Executive Branch


Executive Branch Essay, Research Paper

The executive branch of our government is like a chameleon. To a startling degree it

reflects the character and personality of the President. Clark M. Clifford, 1972

Page 189.

Ford was not a natural administrator, but he a was an experienced political professional.

His practice was to steer clear of jurisdictional rivalries, avoid having confidants within

his cabinet, have private sources of advice outside the cabinet, leave “management and

program implementation to the department heads,: and encourage dissent when he was

making up his mind, but reserve the final decisions for himself. Page 120

Your motives will help maintain a positive outlook

Your speaking style and body language can be a liability. As was for Ford, who hit his

head while debarking from a helicopter and thereafter late-night television comedians

portrayed him as a bumbling incompetent. Page 120

Organizational Capacity —When we turn to the internal face of presidential leadership,

Eisenhower deserves the closest of attention. No other chief executive has entered the

White House with his organizational experience, and none has put comparable effort into

structuring his presidency. Eisenhower gave careful thought to finding the right

incumbents for the right roles. Once his aides were in place, he observed their

performance carefully, adjusting their responsibilities accordingly. Page 55

Public Communication —Of all of Eisenhower’s qualities, his political communication

style has least to command it to future chief executives. The preexisting public support

the popular IKE carried over into the White House made it unnecessary for him to sell

himself; his propensity to get results by indirection reduced his interest in public

persuasion; and his wartime achievements left him with no need to use his presidency to

establish a place in history. Page 54

Eisenhower was enormously popular with the American people from the period of his

service as supreme allied commander in Europe in World War II to his death in 1969, but

it was long held by students of American politics that his performance as chief executive

was largely a nonperformance. It was widely assumed that the policies of the Eisenhower

administration were made not by the amiable IKE but by his less-then-amiable secretary

of state, John Foster Dulles, and his stony-faced White House chief of staff, Sherman

Adams. Page 44

At U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Eisenhower graduated sixty-first in

a class of 164. (so you don’t have to be smart to be president). Page 45

One facet of Roosevelt’s public leadership was his fireside chats–the low-key, almost

conversational radio broadcasts through which he explained his policies. In contrast with

presidents who inundate the nation with words, Roosevelt rationed his broadcasts. Page


Master of Maneuver— No other president has been more politically proficient than

FDR,… with a legendary political network, and charm that could melt glaciers. Page 17.

(same as Clinton).

Emotional Intelligence— The politically gifted, emotionally challenged William

Jefferson Clinton provides yet another indication of the fundamental importance of

emotional intelligence in the modern presidency. Clinton’s political gifts enabled him

to thwart the Republican effort to remove him from office, but his psychic shortcoming

were debilitation. Assertions about the impact of an incumbent or recent president are

necessarily provisional, but Clinton seems certain to be recognized for moving the

Democratic party to the center of the political spectrum and for many incremental policy

departures. Yet he is also likely to be remembered as a politically talented

underachiever,… Page 188.

Nixon —His strengths included great intelligence, unbounded willingness to invest effort

in advancing his purposes, and an encyclopedic knowledge of politics. He had a shrewd

sense of power relations, keen insight into the psychology of others, and an instinctive

capacity to discern the possibilities for action in particular situations. He delighted in

making bold political moves and had a fascination with international affairs. Page 99

Nixon’s weaknesses arose from his deep-seated anger and feelings of persecution.

Much of his iron self-discipline went into masking his hostile tendencies, but they

periodically erupted, particularly when he was in the company of like-minded aides. He

also had a set of qualities that made him an anomaly in the world of politics: he was

highly introverted and socially awkward.. Page 99

Public Communication—Nixon was a “far from natural public speaker”. Page


Organizational Capacity— In the realm of organization, the Nixon White House provides

evidence of how staff arrangements need to be tailored to the occupant of the Oval


Page 106.

Political Skill— Nixon’s readiness to devote his waking hours to his job. Page 107.

Jimmy Carter— Was not a give and take kind of President as was needed in


His approval ratings were at 39%, just before his feat of personally negotiating a peace

agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1978. Carter invited Sadat and Israeli prime

minister Menachem Begin to meet with him at Camp David in a last-ditch effort at


Carter proved to be an ideal negotiator. He displayed none of his usual reluctance

to compromise. Page 137

He was managing his own White House staff, until after he demanded resignations from

his cabinet, and then naming Hamilton Jordan is chief of staff. Page 139

An early source of Carter’s difficulties was a controversy in the summer of 1977

over whether Carter’s friend and budget director, Bert Lance, had engaged in shady

banking practices in Georgia before joining the administration. Page 136

More damaging than specific events was the increasingly problematic economy,

which alternated between bursts of inflation and slowdowns in production throughout

Carter’s term.

