Persuasion and bargaining are the means that presidents use to influence policy. Not only do presidents need to bargain to influence other branches of government particularly Congressbut presidents also must bargain to influence the executive branch itself; cabinet secretaries, agency heads, and individual bureaucrats all have leverage that they can use against the president, requiring presidents to persuade even the executive branch, not merely command it. Neustadt's conclusion is a good summary:
This year the post seems particularly timely, given the controversy surrounding our current President — especially the fear that his authoritarian tendencies will undermine the presidency and the Constitutional order. In his almost six decades of public service and in academia, Neustadt advised presidents of both parties and their aides, and distilled these experiences in the form of several influential books on presidential leadership and decisionmaking.
Perhaps his biggest influence, however, came from the scores of students including Al Gore he mentored at Columbia and Harvard, many of whom went on to careers in public service. Interestingly, Neustadt came to academia through a circuitous route that, unfortunately, is rarely used today.
When Truman decided not to run for reelection inNeustadt faced a career crossroads. With the doctorate in hand, he decided to try his hand at academia. When he began working his way through the presidency literature to prepare to teach, however, he was struck by just how little these scholarly works had in common with his own experiences under Truman.
They described the presidency in terms of its formal powers, as laid out in the Constitution and subsequent statute. To Neustadt, these formal powers — while not inconsequential — told only part of the story.
With this motivation, he set down to write Presidential Powerwhich was first published in and went on to become the best-selling scholarly study of the presidency ever written.
Now in its 4th edition, it continues to be assigned in college classrooms around the world the Portuguese language edition came out a few years back. But his essential point is that because presidents share power with other actors in the American political system, they can rarely get things done on a sustained basis through command or unilateral action.
Instead, they need to persuade others that what the President wants done is what they should want done as well, but for their own political and personal interests.
At the most fundamental level that means presidents must bargain. The most effective presidents, then, are those who understand the sources of their bargaining power, and take steps to nurture those sources.
With rare exceptions, presidential power is not the power to change minds. It teaches them how to gain, nurture and exercise power. Interestingly, the book might have languished on bookstore shelves if not for a fortuitous event: Kennedy asked Neustadt to write transition memos to help prepare him for office.
Believe me, nothing boosts the sale of a book on the presidency more than a picture of the President reading that book! He also continued churning out graduate students I was the last doctoral student whose dissertation committee Neustadt chaired at Harvard.
When I went back to Harvard in as an assistant professor, my education continued; I lured Neustadt out of retirement to co-teach a graduate seminar on the presidency — an experience that deepened my understanding of the office and taught me to appreciate good scotch.Presidential Power Richard E.
Neustadt Presidential Power.
Macmillan Publishing Company New York. In the United States we like to “rate” a president. Neustadt’s basic thesis is that, despite the semblance of enormous institutional strength, the tenure of American Presidents is defined primarily by weakness rather than strength.
He draws a distinction between the constitutional “powers” of a President and the power of a President as embodied in his personal influence. It was at Columbia that Neustadt wrote the book Presidential Power (; a revised edition titled Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership appeared in ), in which he examined the decision-making process at the highest levels of government.
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Topic Category - General. Previous Topic. Related Topics. Neustadt refers to the president in this respect, as a "clerk", in which the president must balance differing interests.
Just because the president wants something done does not mean that the others who also possess the power and authority will carry out his wishes. Key Point: "Presidential power is the power to persuade." (11) Presidents are expected to do much more than their authority allows them to do.
Persuasion and bargaining are .