The President's Cabinet: An Analysis in the Period from Wilson to Eisenhower

By Richard F. Fenno | Go to book overview

Introduction

T HE President's Cabinet is a distinct, discrete, and describable political institution. To the casual observer of American government, it is probably one of the most familiar. Yet, in the words of one distinguished political scientist, "A critical volume on the Cabinet is something badly needed."1 In the years just prior to World War I, two direct, full-length institutional histories were written,2 but political analyses of the Cabinet have remained fragmentary and tangential. Out of the large body of related studies, however, have come some observations and judgments on the Cabinet which are well known to the student of American government. There is, for instance, an attitude of skepticism about the Cabinet's importance. One conclusion drawn from wartime experience was that "The Cabinet as an institution, if indeed it may be called that, continued its dismal course...."3 More recently, it has been described as "at best a relic of a simpler past."4

On the other hand, there is a substantial literature of reformist optimism in which one finds prescriptions for "vitalizing" or "revitalizing" or making "fuller use of" or "augmented use of" or "restoring to its original significance" the President's Cabinet.5 In the third place, there is a widespread opinion that the present Cabinet under President Eisenhower has belied the skepticism of the past if it has not, indeed, fulfilled the optimism as to the future.6

The focus of this study, unlike previous ones, is directly and primarily on the Cabinet, on the group and on its members. It is mainly an attempt at understanding the operation of the Cabinet in the American political system; only secondarily is it aimed at substantiating or modifying existing ideas. The period on which it draws for illustrative material is that from Woodrow Wilson's

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The President's Cabinet: An Analysis in the Period from Wilson to Eisenhower
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Harvard Political Studies i
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter One The Cabinet in Perspective 9
  • Chapter Two The Appointment Process 51
  • Chapter Three - The Cabinet Meeting: 1 88
  • Chapter Four - The Cabinet Meeting: II 131
  • Chapter Five - The Cabinet and Politics: I 157
  • Chapter Six - The Cabinet and Politics: II 196
  • Chapter Seven - The Cabinet and Reform 250
  • Notes 273
  • Index 313
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