Page 136

“…a president rarely goes unpunished for economic distress that occurs on his


Page 137

A president who studied the Carter experience would be alert to the dangers of

raising unrealistic expectations, failing to build bridges to Capitol Hill, and overloading

the national policy agenda. One who ignored Carter’s failures would risk repeating them,

which is precisely what President Bill Clinton did in his 1993 effort to reform the

national health care system. Clinton too commissioned a task force that had a

controversial head (his wife), met in secret, and did not consult with Congress. Page


Cognitive Style—Carter was better at the “specific than the general”. He lacked the

capacity of an Eisenhower to get at the heart of a problem or the ability of a Nixon to set

long- run goals. Page 143

Emotional Intelligence —For all of his self-composure, Jimmy Carter falls in the

category of chief executives whose emotional susceptibilities complicate their public

actions. Page 142

What Carter did have in common with Johnson and Nixon was an emotionally

driven limitation in his ability to get the most out of what otherwise were highly

impressive abilities.

Page 143.

Ronald Reagan was the son of an alcoholic, but “that did not stop him from

growing up with a rosy disposition”. As an adult he had a number of traits that are

common in children of alcoholics, including discomfort with conflict, remoteness in

personal relationships, and a tendency to put a rosy gloss on harsh realities. Page 146 &


Reagan’s political style was molded by his enthusiasm for FDR, his union

experience, and his background as actor. He took Roosevelt’s use of the presidential

pulpit as the prototype for his own political leadership. His experience as a lobar leader

helped shape the bargainingPage147 Reagan has been labeled “The Great

Communicator”. Because of one single broadcast of a fund- raising appeal, Reagan

brought in a cascade of contributions. Republicans formed an organization dedicated to

advancing his political future. He speaks with an ease and fluency that is derived from

his years as a public speaker. Because of that ease, California businessmen urged him to

run for Governor in 1966, and he did. Page 148

Reagan’s leadership had a distinct pattern that helps explain how he could have

had such a great historical impact despite his remoteness from the specifics of politics and

policy. First, because he had strong general convictions, Reagan was able to set his

administration’s overall priorities. He placed the defense buildup and his economic

program ahead of everything else. Second, he was tactically flexible, showing no regret

when he had to adjust to political opposition or to changed circumstances. Third, he was

a good negotiator, setting his demands higher than the minimum he would accept, and

accepting what he could get. Fourth, he made decisions easily and promptly. Page 150

and 151.

Public Communication —He was the first White House occupant who had been a career

public communicator before entering politics. His aides were masters at the atmospherics

of presidential communication, consistently providing television with irresistible images

that dominated the evening news. Page 155

Reagan was not well endowed with logical abilities, he was gifted at interpersonal

relations and strategic use of verbal and body language. These are traits that are more

common with actors than politicians. Reagan succeeded in turning them to good political

effect. Page 157

George Bush—Like Roosevelt, he was the product of a privileged upbringing that

instilled in him the ideal of public service. Page 160

Like other vice presidents, Bush cultivated the impression that he was a force in the

administration in which he served, but when questions were raised about whether he had

played a part in the Iran-contra affair, he insisted that he had been “out of the loop”.

Page 163

It may be viewed that Bush seemed almost without interest in domestic policy because of

the Gulf War all over the news, but that impression is misleading. He presided over two

major domestic policy reforms: an extensive revision of the Clean Air Act and the

passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Page 168

There was one politically costly domestic theme that did run through the Bush

presidency. I followed from his categorical no new taxes pledge in the 1988 campaign.

In 1990, he agreed to support a tax increase. Bush worsened matters with a dismissive

comment when reporters asked him about his change of position during one of his

morning jogs. Pointing to his buttocks, he tossed off the throwaway line, “Read my

hips.” Page 168

For bush to lean over backwards in order to avoid Reaganesque oratory, he deprived his

presidency of the teaching function that enabled presidents such as Roosevelt, Kennedy,

and Reagan to frame public perceptions, place their administrations in a favorable light,

and buffer themselves from negative developments. Page 169

Organizational Capacity—Kennedy coordinated his own White House. Kennedy

excelled at team building and at rallying his aides.

Public Communication—Kennedy’s approach to public communication is the eloquence

of his oratory and his intelligent and stylish performance in press conferences.

“Kennedy’s public performance and the attractive ambiance of his presidency won him

impressive levels of public approval” Page 70

Political Skill—Kennedy was never a Capitol Hill insider, but he came from a highly

political family and was a political professional with more than a dozen years of

legislative experience. He surrounded himself with politically experienced aides. What

is missing in Kennedy’s leadership is skill harnessed to a larger view of public policy…

Page 71

Kennedy’s reputation today is that of a presidential playboy, yet he spent many weekends

with his family in Cape Cod. He was a quick study and a speed reader who did confine

his reading to official memoranda. Page 72

According to Kennedy’s friend LeMoyne Billings, Kennedy treated “each day as if it

were his last, demanding of life constant intensity, adventure, and pleasure,” because he

had repeatedly come close to death in the war and in surgery and believed that he would

die at an early age from Addison’s disease. Page 72

Kennedy provides a reminder that a president’s actions are a function not only of the

intensity of his passions, but also of his capacity to channel them and prevent them from

confounding his official responsibilities. Page 73

Vision—Kennedy had little in the way of an overreaching perspective. He lacked grand

aspirations and was limited in what he could accomplish by the balance of forces in


Page 72

Vision—Harry S. Truman was fundamentally reactive. Many presidents were

not “event-making leaders”. Page 41.


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