The Implementation of Cabinet Government During the Nixon Administration
SHIRLEY ANNE WARSHAW
Arthur Schlesinger's renowned phrase "the imperial presidency," describing the Nixon years, to a large degree reflected the inordinate concentration of power within the White House. 1 Schlesinger argued that such concentration of power in the White House was unprecedented in White House-cabinet relationships. However, the evidence strongly indicates that Richard Nixon never intended to concentrate power or center policy making in the White House. Rather, he originally sought to institute a system of cabinet government and to give his cabinet primary responsibility for policy development.
The question of how President Nixon originally structured his policy-making system and why it failed is the subject of this work. The study is divided into three parts. First, it examines whether Richard Nixon had a serious commitment to cabinet government, or whether he merely used the phrase as campaign rhetoric and never intended to maintain the system once in office. Second, it examines the manner in which the White House staff and the cabinet were structured in order to implement cabinet government. Finally, it examines the failure of cabinet government to survive as Nixon's primary advisory system and the subsequent concentration of power in the White House staff.
At the heart of the question concerning Nixon's attempt to institute cabinet government is the degree to which he was personally committed to the concept. Without a deep, personal commitment to a cabinet-based decision system, Nixon clearly had little chance of succeeding. But the evidence indicates that he was convinced that cabinet government was the organizational structure in which he could operate most comfortably.