The Presidency in a Separated System

Brookings Institution Press
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Popular interpretations of American government tend to center on the presidency. Successes and failures of government are often attributed to presidents themselves. But, though the White House stands as a powerful symbol of government, the United States has a separated system intentionally designed to distribute power, not to concentrate it. Charles O. Jones explains that focusing exclusively on the presidency can lead to a seriously distorted picture of how the national government works. The role of the president varies widely, depending on his resources, advantages, and strategic position. Public expectations often far exceed the president's personal, political, institutional, or constitutional capacities for achievement. Jones explores how presidents find their place in the permanent government and how they are "fitted in" by others, most notably those on Capitol Hill. This book shows how a separated system of government works under the circumstances created by the Constitution and encouraged by a two-party system. Jones examines the organizational challenges facing presidents, their public standing and what it means, presidential agendas and mandates, and lawmaking—how it works, where the president fits in, and how it varies from issue to issue. He compares the post-World War II presidents and identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each in working within the separated system. Jones proposes a view of government as a legitimate, even productive, form of decisionmaking and emphasizes the varying strategies available to presidents for governing. He concludes with a number of important lessons for presidents and advice on how to make the separated system work better.
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About the author

Charles O. Jones is a nonresident senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, the Hawkins Professor of Political Science (emeritus) at the University of Wisconsin, and a former president of the American Political Science Association. His books include Clinton and Congress, 1993-96(University of Oklahoma Press, 1999) and Passages to the Presidency(Brookings, 1998).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Sep 30, 2000
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Pages
358
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ISBN
9780815791508
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / American Government / Executive Branch
Political Science / American Government / General
Political Science / Political Process / Leadership
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The expansion of executive powers amid the war on terrorism has brought the presidency to the center of heated public debate. Now, in The American Presidency, presidential authority Charles O. Jones provides invaluable background to the current controversy, in a compact, reliable guide to the office of the chief executive. This marvelously concise survey is packed with information about the presidency, some of it quite surprising. We learn, for example, that the Founders adopted the word "president" over "governor" and other alternatives because it suggested a light hand, as in one who presides, rather than rules. Indeed, the Constitutional Convention first agreed to a weak chief executive elected by congress for one seven-year term, later calling for independent election and separation of powers. Jones sheds much light on how assertive leaders, such as Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and FDR enhanced the power of the presidency, and illuminating how such factors as philosophy (Reagan's anti-Communist conservatism), the legacy of previous presidencies (Jimmy Carter following Watergate), relations with Congress, and the impact of outside events have all influenced presidential authority. He also explores the rise of federal power and the dramatic expansion of federal agencies, showing how the president takes a direct hand in this vast bureaucracy, and he examines the political process of selecting presidents, from the days of deadlocked conventions to the rise of the primary after World War II. "In 200 years," he writes, "the presidency had changed from that of a person--Washington followed by Adams, then Jefferson--to a presidential enterprise with a cast of thousands." Jones explains how this remarkable expansion has occurred and where it may lead in the future. About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
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Popular interpretations of American government tend to center on the presidency. Successes and failures of government are often attributed to presidents themselves. But, though the White House stands as a powerful symbol of government, the United States has a separated system intentionally designed to distribute power, not to concentrate it. Charles O. Jones explains that focusing exclusively on the presidency can lead to a seriously distorted picture of how the national government works. The role of the president varies widely, depending on his resources, advantages, and strategic position. Public expectations often far exceed the president's personal, political, institutional, or constitutional capacities for achievement. Jones explores how presidents find their place in the permanent government and how they are "fitted in" by others, most notably those on Capitol Hill. This book shows how a separated system of government works under the circumstances created by the Constitution and encouraged by a two-party system. Jones examines the organizational challenges facing presidents, their public standing and what it means, presidential agendas and mandates, and lawmaking—how it works, where the president fits in, and how it varies from issue to issue. He compares the post-World War II presidents and identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each in working within the separated system. Jones proposes a view of government as a legitimate, even productive, form of decisionmaking and emphasizes the varying strategies available to presidents for governing. He concludes with a number of important lessons for presidents and advice on how to make the separated system work better.
The expansion of executive powers amid the war on terrorism has brought the presidency to the center of heated public debate. Now, in The American Presidency, presidential authority Charles O. Jones provides invaluable background to the current controversy, in a compact, reliable guide to the office of the chief executive. This marvelously concise survey is packed with information about the presidency, some of it quite surprising. We learn, for example, that the Founders adopted the word "president" over "governor" and other alternatives because it suggested a light hand, as in one who presides, rather than rules. Indeed, the Constitutional Convention first agreed to a weak chief executive elected by congress for one seven-year term, later calling for independent election and separation of powers. Jones sheds much light on how assertive leaders, such as Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and FDR enhanced the power of the presidency, and illuminating how such factors as philosophy (Reagan's anti-Communist conservatism), the legacy of previous presidencies (Jimmy Carter following Watergate), relations with Congress, and the impact of outside events have all influenced presidential authority. He also explores the rise of federal power and the dramatic expansion of federal agencies, showing how the president takes a direct hand in this vast bureaucracy, and he examines the political process of selecting presidents, from the days of deadlocked conventions to the rise of the primary after World War II. "In 200 years," he writes, "the presidency had changed from that of a person--Washington followed by Adams, then Jefferson--to a presidential enterprise with a cast of thousands." Jones explains how this remarkable expansion has occurred and where it may lead in the future. About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
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