The Presidency in a Separated System

The Presidency in a Separated System

CHARLES O. JONES
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 2
Pages: 403
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt1287b5w
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Presidency in a Separated System
    Book Description:

    Media coverage and popular interpretations of American government typically concentrate on the presidency. Observers often attribute the fortunes of an entire government to one person or his small circle of advisers. In an updated and revised edition of his classic book, Charles O. Jones explains how too exclusive a focus on the presidency distorts the picture of how national government really works. He explores how presidents find their place in the permanent government and how they are "fitted in" by others, most notably those on Capitol Hill. Powerful though it may be, the Oval Office is not the source of all authority in government. Jones examines the organizational, political, and procedural challenges facing presidents, as well as the role of public approval. The author compares the post-World War II presidents and identifies their strengths and weaknesses in working within a separated system of government. The new edition extends through the Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies. It explains how split-party control, differing partisan strategies, and our recent "narrow-margin politics" have changed the Washington landscape, reshaping relations among the branches of government. Once again, in this edition, the author draws several lessons for presidents working in a separated system. Most have heeded these lessons, while analysts often ignore them in favor of perpetuating unrealistic expectations of what presidents can do. "Jones has achieved a major milestone in research on the role of the president in the legislative process." -Journal of Politics "Jones has effectively and authoritatively replaced a popular view of the American presidency with a more accurate one. His argument and his evidence will enlarge and enrich our thinking about the office." -Richard F. Fenno, Jr., University of Rochester

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9777-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Perspectives on the Presidency
    (pp. 1-34)

    The president is not the presidency. The presidency is not the government. Ours is not a presidential system.

    I begin with these starkly negative themes as partial correctives to the more popular interpretations of the U.S. government as presidency-centered. Presidents learn these refrains on the job, if they do not know them before taking office. Consider what President George W. Bush knew of executive power prior to his taking the oath of office on January 20, 2001. He witnessed firsthand his father’s problems in governing with a Democratic Congress, 1989–93, culminating in his father’s defeat in 1992. He observed...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Presidents and the Presidency
    (pp. 35-65)

    Presidents are the leaders authorized to move into the White House. The presidency is the institution of executive powers. As Edward S. Corwin has written, “What the presidency is at any particular moment depends in important measure on who is President… . Yet the accumulated tradition of the office is also of vast importance.”¹ The way presidents fit into the presidency and affect it is by no means uniform, but their performance may be judged by criteria based on conceptions of what is presidential. These conceptions, in turn, are rooted in the accumulated tradition of the office. There is, after...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Organizing to Govern in the Separated System
    (pp. 66-127)

    The separated system of diffused responsibility, mixed representation, and competing legitimacies presents special problems for presidents. They are typically held accountable for many policies and most events, none of which they fully control. Unlike most prime ministers, presidents cannot depend on being well acquainted and connected with others in elected and decisionmaking positions. Neither can they presume upon a standard formula for sharing powers with these others, because none exists. Further, bureaucrats, legislators, and interest group representatives tend to accommodate to changes at the top by developing continuities below. The triangles of power may not be as cozy as in...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Public Standing of the President
    (pp. 128-176)

    The public standing of the president is receiving much greater attention than in the past. Pollsters and analysts are not content to await the next presidential election for a test of public approval of presidential performance. Nor need they do so. Americans are polled regularly on this question: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way [president’s name] is doing his job?” George C. Edwards III observes that the data produced are likely “the largest set of public responses to a single question asked over an extended period of time.”¹ The results are treated as news, often as a lead...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Presidents, Mandates, and Agendas
    (pp. 177-220)

    Presidents are expected to govern: to know about, perhaps to manage, the workload of government. Personal and political advantages, organization and appointments, and public backing are resources directed to this purpose. Proponents of the perspective of a responsible party government and an activist chief executive expect presidents to enter office with policy proposals, perhaps even a vision. By this view, good elections grant mandates, and mandates imply agendas and a will to see them acted on. The good and effective president is one who brings work to the government and aggressively manages the work that is already under way. He...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Presidents and Lawmaking in a Separated System
    (pp. 221-253)

    Presidential participation in lawmaking is not formulaic. Presidents vary in the advantages they possess for working with Congress, and forces beyond the president’s influence may be the deciding factors in what gets done. Presidents do have programs, which often become the focal point of congressional action. But members of Congress can, and do, prepare proposals on their own initiative or in response to those offered by the president. Few, if any, major policy proposals are likely to pass both houses unchanged. Presidents rarely expect that to happen, and if they do, they are inevitably disappointed.

    The very first words of...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Making Laws
    (pp. 254-338)

    Making laws in a separated system is a task as varied as the problems to which the laws are directed and the status of existing statutes. Incentives and prerogatives are widely distributed across governmental institutions, and this allocation ensures differing patterns in presidential-congressional relations. To illustrate the mix and variance, I have developed legislative histories for twenty-eight laws chosen from David R. Mayhew’s list of important enactments in the postwar era.¹ I gathered information on the principal stages of the statute-making process and, where available, reactions by the press, elected officials, and other relevant actors. These legislative histories allow me...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Thinking about Change
    (pp. 339-360)

    The president is authorized to shape the presidency. The presidency is in a continuous search for its role in the government. Ours is a separated system.

    The American presidency carries a burden of lofty expectations that simply are not warranted by the political or constitutional basis of the office. Presidents are important actors in national and world politics, but governments here and abroad adjust to their inevitable comings and goings. Effective presidents are those who know and understand their potential and variable place in the permanent and continuing government. One’s natural inclination is to make the president responsible for policies...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 361-386)
  14. Index
    (pp. 387-403)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 404-404)