The Bush Presidency: First Appraisals

The Bush Presidency: First Appraisals

The Bush Presidency: First Appraisals

The Bush Presidency: First Appraisals

Excerpt

Edward I. Koch, the outspoken former mayor of New York, when meeting his constituents, often asked, "How am I doing." The audiences to whom he addressed the question, usually his supporters, seldom found the answer to be in doubt. To sitting political officeholders, of course, the question "How am I doing." translates into "How popular am I?" This book asks of George Bush, "How is he doing." It is the first in a quadrennial series to pose the question "How is the president doing."

Our concerns, however, are not simply a matter of polls and popular approval, though we are willing to concede that a sitting president who does badly in those categories is not likely to have the leverage to do well in others. Instead, our effort is to understand the president's situation roughly in the middle of his elected term -- the political and policy context in which he is situated, the style of the president and the presidency that has evolved to deal with that context, and the implications that this interaction of style and context have for presidential political and policy behavior.

Our objectives are not simply to render a descriptive account of events that have transpired up to the midpoint of the presidential term. We assume our readers have at least a basic familiarity with these; in any event, they are better covered by journalists on the beat than by political scientists. Nor is our objective merely to render sweeping judgments of the incumbent president or the system he is trying to operate in. Such judgments are bountiful on editorial pages of daily newspapers. They are the stuff of punditry, if any stuff that be. The authors in this volume do describe events that have been relevant to various aspects of the Bush presidency, and they surely have not been reticent to cast judgment on the president's handling of them. Yet the comparative advantage that political scientists can bring to evaluating the officeholder is that they are apt to locate the incumbent president in a web of strategic constraints and opportunities. The authors are likely to see presidents as actors in a continuous game, one in which they can ill afford to throw all their chips away on a single roll of the dice. They also are likely to look at the constraints and opportunities that the political system requires all presidents to navigate through, and some, such as King and Alston in chapter 9, conclude that the American system provides daunting obstacles to effective policy leadership. Most authors, however, see varying constraints and oppor-

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