For many years commentators, political scientists, party activists, and some Presidents advocated and supported what they called "a strong presidency," as being necessary to deal with our problems at home and abroad. Power was the fascinating and central word, and the assumption was that only a "powerful" President could be "effective."
Today students of the presidency are not so sure of their earlier conception of the office. They are taking a new look at it. Many now advocate limits on the power of the President and show greater respect for his sharing of power and responsibility with the Congress and other agencies of government. Among those who suggest that limits on presidential power are needed are George Reedy, who was press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., an adviser in the administration of John Kennedy. Reedy, in his book The Twilight of the Presidency, calls the presidential office "the American monarchy" and severely criticizes that concept. Schlesinger, in his recent book The Imperial Presidency, warns against that same concept of the office.
There were Presidents in our earlier history who were labeled "strong" or "weak." But "strength," when it was the mark of an administration, was related more to immediate demands, as in the case of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, than to a concept of the office. And it was not accompanied by the personalization of the office or by the use of the personal power of the office that has marked recent administrations.
Contemporary historians have generally characterized the Eisenhower presidency as a weak presidency and an impersonal one. It was neither. Although Dwight Eisenhower did not demonstrate leadership in proposing and carrying out new programs, he did show a