Richard E. Neustadt



First Essay Question

Neustadt see presidential "power" largely within the context of Dahl's "ability to persuade" argument. He also sees this "power" as the being dynamic and the cautions to maximize power and thereby the chances of success on any given issue the president must guard his power prospects through the choices he makes. What considerations lead Neustadt to this position? What are the advantages and the disadvantages of a president conducting himself in his manner? At the minimum, your response should explore these advantages and disadvantages within the context of a president being generally "successful" (however you choose to define the concept) and how beneficial such and approach is for the nation in general. Given your considerations, to what extent is a president well advised to conduct his presidency in accordance with the Neustadt's recommendation? Justify your position.

The Evolution of Presidential Power: The Power of Presidential Persuasion

Because of the current media fixation on personalities, as opposed to policies, who becomes president is often mistakenly seen as the 'be all and end all' of American politics, regardless of how other institutions impact the evolution of the nation. Given this focus it also may be surprising to realize that in the wording of the American Constitution, the chief executive is not nearly as innately powerful a force in American government as the media, the American public, or recent American presidents might be apt to believe. The role of the president has evolved in a kind of dialogue with American history and the personalities that have inhabited the office. The growing trend has seemed to have been to create a more and more powerful chief executive overall, as America's role in the world has expanded. However, this trend has not been absolute, as some presidents during the early half of the 20th century, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, have been more powerful than, for example, Dwight D. Eisenhower or Jimmy Carter subsequently. The varying level of influence of presidents on the national agenda and their ability to efficaciously realize their intentions lies, according to Presidential Power and the Modern President by Richard E. Neustadt, in their abilities to act as a persuader and a teacher. Hence the contention that: "Truman was quite right when he declared that presidential power is the power to persuade. Command is but a method of persuasion, not a substitute, and not a method suitable for everyday employment" (Neustadt 28). All presidents have the same written powers of command under law; it is how they use such legal powers that are significant.

Neustadt's claim likes that the president's actual command powers are limited, or at least dwarfed in comparison to what Theodore Roosevelt called the 'bully pulpit' of the executive office are accompanied with a caution that the president must use his persuasive collateral judiciously as well as effectively amongst the public and within Washington. For example, in the immediate months preceding America's entry World War I, Woodrow Wilson manifested the growing central authority of the executive branch in drawing America into a European war through persuasive and propagandistic techniques, despite a fear of entering into foreign entanglements. But he could not overcome Republican isolationist sentiment in the Senate and gain support for America's entrance into the League of Nations. He was effectively blockaded by the original provisions of the Constitution, under Article II, which stated that foreign treaties can only be entered into with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. He was unable to generate enough public support for entering the League, and unable to overcome historical memories of fears of foreign entanglement and political resistance from his Washington colleagues. In contrast, Harry Truman was able to effectively generate support for active American membership in the United Nations by stressing the need to avoid the mistakes of the 1930s (Neustadt 103). No President can ignore the need to persuade Congress despite personal popularity, either -- witness the impeachment of the popular President Bill Clinton on tenuous grounds, because of his relatively legislative unpopularity. This flies in the face of traditionalist, narrow definitions of presidential power -- presidential behavior and attitude in exercising that power amongst other politicians is equally vital in creating support for an administration.

Despite long-standing fears of socialism, because of the desperation of the times and his ability to channel the new power of radio, Franklin Delano Roosevelt generated support for changing the American system of government. He created a system of American social services, such as Social Security, and was elected to an unprecedented four consecutive terms in office. Yet even he was not able to extend his persuasive ability to be allowed to 'pack' the Supreme Court and add more justices to the conservative court to support his legislative agenda. And even though Roosevelt extended the outreach of the institution of the presidency and expanded the bureaucracy of the government connected to the executive branch, subsequent presidents could not automatically assume that they would be as powerful as FDR. In fact, FDR's reign was as much an end of the era of Presidential domination, as a beginning: "no modern President has been more nearly master in the White House" (Neustadt 136).

For example, even had Eisenhower been "fully fit, much less a cardiac case, [he] could not have been expected to assist himself in quite the Roosevelt way. The government he headed in the fifties was far bigger, more impersonal, than Roosevelt's in the thirties" (Neustadt 135). Government bureaucratic power could limit executive authority, if the chief executive power allowed it to do so and a President did not use his personal, persuasive abilities to curtail its influence. Contrary to the idea that all non-elected, non-judicial branches serve the President, Neustadt argue that the growing bureaucratic sprawl of government, the new powers of the FBI, the creation of the CIA and the proliferation of cabinet offices, has weakened presidents to a great degree. This dilutes presidential influence because of the increase of personalities at play within the executive branch. Presidents must delegate, even 'control freaks' like Nixon. True, presidents have more media tools at their disposal today than even Roosevelt could dream of during his radio 'fireside chats.' But so do a President's congressional adversaries. No President can ignore Congress, of course, nor does any American resident have absolute persuasive dominance over the airwaves. For example, while Eisenhower's more hands-off attitude towards government was partially due to his personality but during his final speech to the nation he gave a warning about the increasing bureaucratic power of the expanding 'Military-Industrial Complex," spawned by the Cold War. Presidential power had increased because of the change in the geopolitical climate, but so did the role of all of the institutions government that had been created to fight the Cold War. The creation of new powers for intelligence, defense, and military personnel flew in the face of some of the strongest powers given to the president as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, "and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States" according to Article II of the Constitution. Eisenhower was well aware of his limits as executive when he could not persuade other politicians to help him: when Eisenhower's budget generated opposition on the congressional right and left, the newly energized legislative branch embarked upon a persuasive direct mail campaign to the American public against the popular president's budget one year, specifically targeting executive officials associated with major spending campaigns: "Brundage wants the shirt off of your back" (Neustadt 58).

Every new administration thus brings into being a new shift of power, a new persuasive map that the president must navigate. In some climates persuading the people might be more important, in others the Congress, while in still other political circumstances, the non-elected branches of government. It is always a delicate balance. For example, to support his thesis of the importance of presidential persuasion, Neustadt would look at the modern Iraq War and agree that the growing influence of the office of the Vice President in Dick Cheney was important in the president's final decision to go to war. Behaviorist theory, not traditional theory alone can explain why the persuasive force of certain hawkish actors within the cabinet exceeded that of, for example, the more cautious and dovish Colin Powell as the Secretary of State. The current Bush also, because of the historical moment when he was President, had been given the ability to persuade the American public of the dangerous nature of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Fear of terrorism created a climate ripe for persuasion just as it had created a climate of fear heated enough to allow the president powers of surveillance through the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. This would have been unthinkable during the 1970s, in the aftermath of Watergate. The new branches of government changed theā€¦