Read the following WikiSums: (If the links do not work, try Google-ing “wikisum”, then click on the “Presidency” link under “American Politics”, and then click on “Kernell” and then on “Neutstadt.”)
1. Neustadt. 1960. Presidential power.
2. Kernell. 1997. Going public: New strategies of presidential leadership.
http://wikisum.com/w/Kernell:_Going_public (Links to an external site.)
These two summaries provide two accounts of how the presidency works. For Neustadt, “Presidential Power is the power to persuade.” This means that presidents should carefully guard their resources (think of saving your poker chips for the right time to go “all in”) and that they should maintain their “prestige” within the Washington Community (Congress, the Bureaucracy, the military establishment, the press, etc.–those political professionals “inside the Beltway”). “Prestige” means making sure professionals know you will/can keep your word–or, help your friends and harm your enemies. For example, a lame duck president may still have prestige (Bush and Cheney were still feared even as lame ducks, and thus could still get things done) even if their “reputation” (how the public approves/disapproves of them) is on the decline. At some point, a poor reputation (low public approval rating, say under 30%) will erode one’s prestige no matter how tough a president may be. This view suggests that public reputation is in large part derived from Washington Community prestige (e.g. when people used to get their news/opinions from the networks, national newspapers, and their members of Congress (MC’s), it was important for the president to cultivate good relationships with these elites).
Kernell argues that presidents now “go public” and appeal outside of, or over the heads of, Congress and the Washington Community. This view argues that the president can use the “bully pulpit” and appeal to the people directly to put pressure on their MC’s. You might think of President Trump’s use of “Twitter(c)” or former President Obama’s use of “YouTube(c)” as recent examples of this trend.
Is presidential power based on a president’s ability to bargain or on their ability to mass public support? Write an 800-1000 word essay arguing what makes some presidents powerful and others weak. Was President Obama a “powerful” president? Explain. Does the increasing partisanship in Congress make either Neustadt’s or Kernell’s approach more likely to be effective in our contemporary situation? What are the attributes that candidates for the 2020 election should have (those of a bargainer or those of a preacher/visionary/leader)? Feel free to use the recent election as a way of illustrating your arguments. You can also get some ideas from the link below.
http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/29/politics/jfk-nixon-debate/index.html (Links to an external site.)