Book Search:  

 

 
Google full text of our books:

bookjacket

The Strategic President:
Persuasion and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership
George C. Edwards III

Book Description | Endorsements | Table of Contents

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Published by Princeton University Press and copyrighted, © 2009, by Princeton University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher, except for reading and browsing via the World Wide Web. Users are not permitted to mount this file on any network servers. Follow links for Class Use and other Permissions. For more information, send e-mail to permissions@press.princeton.edu

This file is also available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format

CHAPTER 1

Power as Persuasion

LEADERSHIP is perhaps the most commonly employed concept in politics. Politicians, pundits, journalists, and scholars critique and analyze public officials, attributing both success and failure to the quality of their leadership. When times are bad, as people often perceive them to be, the reflexive call is for new—and better—leadership.

The president is the most prominent focus of political leadership in the United States, and the notion of the dominant president who moves the country and the government by means of strong, effective leadership has deep roots in American political culture. Those chief executives whom Americans revere—from Washington to Franklin D. Roosevelt—have taken on mythic proportions as leaders. Anecdotes about the remarkable persuasive powers of presidents abound. Often these tales originate with presidential aides or admiring biographers, fed by the hagiography that envelops presidents and distorts both our memories and our critical faculties.

For example, Garry Wills entitled a book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America.1 But did they? The evidence suggests a different conclusion, at least when it came the idea of equality.2 Recent scholarship has shown that few listeners, including soldiers, commented about his speech, and when the press mentioned Lincoln’s words at all, they accorded it second billing to Edward Everett’s two-hour official oration. Otherwise, the press typically reduced the address to a sound bite—or worse, as in the memorable words of The Steubenville Weekly Herald: “President Lincoln was there, too.” Similarly, the press met the president’s words with “virtual editorial silence,” although some opposition papers greeted the speech with criticism. In a final, although unintended insult, a number of news reports badly misquoted the president. The Centralia Sentinel in Illinois substituted “Ninety years ago” for “Four score and seven” and heard “conceived in liberty” as “consecrated to freedom.”3

What about a generational impact? We know that it took a century to realize Lincoln’s call for equality,4 so it seems rather generous to Lincoln to argue that his few sentences at the cemetery dedication remade America. We also know that Lincoln’s decency and eloquence did not preclude him from being in danger of losing the election of 1864 until Sherman marched through Georgia. Similarly, the president’s own party largely ignored his call in his eloquent second inaugural address for toleration and moderation toward the defeated South. Lincoln was undeniably an extraordinary human being. However, we cannot infer from that fact that public officials and members of the public responded positively to him.

When Ronald Reagan’s pollster found that the public overwhelmingly disapproved of the administration’s reductions in aid to education, Michael Deaver—the president’s longtime public relations guru—arranged for Reagan to make a series of speeches emphasizing quality education. Deaver later gloated to the Wall Street Journal that public approval of the president regarding education “flip-flopped” without any change in policy at all.5 If public opinion did change as Deaver described, it would indeed have been an impressive performance of presidential persuasion. However, opinion did not change. Deaver was referring to the addresses, including national radio addresses, Reagan delivered in the spring and summer of 1983. Yet in Gallup’s August poll, only 31 percent of the public approved how Reagan was handling education.6

Similarly, in his memoir of the Reagan years, Deaver reports that the president was distressed about the lack of public support for defense spending. According to Deaver,

Reagan pulled me aside one day; “Mike,” he said, “these numbers show you’re not doing your job. This is your fault; you gotta get me out of Washington more so I can talk to people about how important this policy is.” I did, and he would systematically add his rationale for more military spending to nearly every speech, and eventually his message would get through to the American people.7

In fact, however, public opinion on defense spending did not move in the president’s direction, as we will see in the next chapter. One does not have to challenge the sincerity of the author’s memory to conclude that such commentary contributes to the misunderstanding of the potential of presidential leadership.

Even though both the public and commentators are frequently disillusioned with the performance of individual presidents and recognize that stalemate is common in the political system, Americans eagerly accept what appears to be effective presidential leadership as evidence on which to renew their faith in the potential presidential persuasion to engender change. After all, if presidential leadership works some of the time, why not all of the time?

