Monday, June 22, 2009

The American Presidency (1)

Clinton Rossiter. New York: Time Incorporated. 1956/1963.

Why read it? The principal power of the President is to persuade people to do what they ought to do without persuasion (Harry Truman). The President is the image of the American people. He is Chief Diplomat. He is the Chief Democrat or Republican. He is crisis manager (“Words at times of crisis are deeds”). Must make final decisions. Can influence legislature, but has no power over the legislature. Has to persuade the federal agencies to carry out his policy. Must know the limits of his power and sense the possible or exhaust himself in trying to achieve the impossible.

Fixed term assures that the Presidency will not be a parliamentary style government in which the Prime Minister can be dismissed at any time that the legislature takes a vote of “No confidence.”

Lincoln raised the Presidency to supreme manager of crisis government.

The Presidency is the answer to those who say democracies must fail because they can’t decide or act promptly.

There is a widening gap between what the people expect and what Presidents can produce.

The Presidency is the symbol of continuity and destiny.

Sample quotes and ideas:

Harry Truman: “…but the principal power that the President has is to bring people in and try to persuade them to do what they ought to do without persuasion…what I spend most of my time doing…what the powers of the President amount to.” p. xi. ……….

The President, in short, is the one-man distillation of the American people….” p. 4. ……….

“ ‘Words at great moments of history are deeds,’ Clement Attlee said of Winston Churchill on the day the latter stepped down in 1945.” p. 23. ……….

“No man or combination of men in the United States can muster so quickly and authoritatively the troops, experts, food, money, loans, equipment, medical supplies, and moral support that may be needed in a disaster.” p. 24.

“Since it [the Presidency] is a one-man job, the one man who holds it can never escape making the final decisions….” p. 33. ……….

He [the President] has influence [on the legislature], and the influence may be great…but he has no power.” p. 47. ……….

"Several would doubtless go further to insist that the President’s hardest job is, not to persuade Congress to support a policy dear to his political heart, but to persuade the pertinent bureau or agency or mission, even when headed by men of his own choosing, to follow his direction faithfully and transform the shadow of the policy into the substance of a program.” p. 53.

FDR: “But the Treasury and the State Department are nothing compared with the Na-a-vy. To change anything in the Na-a-vy is like punching a feather bed; you punch it with your right and you punch it with your left until you are finally exhausted, and then you find the damn bed just as it was before you started punching.” p. 54. ……….

“The President must enlist a great deal of private support among both management and labor if he is to make his authority as Manager of Prosperity felt…. “ p. 60. ……….

“If the President cannot judge the limits of his power…if he cannot sense the possible, he will exhaust himself attempting the impossible” p. 68.

To be continued.

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