Greatness in the White House: Rating the Presidents

By Robert K. Murray; Tim H. Blessing | Go to book overview

FIVE
Presidential Relationships as a Factor in Success

SUCCESS IN THE AMERICAN presidency cannot be evaluated fully without first delineating the major functions of that office and assessing their relative importance. Political scientists have recently combined these functions under a number of headings with rather formidable designations: symbolic leadership; program design and priority setting; crisis management; legislative and political coalition building; program implementation; and oversight of governmental routines. 1 Historians have traditionally described the chief roles of the president in these terms: (1) head of state; (2) executive administrator; (3) commander-in-chief; (4) primary law enforcer; (5) domesticpolicy initiator; (6) main foreign-policy planner; (7) party leader; and (8) symbolic national spokesman.

The order of importance in which the Murray-Blessing historians viewed these functions was significant for their final presidential ratings. They placed far in front the role of foreign-policy planner, with domestic-policy initiator behind in second place. Rivaling the latter for the runner-up spot was symbolic spokesman for the nation. Although regarded as being important, the remaining five functions were ranked further down. Of these, head of state was rated highest and party leader lowest, with executive administrator, commander-in-chief, and primary law enforcer sandwiched between. 2

Since the success of a president in filling these roles often depended on his relationship with other officials or units of government, the nature of that relationship was also of some concern to the survey historians. In some instances they were willing to leave that relationship extremely loose. For example, as party leader dealing with purely party affairs, the president, they asserted, could do anything he could get away with. Although 87

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