Leadership as Persuasion

Despite all the attention to leadership, it remains an elusive concept, and there is little consensus even on what leadership is. According to James MacGregor Burns, “Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”8 Barbara Kellerman lists ten different definitions of political leadership,9 as does Gary Yukl.10

Writers and commentators employ the term “leadership” to mean just about everything a person who occupies what we often refer to as a position of leadership does—or should do. When we define a term so broadly, however, it loses its utility. Making tough decisions, establishing an administration’s priorities, and appointing good people to implement policy are core functions of the presidency. Yet these activities are quite different from, say, obtaining the support of the public, the Congress, or other nations for the president’s policies.

George W. Bush liked to say his job was to make tough decisions. He often referred to himself as a “strong leader” in this context, and he made strong leadership the underlying theme of his reelection campaign. The president promoted this perception of his leadership with a tough-guy image, as in his use of provocative language declaring that he wanted Osama bin Laden “dead or alive” and his taunting Iraqi insurgents to “bring ‘em on.”

There is no question that the Constitution and federal laws invest significant discretionary authority in the president. Making decisions and issuing commands are important, and doing them well requires courage, wisdom, and skill. At times, the exercise of unilateral authority may lead to historic changes in the politics and policy of the country. In the extreme case, the president can choose to launch a nuclear attack at his discretion. The consequences would be vast. Most people, however, would not view such an act as one of leadership. In exercising discretionary authority, the president, in effect, acts alone. He does not have to lead. At its core, decision making represents a different dimension of the job of the chief executive than obtaining the support of others.

Persuasion refers to causing others to do something by reasoning, urging, or inducement. Influencing others is central to the conception of leadership of most political scientists. Scholars of the presidency want to know whether the chief executive can affect the output of government by influencing the actions and attitudes of others. In a democracy, we are particularly attuned to efforts to persuade, especially when most potentially significant policy changes require the assent of multiple power holders.

An important element of a chief executive’s job may be creating the organizational and personal conditions that promote innovative thinking, the frank and open presentation and analysis of alternatives, and effective implementation of decisions by advisers and members of the bureaucracy. We may reasonably view such actions as leadership, and there is no doubt that the processes of decision making and policy implementation are critical to governing. For purposes of this book, however, I focus on leadership of those who are not directly on the president’s team and who are thus less obligated to support his initiatives.

RICHARD NEUSTADT AND THE POWER TO PERSUADE

Perhaps the best-known dictum regarding the American presidency is that “presidential power is the power to persuade.”11 It is the wonderfully felicitous phrase that captures the essence Richard Neustadt’s argument in Presidential Power. For half a century, scholars and students—and many presidents—have viewed the presidency through the lens of Neustadt’s core premise.

Neustadt provided scholars with a new orientation to the study of the presidency. Published in 1960, his framework was strikingly different from those of Edward S. Corwin12 and Clinton Rossiter13 that had dominated presidential scholarship. These differences were to have important consequences for the way many scholars would examine the presidency over the ensuing decades, as the emphasis on persuasion encouraged moving beyond Corwin’s focus on the formal powers of the presidency and Rossiter’s stress on roles. In Neustadt’s words, “‘powers’ are no guarantee of power”14 and “[t]he probabilities of power do not derive from the literary theory of the Constitution.”15 Power, then, is a function of personal politics rather than of formal authority or position. Neustadt placed people and politics in the center of research, and the core activity on which he focused was leadership. Indeed, the subtitle of Presidential Power is The Politics of Leadership. In essence, presidential leadership was the power to persuade.

Following Neustadt’s lead, scholars began to study the people within institutions and their relationships with each other rather than to focus primarily on the institutions themselves and their formalities. It was not the roles of the president but the performance of those roles that mattered. It was not the boundaries of behavior but the actions within those boundaries that warranted the attention of scholars. In other words, scholars began to study presidents attempting to lead by persuading others to follow them. The president’s need to exercise influence in several arenas led those who follow Neustadt’s power perspective to adopt an expansive view of presidential politics that includes both governmental institutions and actors, such as the Congress, bureaucracy, and White House staff, and those outside of government, such as the public, the press, and interest groups.16

Two critical premises follow from Neustadt’s argument that presidential power is the power to persuade. Both have had a powerful impact on studying the presidency. The first stems from the fact that power is a concept that involves relationships between people. By focusing on relationships and suggesting why people respond to the president as they do, Neustadt shifted us into a more analytical mode. To understand relationships, we must explain behavior.

