Presidential Policymaking: An End-of-Century Assessment

Presidential Policymaking: An End-of-Century Assessment

Presidential Policymaking: An End-of-Century Assessment

Presidential Policymaking: An End-of-Century Assessment

Synopsis

With contributions by the leading presidency scholars, this book offers a comprehensive overview of the president's policy-making role and the ways this role structures the president's interaction with other institutions of government.

Excerpt

My interest in the presidency as a subject for serious study dates from the fall of 1951 when, as a junior political science major at the University of Michigan, I took the late Joseph E. Kallenbach's course on the American Chief Executive. the text for the course was Edward S. Corwin's the President: Office and Powers, 3d ed. (1948). Joe Kallenbach's approach, like Corwin's, was the historical development of the office and its formal powers. the principal actors were individual presidents and the precedents they set, Congress and the statutes through which they delegated authority to the president, and the Supreme Court and its decisions interpreting the dimensions of presidential power. the powers of the presidency were more than adequate for the president to discharge his responsibilities, and the problem that the presidency presented to American politics was the potential for abuse of those powers.

Ten years later, in 1961, I read for the first time Richard E. Neustadt's Presidential Power (1960). It was an eye-opener. Contrary to the views of Corwin, Kallenbach, and other traditional institutional analysts, the presidency was an inherently weak office as a result of the limitations imposed by the separation of powers. the president was little more than a glorified constitutional clerk performing services for others. By 1960, however, the functional responsibilities of the federal government had become so extensive that it was beyond the capacity of Congress, the courts, and political parties to manage them. the political system could not function effectively without active, purposive presidential leadership. the basis for this, Neustadt argued, lay not in the formal but in the informal powers of the presidency. Those powers, real presidential power, was personal--the power to persuade. What the political system required in the presidency was a power- sensitive, power-maximizing professional politician, skilled in the arts of persuasion and bargaining. Neustadt's focus was behavioral, and it was compatible with the behavioral revolution that was transforming political science. It made sense to most of us who embraced the behavioral approach, and it served as the dominant paradigm for a generation of presidential scholars.

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