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US Presidential Leadership. When it comes to the greatness of the presidents, Milkis hall of fame includes Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt for the reason that their presidency has less to do with power than with purp

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Leadership has been defined in many ways; as a matter of personality, as a power relation and as the process of which groups, organizations, and societies attempt to achieve common goals. Leadership is essential to the human condition and is both current and timeless. Too often our fixation on one individual obscures how other institutions interact with and constrain the presidency. Congress, courts, the bureaucracy and political parties each strongly influence events, leading to limits on the power of the White House. Pfiffner's argumentation of history's consequences combined with Nelson and Milkis' argumentation of the development of the executive branch creates the dynamic institution of a modern presidency. Pfiffner's core argument states that once a president is in office, his greatness was established by the fact that every past president left the Executive branch stronger and more influential than he found it. A president must always first get control of the government to accomplish hi policy objectives. Thus, the White House must organize itself, establish a cabinet, recruit presidential appointees, confront the established career bureaucracy, and devise a legislative agenda. ...read more.


Milkis and Nelson believes that great presidents are "conservative revolutionaries" who are able to teach the nation about the need for a great change as well as to how to reconcile change with American constitutional traditions and purposes in uncertain times. Furthermore, great presidents are leaders who are able to mobilize their party and build a majority coalition yet restrained by its demand for fidelity to party principles and organizations. Milkis and Nelson illustrate this with their top ranking presidents. Washington established his greatness by working systematically to transfer his enormous personal authority to the new and still fragile constitution. Jefferson helped democratize the constitution by creating the Democratic-Republican Party and being able to allow it to flourish as a real party. Jackson furthered the cause of democratization within the constitution by building the first mass based political party as well as teaching the Jeffersonians how to combine their zeal for states' rights and limited government with a strong attachment to the Union. Lincoln was in some ways the ultimate partisan; Lincoln's national stature at the time of his election owed to his being the nominee of the Republican Party. ...read more.


Ironically, it was Roosevelt, the last of the great presidents, whom Nelson and Milkis say closed the door to greatness for his successors. He did so by assaulting the authority of political parties in order to be free of external restraints on presidential leadership. Franklin D. Roosevelt's most enduring institutional legacy was the Executive Office of the President, which over the years has taken over the traditional party functions of linking the president to interest groups, staffing the administration, and developing policies. What Roosevelt did not foresee is that the same party weakness that unshackles presidents also leaves them bereft of reliable and strong organizational support when they need it. Presidential debates, which place the candidates in the spotlight as solo acts rather than as featured players in a party ensemble, accentuate the problem Roosevelt created. When Al Gore and George W. Bush debate each other as individual candidates, and when their commercials are all about them and their opponent instead of the party ticket, the message to the voters is that political parties are institutions of little consequence. ...read more.

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