Equally important, Neustadt was concerned with the strategic level of power:

There are two ways to study “presidential power.” One way is to focus on the tactics . . . of influencing certain men in given situations.... The other way is to step back from tactics on those “givens” and to deal with influence in more strategic terms: what is its nature and what are its sources? . . . Strategically, [for example] the question is not how he masters Congress in a peculiar instance, but what he does to boost his chance for mastery in any instance.17

Neustadt, then, was less interested in what causes something to happen in one instance than in what affects the probabilities of something happening in every instance. To think strategically about power, we must search for generalizations and calculate probabilities. Although he employed neither the language nor the methods of modern social science, Neustadt was clearly a forerunner. His emphasis on reaching generalizations about presidential power discouraged ad hoc explanations and may have been his greatest contribution of all.

The emphasis on explaining relationships has had a positive impact on studying the presidency. Less benign has been the impact of a second implicit proposition. There is an important a prescriptive element in Presidential Power. Neustadt’s central motivation for writing the book was to offer advice to presidents to help them help themselves with their strategic problem of power, and he remained interested in the challenges of governing. Indeed, tying scholarship to governing is important, because—entertainment value aside—governing is the primary reason we study politics. Underlying his effort to aid presidents in leading was Neustadt’s premise that they could succeed in persuading others if they were skilled enough at recognizing and protecting their interests and exploiting critical resources.

The view that presidents not only need to persuade but that they can do so has led scholars, commentators, and other observers of the presidency to focus on the question of how presidents persuade rather than the more fundamental question of whether they can do so. In addition, Neustadt’s emphasis on the personal in politics—and the potential success of persuasion—has led some scholars to overlook the importance of the context in which the president operates as well as his institutional setting. Ironically, this focus has also discouraged reaching generalizations about the strategic level of power.

It would be unfair to argue that Neustadt had erected an impediment to understanding the broader patterns of presidential influence. His emphasis on the person in the office certainly discouraged it, however, especially among the less discerning of his readers. Similarly, many scholars and other commentators on the presidency have fallen prey to the personalization of politics and have uncritically accepted, for example, an exaggerated concept of the potential for using the “bully pulpit” to go public.

Presidential Power has remained the most influential, and most admired, book on the American presidency—and for good reason. Its focus on the influence relationships of presidents was a critical intellectual breakthrough that forced us to broaden and clarify our thinking and encouraged us to emphasize explanation and generalization in our research. Yet we must not assume the power to persuade. Instead, we need to explore the basic premises of presidential leadership.

“TRANSFORMATIONAL” LEADERS

Although Neustadt encouraged the belief that presidential persuasion was possible, he began with the premise that presidents would have to struggle to get their way. As he put it, “The power to persuade is the power to bargain.”18 Indeed, it was the inherent weakness of the presidency that made it necessary for presidents to understand how to use their resources most effectively. Not everyone has such restrained views of leaders, however.

A common premise underlying the widespread emphasis on political leadership as the wellspring of change is that some leaders have the capability to transform policy by reshaping the influences on it. Such “transformational” leadership is the holy grail of leadership studies. An Internet search of the phrase “transformational leadership” will quickly produce more than a million hits. Web sites, institutes, and research studies focus on understanding—and teaching—the principles of transformational leadership.

With so much attention on transformational leadership, there is no consensus definition of the concept. The most prominent advocate of transformational leadership is James MacGregor Burns.19 The essence of Burns’s concept of transformation is elevating moral leadership, transforming both the leaders and the led. This change, in turn, leads to fundamental and comprehensive change in society, values, and political structures.20 In his work on leadership, Burns focuses more on the goals of leadership than on democratic political leaders actually leading.

Others have adopted the term “transformational” and infused it with broader meaning than Burns originally intended. Writing on the private sector views transformational leaders as visionaries and catalysts for change who sell their ideas and reshape their organizations. Common to most applications of the concept in the public sector is a belief in the potential of transformational leadership to change the opinions and behavior of followers in the public and actors in institutions and thus effect major change. (The address in one of the first hits in an Internet search for “transformational leadership” is aptly named ChangingMinds.org.) Burns himself asserts at various points that transformational leaders have an “extraordinary potential influence over followers” and “immense” potential for influence over them. They are event-making individuals who define the forks in history.21

It would be easy to become enmeshed in debates about whether a particular president was “transformational.” The issue is not whether major policy changes that presidents desire occur. They do. Neither is the issue determining when change is large enough that we may consider it to be transformational. That is a matter I leave to others. I am interested in significant changes, whether or not they are “transformational.” The fundamental question is whether presidents have the potential to persuade others to follow them. If significant changes in public policy occur, what is the explanation? Can presidents transform politics through persuasion? On the other hand, must presidents persuade in order to change policy?

