April 26, 2015

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Posted by Christi on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 12:12am.

Maximizing the notion of the presidency, political scientist Richard Neustadt argued that presidential power lies not in the office's legal authority, but rather in the personal and strategic skill of individual presidents (p.2). Neustadt was a professor at Columbia University who also worked under President Truman as an aide. Neaustadt implements “statecraft” approach to presidential leadership, which resembles that of Machiavellian politics (119). In addition, Neustadt’s behavioralist approach, which is more consistent with Democratic views of the role of government emphasize predicting and explaining actual behavior, rather than on stationary analysis of institutional or procedural framework (p.122). In contrast, Presidency scholar, Edward Corwin,who wrote his seminal work on the presidency “as a study in American public law”, sought to understand presidential power as conceived by the Framers of the Constitution, and interpreted through case law (p.137). Furthermore, Corwin was concerned with the relationship between presidential power and the legal grants of authority, for this reason “The constitution and legal developments lie at the heart of Corwin’s analysis of presidential power” (137).
2 Both Corwin and Neustadt’s fundamental issue is assessing the presidency and the proper and legitimate range of powers available to the president. Neustadt looked not to the Constitution or statutes to understand presidential behavior, but to the foundation of informal presidential power: public prestige and attempts to lead public opinion, professional reputation and style, congressional relations and legislative strategies, and bargaining skills (119). Neustadt believed that a president derives his power from his reputation and prestige in Washington, and the country (p119). Because the constitutional authority does not guarantee other political actor’s cooperation to achieve the president’s goals, Neustadt suggests that the president is then required to “influence” those around him with persuasion and bargaining to achieve his goal (p.119-120). The president cannot simply command and receive. In fact, Neustadt argued that when a president gets his way by force, it is normally a "painful last resort, a forced response to the exhaustion of other remedies, suggestive less of mastery than of failure--the failure of attempts to gain an end by softer means” (p.120). An executive order or other legal device, as an instrument of formal authority, does not by itself cause action. In a system of, “separate institutions sharing power,” presidents get what they want not through command or legal authority, but through the ability to persuade others that what the president wants is in their own interest. With the separation of powers, Nesutadt contains that, other levels of government have different constituencies and different interest. The president must then bargain and persuade others that what he wants is in their best interest (p.120).
Corwin, on the contrary, argues that authority and power for the president rises from the Constitution itself. Over the course of history, each president’s constitutional powers have been extended in practice by precedent establishment (p.138). Moreover, the Constitution is, at best, Corwin ambiguous in it determination of the power relationship between one institution and the other. Rather than making one branch superior to others, the Founding Fathers sought to disperse power through the notions of separation of powers and checks and balances. In turn, this ambiguous relationship of sharing powers may lead to instances when the presidents seek to expand their power by claiming a prerogative to operate in a particular area. “Corwin argues the Constitution endows the president with prerogative power- which are validated by the Supreme Court” (p138). Corwin believes that “Prerogative is more important to presidential leadership than the use of political resources” (p.2). Prerogative power is granted to the executive to act when necessary, not limited to wartime or times “of urgency” in order to achieve a higher public good (p.138). Here Corwin embraces Theodore Roosevelt’s “stewardship theory”, which calls for an assertive presidency that is confined only at points specifically prohibited by law (p.138).
3 Since his perspective is shaped by years of history and research, Nuestadt views a personalized president like Franklin D. Roosevelt as being the exceptional model among modern presidents (p.124). To be an effective leader a president, in a practical manner, has to be in charge of his schedule and the information reaching him (p.125). He needs to set his own deadlines and be aware of and seek the necessary details. Neustadt claims that FDR was the most effective president at protecting power by using these techniques and taking control of the institution (p.125). His extraordinary experience combined with the fact that he was a politician seeking power allowed him to master the presidency and make a reputation for himself (p.126).
Contrary to Neustadt, Corwin refuses the notion of a “personalized presidency”(p.141).
Corwin realizes that a personalization of the presidency means that the accident of personality will play a considerable role in shaping the office, therefore, “If there is any model presidency for Corwin, it is the first Eisenhower administration” (141).
4 The Constitution vests “executive power” in the president. This includes the responsibility to execute the laws faithfully and appoint major administrators, such as heads of the various departments of the executive branch. Corwin maintains that the “invitation to struggle” applies to the system of separated powers which seem to invite each branch to enlarge its power control to direct American foreign policy (139). The president has two main advantages, both of which stem from the president's unique legal powers (139). The first of these presidential advantages is the formal vestment of executive authority in the office. The fact that presidents are the nation's chief executives endowed by the Constitution and stature with certain formal powers has consequences. For those powers enable them to make lots of important structural choices on their own without going through the legislative process. Simultaneously, Corwin argues that the “legislative veto” also gives Congress the right to retain ultimate authority- without the need of presidential consent” (146). Neustadt, however, did not rely on the Constitution to legitimize the president’s authority; rather personality was key for statecraft. While negotiation and compromise is typically necessary, the general direction of congressional policy is directly tied to the ideology of the larger party. Elections, patronage appointments, legislative committees, and national policy discourses all reflect the influence of parties (125).
5 Neustadt reiterates the importance of experience and independence in the presidency and reminds Presidents that turning to others signifies dependence on their knowledge and judgment. Only the President can understand and fit into his own shoes. One who questions information provided to him and does not rely completely on advisors is more likely to wield power effectively. The president’s political resources, according to Neustadt, include bargaining powers that come with the position, professional reputation and public prestige. The president’s professional reputation comes into play by how reliant the government’s infrastructure has on the presidency to carry out his legislation. The better the reputation of the president, the easier it will be to facilitate negotiations to implement policy. Public prestige deals with the president’s popular support outside Washington. Compared to Neustadt, Corwin thought rhetoric and personality mattered but, “cult” is dangerous (202). “All of these techniques”, such as the ones Neustadt relies, “are a highly personal, so much that Corwin wonders “wether presidency is a potential matrix of dictatorship” that is, domination. “A president can augment his political skills by mobilizing a supportive public opinion, using his rhetorical abilities, but a more reliable and permanent grounding for presidential leadership is partisanship” (3).

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