The Bush Presidency: First Appraisals

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

5
George Bush and the Public
Presidency: The Politics
of Inclusion

GEORGE C. EDWARDS III

George Bush's relations with the American public have been one of the most unanticipated aspects of his presidency. A president who lacks the manipulative public relations instincts and skills of his immediate predecessor found himself at higher levels in the polls than Ronald Reagan ever reached. After a year in office, the Gallup poll found that 40 percent of the people could not name anything in response to a question regarding Bush's greatest achievement in office. 1 At the same time, the president enjoyed record approval levels.

Unraveling these apparent paradoxes is one of the goals of this chapter, which focuses on Bush's relations with the public in his first two years in office. It explores both the nature of his public support and the explanations for it.


Mandate

The first time that the nation collectively evaluates a president is in the election itself. Every newly elected president prefers to come into office with a "mandate," a sense that the people have spoken and support his policies. The most effective means of setting the terms of debate on many issues at once and overcoming opposition is by creating the perception of an electoral mandate, an impression that the voters want to see the winner's programs implemented. Indeed, large-scale changes in policy virtually never occur in the absence of such perceptions, such as those of 1932, 1964, and 1980.

Mandates can be powerful symbols in American politics. They accord added legitimacy and credibility to the newly elected president's proposals. Concerns for representation and political survival encourage members of Congress to support the president if they feel the people have spoken. And members of Congress are susceptible to such beliefs. According to David,

-129-

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The Bush Presidency: First Appraisals
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - The Leadership Style of George Bush 1
  • Notes 33
  • 2 - Meeting Low Expectations: Strategy and Prospects of the Bush Presidency 37
  • Notes 65
  • 3 - Domestic Policy: Divided Government and Cooperative Presidential Leadership 69
  • Notes 89
  • 4 - Bush and the Post-Cold-War World: New Challenges for American Leadership 93
  • Notes 124
  • 5 - George Bush and the Public Presidency: the Politics of Inclusion 129
  • Notes 151
  • 6 - Governing Unheroically (and Sometimes Unappetizingly): Bush and the 101st Congress 155
  • Notes 183
  • 7 - The White House and Presidency Under the "Let's Deal" President 185
  • Notes 217
  • 8 - The President and the Executive Branch 223
  • Notes 244
  • 9 - Good Government and the Politics of High Exposure 249
  • Notes 283
  • 10 - Conclusion 287
  • Notes 295
  • Index 297
  • About the Authors 307
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