The Clinton Presidency: First Appraisals

By Colin Campbell; Bert A. Rockman | Go to book overview

I
Campaigning to Govern: The Clinton Style

CHARLES O. JONES

As reported in Bob Woodward The Agenda, "Mandy Grunwald [media adviser to President Clinton] . . . repeated her belief that the president's popularity first had to be improved, and then Congress could be moved by a popular president." "It's a bank shot, . . . What you say to the American people bounces back to the Congress." 1 By this one-track plebiscitary theory, the president engages in a continuous campaign to close the gap in the separated system between the presidency, the House, and the Senate. Yet each of the three institutions is independently elected and intentionally disconnected by the design of the constituencies and term length for each. By the Grunwald theory, however, the purpose of active presidential campaigning is to create a dependency--Congress on the presidency--that is at odds with the separationist government designed by the Founders.

The "bank shot" is a version of the "going public" strategy that Samuel Kernell identifies as characteristic of contemporary presidential politics. Kernell asserts that campaigning for policies "is a strategic choice grounded as much in contemporary political relations as in available technology." 2 Perhaps the Clinton presidency completes the transition to a campaign style of governing, Clinton being the first of the so-called baby boomers to move into the White House, the first president to have grown up with television. If true, then it is important to study this presidency for the lessons to be learned about governing the nation in the twenty-first century.

This chapter reviews the presidency in the post- World War II period so as to place Clinton in comparative perspective, identifies President Clinton's political resources on entering office, discusses the problems associated with

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