EXPLAINING CHANGE

The tenacity with which many commentators embrace the persuasive potential of political leadership is striking. They routinely explain historic shifts in public policy such as those in the 1930s, 1960s, and 1980s in terms of the extraordinary persuasiveness of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan.

Equally striking is the lack of evidence of the persuasive power of the presidency. Observers in both the press and the academy base their claims about the impact of such leadership on little or no systematic evidence and seemingly little reflection. There is not a single systematic study that demonstrates that presidents can reliably move others to support them.

Perhaps faith in the potential of persuasive leadership persists because such a view simplifies political analysis. Because broader forces that may influence changes in policy are complex, and perhaps even intractable, focusing primarily on the individual as leader eases the burden of explaining policy change. Faith in the persuasive presidency also simplifies the evaluation of the problems of governing. If it is reasonable to expect the White House to create opportunities for change, then failures of leadership must be personal deficiencies. If problems arise because the leader lacks the proper will, skills, or understanding, then the solution to our need for leadership is straightforward and simple: Elect presidents who are willing and able to lead. Because the system is responsive to appropriate leadership, it will function smoothly with the right leader in the Oval Office. The blame for unsuccessful leadership lies with the leader rather than with the opportunities for change in the leader’s environment.

Leadership as Facilitation

The American political system is not a fertile field for the exercise of presidential leadership. Most political actors are free to choose whether to follow the chief executive’s lead; the president cannot force them to act. At the same time, the sharing of powers established by the Constitution prevents the president from acting unilaterally on most important matters and gives other power holders different perspectives on issues and policy proposals. Thus, the political system compels the president to attempt to lead while inhibiting his ability to do so.

These imperatives present the primary challenge to his political leadership. Harry Truman, writing to his sister, reflected on the job of president:

Aside from the impossible administrative burden, he has to take all sorts of abuse from liars and demagogues.... The people can never understand why the President does not use his supposedly great power to make ‘em behave. Well, all the President is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.22

Despite Truman’s frustration, presidents often succeed in achieving changes in public policy, some of which are of historic significance. Coupling this fact with the lack of systematic evidence that presidents succeed in persuasion and plenty of evidence that they frequently fail to achieve the policy changes they desire presents a conundrum. What explains their success when they have it? If persuasion is not the key, then what is?

If persuasion plays a minor part in presidential leadership, it does not follow that leadership is unimportant. Successful leadership may have another explanation. In some cases, presidents may not need to rely on persuasion because there is already sufficient support for their policy stances. In other instances, there may be latent support that requires activation by the president and his supporters. In all cases, presidents who are successful in obtaining support for their agendas have to evaluate the opportunities for change in their environments carefully and orchestrate existing and potential support skillfully. Although it is not common for students of politics to articulate leadership as recognizing and exploiting opportunities for change, these—rather than persuasion—may be the essential presidential leadership skills.

To sharpen our thinking about leadership, it is useful to contrast two broad perspectives on the presidency. In the first, the president is the director of change. Through his leadership, he creates opportunities to move in new directions, leading others where they otherwise would not go. The director establishes an agenda and persuades the public, organized interests, Congress, and others to support administration policies. Accordingly, the president is the moving force of the system. Some may term such leadership as “transformational,” and all view it as based on successful persuasion.

A second perspective is less heroic. Here the president is primarily a facilitator of change. Facilitators understand the opportunities for change in their environments and fashion strategies and tactics to exploit them. Rather than create a constituency, they reflect and sometimes clarify, intensify, or channel their constituencies’ aspirations, values, and policy views. Instead of persuading others to support them, they skillfully work at the margins of coalition building, perhaps influencing a few critical actors, to obtain support for their initiatives.

It is important not to underrate this role. The facilitator is not simply one who seizes opportunities as they present themselves and invites people to do what they already want to do. Change is not inevitable, and facilitators make things happen that otherwise would not. Effective facilitators are skilled leaders who must recognize the opportunities that exist in their environments, choose which opportunities to pursue, when and in what order, and exploit them with skill, energy, perseverance, and will.

The director reshapes the contours of the political landscape to pave the way for change, whereas the facilitator exploits opportunities presented by a favorable configuration of political forces. The director creates a constituency to follow his lead, whereas the facilitator endows his constituency’s views with shape and purpose. The range and scope of the director’s influence are broad, whereas those of the facilitator are narrower.

