The Presidency in a Separated System

Overview

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 ...

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The Presidency in a Separated System

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"All students of American politics, not just presidential scholars, will want to read what Jones has written." — American Political Science Review

"Jones has effectively and authoritatively replaces a popular view of the American presidency with a more accurate one. His arguments and his evidence will enlarge and enrich our thinking about the office." —Richard F Fenno., Jr., University of Rochester

"One of the most important books on American government to have appeared for a generation. traditionally, the relations between the presidency and Congress have been portrayed as confrontational, with the presidency assumed to be responsible for taking most important policy initiatives. Jones shows that this view is mistaken —that Congress typically has its own agenda, its own capacity for taking initiatives, and its own policy momentum. In years to come, students of American politics will refer to 'Jones' as they now refer to 'Neustadt.'" —Anthony King, University of Essex

"Jones powerfully elaborates the point that ours is not a 'presidential system,' but instead a system of separated institutions deliberately mixed up in one another's dings. For action and reform alike, that is the beginning of wisdom, and there Jones begins. I hope it is widely read, especially by all who now purport to use the system, or to change it. The country would gain in they all understood it. Jones does." —Richard E. Neustadt, Harvard University

Booknews
Through detailed examinations of ten post-war administrations and their relationship with Congress, Jones (political science, U. of Wisconsin) shows that despite the headlines and public visibility that presidents command, all find their power to govern restrained by party politics, divided government, special interests, media scrutiny, and especially by the constitutional prerogatives of the legislative branch. Paper edition (unseen), $16.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815747109
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

1 Perspectives on the presidency 1
2 Presidents and the presidency 35
3 Organizing to govern in the separated system 66
4 Public standing of the president 128
5 Presidents, mandates, and agendas 177
6 Presidents and lawmaking in a separated system 221
7 Making laws 254
8 Thinking about change 339
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