Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Professional Reputation and the Neustadt Formulation

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Professional Reputation and the Neustadt Formulation

Article excerpt

In his acknowledgments to the 1990 edition of Presidential Power, Richard E. Neustadt closes with this comment: "I have always tried to turn participant observership to the account of scholarship that might assist participants. I leave to others, or at least until another time, all wider tasks" (Neustadt 1990, xxvii).(1) Leave it to the master himself to provide the clearest statement of the book's unique contribution. It is rare in this modern age for a book to reach and instruct such a diverse elite readership. Presidents and their aides read Presidential Power, if not always with the care to profit fully from its teachings, as do scholars, journalists, foreign observers, and other presidency watchers, if not always conscientiously enough to absorb its richness. The book has qualifies presidents long for: it has status and duration.

It is difficult to know the extent to which Neustadt has accomplished his intent of assisting the participants, although I take it as an article of faith that any acquaintance with the book will promote understanding (and conversations with denizens of the White House provide evidence that it is the "bible" of the presidency). I am presently more interested in his invitation for others to undertake "all wider tasks." Neustadt fully explains the method of relying on his experience in the White House; the recollections of associates, former students, and friends; and interviews with those less well known to him. He displays an extraordinary capacity to produce an integrated argument about the nature and source of presidential power from cases and observations. He is so much in command of the subject that he does not have to tell all. A personal characteristic, a response, an insight, each set within context, and soon the reader sees what he sees. Lacking such confidence with a subject, the rest of us tend to overprove a case, often to the point of tedium.

The Neustadt formulation has been the subject of much critical analysis, substantially less empirical verification. It is to that latter challenge that this article is directed. Presidential Power remains a largely untapped reservoir of researchable topics associated with Neustadt's persuasive conception of how the presidency should and does work. We would do well to celebrate the recent increase in presidential research by designing studies to test Neustadt's propositions, an undertaking he would surely welcome.

The Formulation

Presidential power is the power to persuade, and "the power to persuade is the power to bargain" (Neustadt 1990, 32). Presidents vary in the advantages they possess for bargaining. "Status and authority yield bargaining advantages' for the president in a separated system. Yet, by constitutional design, others too possess these advantages as a check on the president. "These are relationships of mutual dependence" (Neustadt 1990, 31). Neustadt describes a delicate challenge for the president: to convince others that what he wants is what they should want as suited to the exercise of their authority. Such complex role-playing is not easily mastered or perhaps even very well understood by practitioners or observers.

   Persuasive power ... amounts to more than charm or reasoned argument. These
   have their uses for a President, but these are not the whole of his
   resources. For the individuals he would induce to do what he wants done on
   their own responsibility will need or fear some acts by him on his
   responsibility. If they share his authority, he has some share in theirs.
   Presidential "powers" may be inconclusive when a President commands, but
   always remain relevant as he persuades. The status and authority inherent
   in his office reinforce his logic and charm. (Neustadt 1990, 30)

On what might the president rely for this interplay of roles? The sources are subtle, dependent as they are on perception by others of advantages held by the president and, perforce, the capacity of the president to establish, to protect, and to enhance those providing the greatest advantage. …

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