The question of the relative influence of context and personal skills has also occupied some scholars of leadership within Congress. In their innovative examination of leadership in the House of Representatives, Joseph Cooper and David Brady concluded that institutional context is more important than personal skills or traits in determining the influence of leaders. They found no relationship between leadership style and effectiveness and argue that the institutional context, especially party strength, in which leaders find themselves, determines their leadership style more than do their own personal traits.23

The distinction between director and facilitator does not create exclusive categories: my goal is neither to classify presidents nor to resolve an academic dispute. Instead, I employ these types to aid our understanding of leadership by exploring its possibilities. Once we understand the possibilities of leadership, we are in a better position to assess both the performance of presidents and the opportunities for change. Equally important, we will be better positioned to explain the success or failure of presidential leadership.

The two categories of leader do not represent a straw man. Instead, they represent leadership types common in the literature on leadership. Sidney Hook contrasted the “eventful man,” who influences developments noticeably, and the “event-making man,” an eventful man whose actions are the consequences of outstanding capacities rather than accidents of position and who not only appears at but also helps define the forks in the road of history. (Hook expected few event-making leaders in democracies. His principal example of an event-maker in the twentieth century was Lenin.24)

Burns, arguing that leaders can change contextual forces under certain conditions, criticized Franklin D. Roosevelt for being only an “eventful man.”25 He goes on to argue:

There is an important difference between the politician who is simply an able tactician, and the politician who is a creative political leader. The former accepts political conditions as given and fashions a campaign and a set of policies best suited to the existing conditions. The latter tries consciously to change the matrix of political forces amid which he operates, in order that he may better lead the people in the direction he wants to go. The former operates within slender margins; the latter, through sheer will and conviction as well as political skill, tries to widen the margins with which he operates. He seeks not merely to win votes but consciously to alter basic political forces such as public opinion, party power, interest group pressure, the governmental system.26

This description is a close match to my distinction between facilitators and directors of change.

There is of course a third possibility: a president who is disposed not to lead. Although some occupants of the Oval Office may have fit this description, it is not useful for our purposes. We may learn a great deal about leadership from those who do not succeed in their efforts, but we can learn little from those who do not endeavor to lead.

GREAT MEN VERSUS HISTORICAL INEVITABILITY

It is useful to distinguish the leadership types I employ from the polar positions that characterize the debate over the “great man” interpretation of history. The two sides of this issue assumed their best-known forms in the nineteenth century. In Heroes and Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History, published in 1841, Thomas Carlyle argued that great men alone were responsible for the direction of history. To Carlyle, the environment of the hero was generally malleable and thus receptive to leadership.

George W. Bush shares this view of leadership. As conservative columnist David Brooks put it, “When Bush is asked about military strategy, he talks about the leadership qualities of his top generals.... When Bush talks about world affairs more generally, he talks about national leaders.” Bush “is confident that in reading the individual character of leaders, he is reading the tablet that really matters. History is driven by the club of those in power. When far-sighted leaders change laws and institutions, they have the power to transform people.”27

Viewing history from quite a different perspective, various schools of social determinists, including the Spencerians, Hegelians, and Marxists, saw history as an inexorable march in one direction, with change occurring only when the culture was ripe for it. They concluded that great men could not have acted differently from the way they did. Tolstoy’s portrayal of Napoleon in War and Peace is perhaps the most memorable depiction of this view.

Most will agree that these perspectives are inadequate, and we have no need to become mired in this ancient debate. My contrasting leadership types are much less extreme, and the issue is not whether leadership matters, but rather how much and in what ways. It is not sufficient to conclude, however, that sometimes the environment is receptive to change and at other times, it is not. This view simply begs the question of whether leaders are able to influence the environment so as to create the opportunity for change. It also discourages inquiring about the roles that recognizing and exploiting opportunities play in presidential success.

HOW PRESIDENTS MATTER

It is common to argue that it makes a difference who the president is.28 For example, commentators often offer the example of the attempted assassination of President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 15, 1933, to make the point. If anarchist Giuseppe Zangara had succeeded in assassinating Roosevelt instead of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, they argue, the history of the United States would have been different. No doubt. It does not follow, however, that the difference Roosevelt made lay in his ability to build supportive coalitions through persuasive leadership.

