Separate but Equal Branches: Congress and the Presidency

By Charles O. Jones | Go to book overview

interactions with Congress. If Jimmy Carter was the "trustee," Bill Clinton has been the "delegate." He was notably unsuccessful during his first two years in employing this style, losing miserably in his priority effort to enact national health care reform. He was more effective after the Republicans won control of Congress. The revolutionary rhetoric of House Republicans allowed the president to assume a more centrist position that was attractive to the public. Sharing the credit and avoiding the blame suited the president's style. He often defined the distribution of political rewards and punishments, even as he was personally damaged by scandal.

Additionally, a Republican Congress enhanced the need for continual campaigning and was, therefore, accommodating to the candidate-as-president. Bill Clinton had reason every day to go to the public for support. Oddly enough, the Lewinsky scandal and Clinton's near-political-death experience of impeachment provided an even greater campaign challenge. Accordingly there was ample justification for the president to employ his impressive skills on the hustings, with the polls serving as a series of election days. The most critical opportunity to gain and display public approval came with the State of the Union address on 19 January 1999. As it happened, it was to be delivered during the Senate impeachment trial. The president resisted pressures to postpone it for a very good political reason--it provided an ideal chance to promote his presidency. He offered campaign-style promises for most major groups, often poaching further from Republican proposals. He then took to the road, speaking to enthusiastic pro-Clinton rallies that were intended to promote his agenda and send signals to his Senate jurors. 79

Scholars of the separated system will continue to find much of interest in the Clinton years. The array of political conditions invites analysis of the partisan patterns for lawmaking, with special interest paid to co- and cross-partisan variations. This period too will doubtless be cited as pivotal for a more participatory policy process. President Clinton will be viewed as contributing substantially to that development, given his campaigning style. We will not see a Bill Clinton again soon, but Clintonesque techniques are bound to endure.


NOTES
1.
Hugh Heclo, "Presidential Power and Public Prestige," paper prepared for "Presidential Power Revisited," a conference at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C., 13 June 1996.

-279-

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Separate but Equal Branches: Congress and the Presidency
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Introduction vii
  • Part I - The Separated System 1
  • 1 - The Constitutional Balance 19
  • 2- Presidential Government and the Separation of Powers 23
  • 3- The Presidency in Contemporary Politics 37
  • Notes 57
  • 4- The Diffusion of Responsibility 59
  • 5- Presidents and Agendas 77
  • Notes 101
  • Part II- Presidents Working with Congresses 103
  • 6- The Pendulum of Power 105
  • 7- Presidential Negotiating Styles with Congress 128
  • 8- Carter and Congress 161
  • 9 - Reagan and Congress 192
  • Notes 217
  • 10- Bush and Congress 220
  • II- Clinton and Congress 247
  • Notes 279
  • Index 285
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