Andrew Rudalevige Offers Antidote to Puffed-up Political Promises (Washington Post)

Andrew Rudalevige, Bowdoin’s Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government, writes in his blog, The Monkey Cage, that President Obama should not be surprised, as allegedly he sometimes professes to be, at the constraints of his office.

Rudalevige notes that the president’s effectiveness was aptly described by Harry Truman, who predicted that when incoming President Dwight Eisenhower got started at his job: “He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike… he’ll find it very frustrating.”

Rudalevige’s post was picked up by an election blog in The Washington Post as a “good antidote” to two weeks of listening to how presidents will change everything.

But the president does have some tools at hand. In his post Rudalevige offers this insight: “…presidents are institutionally and constitutionally constrained. How can they nonetheless exercise power? In Terry Moe’s important 1985 article “The Politicized Presidency” — from a Brookings Institution edited volume — the answer is that they must leverage their formal powers and shape those institutions closest to them, by avoiding Congress, centralizing functions in the Executive Office of the President, and seeding appointed loyalists throughout the wider bureaucracy.”


  1. Mark Lesser says:

    I would suggest that the President in general, and especially Obama, has the power to educate the people…the beacon pulpit. Obama could have explained exactly what transpired in the 2008 financial events. He could have explained the reactionary nature of the current Republican Party. He could have explained the profound change that the Supreme Court made with the Citizens United ruling.
    The cultural meme is the kernel of power for a president, or could be in the case of more engaging leaders.

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