The president of the United States is commonly thought to wield extraordinary personal power through the issuance of executive orders. In fact, the vast majority of such orders are proposed by federal agencies and shaped by negotiations that span the executive branch. By Executive Order provides the first comprehensive look at how presidential directives are written—and by whom.
In this eye-opening book, Andrew Rudalevige examines more than five hundred executive orders from the 1930s to today—as well as more than two hundred others negotiated but never issued—shedding vital new light on the multilateral process of drafting supposedly unilateral directives. He draws on a wealth of archival evidence from the Office of Management and Budget and presidential libraries as well as original interviews to show how the crafting of orders requires widespread consultation and compromise with a formidable bureaucracy. Rudalevige explains the key role of management in the presidential skill set, detailing how bureaucratic resistance can stall and even prevent actions the chief executive desires, and how presidents must bargain with the bureaucracy even when they seek to act unilaterally.
Challenging popular conceptions about the scope of presidential power, By Executive Order reveals how the executive branch holds the power to both enact and constrain the president’s will.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the Richard E. Neustadt Award, Presidents and Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association
Andrew Rudalevige is the Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government at Bowdoin College. His books include Managing the President's Program: Presidential Leadership and Legislative Policy Formulation (Princeton) and The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power after Watergate. Twitter @rudalev
"How much does a president go it alone when issuing an executive order? While many assume that the president legislates with the stroke of a pen, Rudalevige expertly illustrates that there is so much more happening behind the curtain of the executive branch. By Executive Order highlights the bureaucratic politics inherent in presidential action, showing us that even in unilateralism there is pluralism."—Rachel Augustine Potter, author of Bending the Rules: Procedural Politicking in the Bureaucracy
"With this beautifully written, meticulously researched, and carefully crafted book, Andrew Rudalevige unearths the bureaucratic politics that precede unilateral activity in all their richness and complexity. Unilateralism, we discover, is rarely the product of unity. Rather, executive orders routinely emerge from the contentious pluralism that churns within the executive branch. This is a fantastic book."—William G. Howell, coauthor of Presidents, Populism, and the Crisis of Democracy
"By Executive Order offers an important new way of thinking about the role of the president. Rudalevige demonstrates that presidents are not unilateral policymakers in the way the journalistic accounts often suggest, but rather they sit in the middle of a large bureaucratic enterprise."—David E. Lewis, author of The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance
"Rudalevige sheds light on one of the most important questions in contemporary American politics: has an increasingly unilateral presidency trampled on constitutional norms and threatened the constitutional system of checks and balances? By Executive Order opens new directions of research into the president's exercise of unilateral power."—Douglas L. Kriner, coauthor of Investigating the President: Congressional Checks on Presidential Power