America and American Institutions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction by Tom Wicker vii
  • Preface xix
  • Part I - Institutions 1
  • 1 - Toward a More Responsible Presidency 3
  • 2 - The Vice President as Crown Prince 15
  • 3 - Changes in the Congress 19
  • 4 - The Courts, the Last Appeal 28
  • 5 - Court of Ideas 32
  • 6 - A Kind Word for the Bureaucrats 35
  • 7 - A Kind Word for the Military 45
  • 8 - A Warning About the Military Establishment 49
  • 9 - The Cia and the Inner Ring 58
  • 10 - The Corporations 61
  • 11 - The Universities 68
  • 12 - The Democratic and Republican Parties 75
  • 13 - Alternatives to the Major Parties 80
  • Part II - Operations 87
  • 14 - A Hard Look at the Primaries 89
  • 15 - Personality Cults 96
  • 16 - The Cult of the Expert 97
  • 17 - A Good and Becoming Exit 100
  • 18 - Listen to Mr. Parkinson 104
  • 19 - The Sst: Object Lesson in Dynamics of Opposition 106
  • 20 - The Lobbyists 109
  • 21 - Grant Park, Chicago 116
  • 22 - Marching on Washington 118
  • 23 - Changing America 122
  • Part III - Principles 125
  • 24 - Innocence in Politics 127
  • 25 - Language and Politics 130
  • 26 - Poetry and War 135
  • 27 - Ares 144
  • 28 - Intellectuals and Politics 148
  • 29 - Out of Phase 155
  • 30 - Trouble in the Economics Community 158
  • 31 - Constitutional Amendments 165
  • 32 - Five Systems of Justice 170
  • 33 - The Enemies List 173
  • 34 - Censorship 182
  • Part IV - A Good Person is Not So Hard to Find 185
  • 35 - John Bennett 187
  • 36 - Emerson Hynes 189
  • 37 - John Kennedy 190
  • 38 - Dan and Doris Kimball 193
  • 39 - Robert Lowell 196
  • 40 - Wayne Morse 197
  • 41 - Lewis Mumford 203
  • 42 - Eleanor Roosevelt 205
  • 43 - Frank Rosenblatt 207
  • 44 - Adlai Stevenson 208
  • Notes 215
  • Index 223
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