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Discuss the claim that the president is merely 'bargainer-in-chief'

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Discuss the claim that the president is merely 'bargainer-in-chief' The chief power of the president is the 'power to persuade' (Neustadt 1980). This is the ability to bargain, encourage, and even cajole but not dictate. The ability of US presidents to get their own way depends on four crucial relationships: Congress, the federal bureaucracy, the Supreme Court and the mass media, as well as the issue of foreign and domestic policy. The president's relationship with Congress is undoubtedly the most crucial. The success of particular presidents, for instance, is often measured in terms of their 'success rate' with Congress, the proportion of their legislative programme that manages to survive congressional scrutiny. However, following the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal presidents have had to confront a more assertive Congress, intent on reclaiming some of their lost powers. An early example of this was the War Powers Act 1974, which meant that congressional support was required for the deploying of the troops. This stated that the president can use troops abroad under three conditions: when Congress has declared war, when Congress has given him specific authority to do so, or when an attack on the United Sate or its military creates a national crisis. The president has however, managed to step round this. This was certainly true in the Persian Gulf, where President Bush sent 250,000 troops to the Gulf between August and November 1990 on his own authority. ...read more.


Rose states that every president now spends most of their time on foreign relations and national security issues. This is partly as an escape from the uncertainties of Washington politics but partly because a triumph on the world stage can, pay dividends back home. This trend has been further strengthened by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11th 2001.Though the president has acquired a great deal of power in foreign issues, he still does not have the power to reign. In theory, the federal bureaucrats exist to serve the presidents, but in practise, it often acts as a constraint. Although presidents make, directly and indirectly, about 3000 appointments at senior and middle ranking levels in their administrations, this is tiny in proportion to the total number of professional bureaucrats in the US, who number over 2000,000. Moreover, it is widely argued that these bureaucrats respond frequently to interests at odds with the priorities of the administration. As secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson, F.D Roosevelt described influencing the Navy Department as like punching a feather mattress: 'you punch and punch but it remains the same.' The media are vital to presidents who need to appeal directly to the US public 'over the heads of Congress'. In this respect, presidents like Reagan, who was a former actor and journalist, have been extremely successful in 'Going Public' and 'managing' the media coverage and ensuring favourable comment, and to persuade Washington indirectly. ...read more.


Overall, it seems that the power of the president rests upon his 'power to persuade'. Because of the constraints imposed upon him, a president can only achieve his policy goals through crafted strategy of negotiation and bargaining. This power can either make or break a president. For example, President Johnson used his persuasive skills to build coalitions of support for his civil rights legislation and 'the war on poverty'. President Clinton was 'an effective communicator who employed experienced staff in all-important Office of Legislative Affairs' (John Owens). His skills therefore ensured a number of important legislative successes such as the passage of the 1993 budget, and the motor voter bill that enabled citizens to register as voters more easily. However, presidents have not always been successful. As Nigel Bowles noted 'Congress will not be bludgeoned into submission, as Nixon learned to his cost; it must be courted into partnership, as Carter learned to his.' President Carter, had a particularly difficult relationship with Congress, regarded as a Washington Outsider, he struggled in establishing a sense of political direction. In conclusion, Bowles claim that presidents have to "bargain" with other politicians and that at times, presidential power is "illusory" seems justified. Presidents have been less successful in areas involving domestic power, however more successful in foreign policy. Though the president is described as a man of extraordinary powers, it is also true that he must wield those powers under extraordinary limitations. Vanessa Bowen 13FA Mr Sharman 8/10 ...read more.

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