Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The American Presidency (2)

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:

“A man cannot possibly be judged a great President unless he holds office in great times: Washington’s eminence arose from the founding of the republic, Jackson’s from the upsurge in democracy, Lincoln’s from the Civil War, and Wilson’s from WWI.” p. 154. ……….

“A place at the top of the ladder is reserved only for those Presidents who have added to the office by setting precedents for other Presidents to follow.” p. 156. ……….

[FDR] “…demonstrated the ultimate capacity to dominate and control a supreme emergency….” p. 158. ……….

“…qualities that made FDR a man for posterity to remember: his buoyancy, which made it possible for him to love the job as no other President except the first Roosevelt had loved it…his breadth of vision…his delight in danger, which made him a natural leader for a generation whose lot was…’one damned crisis after another’…his sense of history…and his personal conservatism, which provided a solid base for his political liberalism.” p. 163.

“Harry S. Truman will be a well-remembered President because he proved that an ordinary man could fill the world’s most extraordinary office….” p. 173. ……….

“The memorable advice of Herbert Bayard Swope: ‘I don’t have a formula for success, but I know the sure formula for failure: try to please everybody.” p. 194. ……….

“…Eisenhower acted, however bravely he may have talked from time to time, like a man who preferred to let problems solve themselves.” p. 195. ……….

“…Presidents who really enjoy themselves in the White House, who welcome the challenges of the office as delightedly as they do the privileges.” p. 197.

“The real question about our Presidential primaries, it seems to me, is not whether they should take over completely the key role of the convention, which is an academic question at best, but whether they are worth all the fuss they cause in the minds of the public and all the strain they put upon even the most hard-shelled candidate: the active campaign for the Presidency becomes much too long drawn out a process; money becomes much too decisive a factor in the hopes and plans of any one candidate; some of the best candidates are torn between the responsibilities of the important positions they already fill and the lure of the one after which they hunger.” p. 214.

“The Presidency is a priceless symbol of our continuity and destiny as a people.” p. 295.

Comment: A book that presents the power and the limits of the Presidency. RayS.

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