Thus, I am not suggesting that presidents do not have transformative effects or that they are not independent agents in producing them. Stephen Skowronek maintains that the presidency’s capacity to transform American government and politics results from its blunt and disruptive effects. Andrew Jackson forced the submission of the nullifiers and undermined the Bank of the United States, Franklin Pierce deployed the resources of his office on behalf of the Kansas Nebraska Act, and Lincoln bludgeoned the South into submission. All were transformative acts that changed the landscape of American government and politics. I agree. And Skowronek agrees that persuasion was not central to any of these actions.29

In addition, Skowronek argues that presidential failures can be as transformative as their successes, with retribution for failure driving political change, jarring loose governing coalitions, opening unforeseen alternatives, shifting the balance of power, and passing to successors an entirely new set of opportunities and constraints.30 Again, I agree. My focus, however, is on presidents attempting to obtain support for policies that they want.

The question, then, is not whether presidents matter. Of course they do. The question is how they matter—how do they bring about change? If we are going to understand the nature of presidential leadership and the potential of persuasion,we must not conflate persuasion with other dimensions of the presidency such as discretionary decision making. In addition, we must move beyond anecdotes and investigate presidential persuasion more rigorously. Finally, we need to investigate whether facilitative skills are another, and important, dimension of presidential leadership. Thus, it is reasonable to ask whether the most effective presidents reshape the political landscape to pave the way for change, or whether they recognize and skillfully exploit opportunities in their environments to achieve significant changes in public policy. If recognizing and exploiting opportunities are critical leadership skills, we need to understand how presidents exercise them.

The Importance of Understanding Leadership

Debunking exaggerated claims of presidential persuasiveness is not an end in itself. Rejecting simplistic and inaccurate explanations for political change is the first step to understanding the nature of presidential leadership, however. And it is important that we do so.

Understanding presidential leadership provides lessons for scholars and presidents alike. I defer discussion of these matters until chapter 6, after we explore the explanations for successful presidential leadership. It is clear, however, that the stakes of understanding the potential of persuasiveness are especially high for the White House. If the conventional wisdom is wrong and presidents are not able to persuade, much less mobilize, the public or Congress, then presidents may be wasting their time and adopting governing styles that are prone to failure. Presidents—and the country—often endure self-inflicted wounds when they fail to appreciate the limits of their influence.

Avoiding mistakes is not enough, of course. It is important for all of us to understand how successful presidents actually do lead. What are the essential presidential leadership skills? Under what conditions are they most effective? What contributions can these skills make to engendering change? The answers to these questions should influence presidents’ efforts to govern, the focus of scholarly research and journalistic coverage, and the expectations and evaluations of citizens. Thus, we must seek a better understanding of presidential leadership in order to think sensibly about the role of the chief executive in the nation’s political system.

* * * * *

Having posed the question of how presidents bring about changes in public policy, it is time to answer it. The most constructive approach is to examine rigorously the actual circumstances and success of presidents, especially of those presidents to whom we most often attribute transformational leadership. In the next four chapters, I explore presidential success in moving the objects of most of their persuasive efforts: the public and Congress.

At the core of my analysis is examining the strongest cases for persuasive leadership. Using best test cases here focuses attention on the most difficult hurdles for a challenge to the conventional wisdom that persuasion is the key to successful presidential leadership. In the best test case approach, the burden of proof is on the challenger. However, if an argument holds for the most difficult cases, the logic of the analysis is that it will hold for others as well.

Thus, in chapters 2 and 4, I focus on best test cases, including the political giants Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ronald Reagan, searching for persuasiveness where we are most likely to find it. We want to discover whether the presidents who led the fights for the most significant changes in public policy succeeded through persuading others to support their policies or whether their success rested on recognizing and exploiting existing opportunities for change.

I take a different tack in chapters 3 and 5. There I examine presidents governing in more typical circumstances. My goal is to determine whether whatever success such presidents achieved was the result of the same type of leadership as that employed by presidents governing in more auspicious conditions. In addition, I explore a variety of forms of facilitative leadership to enrich our understanding of both its possibilities and its limitations.

Return to Book Description

File created: 12/11/2008

Questions and comments to: webmaster@pupress.princeton.edu
Princeton University Press

New Book E-mails
New In Print
PUP Blog
Videos/Audios
Princeton APPS
Sample Chapters
Subjects
Series
Catalogs
Princeton Legacy Library
Textbooks
Media/Reviewers
Class Use
Rights/Permissions
Ordering
Recent Awards
Princeton Shorts
Freshman Reading
PUP Europe
About Us
Contact Us
Links
F.A.Q.
PUP Home


Bookmark and Share