Presidential Leadership Essay, Research Paper
Political leadership is the most wanted and at the same time most feared concept in U.S. political system. It is a major part of modern presidency, and perhaps the hardest thing for a president to achieve. There are several reasons political leadership is hard for a president to achieve. For one, founding fathers feared concentrated powers thus they established the system of checks and balances. Congress challenges almost everything a president attempts to accomplish. Secondly, the American people do not want concentrated power, and they want to get their point across, so they organize into interest groups. Interest groups can be very powerful, either working for or against the president, so the presidents are careful not to have them as an enemy. In order to achieve political leadership, the president must be able to use his powers of persuasion, that is be able to get his point across in Washington community and be able to “go public”, that is be able to effectively communicate with the American public. For a president to achieve these two concepts, persuasion and going public, he must meet a number of other requirements, which will be discussed in following paragraphs.
It is a known fact that the United States presidents do not have many formal powers. A president cannot “make” Congress do anything. He cannot order Supreme Court around and he cannot ignore the interest groups. In order for a president to achieve his political agenda, he must use his powers of persuasion. For example, for a president to get the military to act in a certain matter, or for a congressman to vote in his favor a president must be able to persuade them to do so. In order to be able to persuade, a president must meet certain requirements. First of all, he must have a good reputation among the general public, as well as among the Washington community. If a president has “moral authority” his power to persuade increases dramatically. For example if Nixon tried to persuade Congress to pass a certain bill after the Watergate, chances are he would be unsuccessful. Public approval rating is one of the most important things for a president. A president with a high enough approval rating can take up more issues and solve them than a president with a low ratings, therefore improving his position in the office. To demonstrate importance of public approval rating one can look at the recent events surrounding Bill Clinton. While he was the in office, the economy was booming, unemployment was under control and foreign policy seemed to be working, so naturally Clinton was in good shape as far as his ratings were concerned. When the Monica scandal broke out and the president was in danger of being impeached, it was his good public approval ratings that has helped him stay in the office. Congress had probably felt a little unsure of impeaching a president in such a good standing. Had Clinton’s ratings been lower he would have probably been out of office by now.
Presidents ability to go public is second requirement for effective political leadership. Is a president is successful in persuading American public than in turn he will be effective in dealing with the Washington community. The reason behind this is that if the public is persuaded, then public can force their congressmen to vote in the way they want it, and the president wants it. “Fireside chats”, a strategy developed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, were among the first attempts to “go public”. FDR was the first president to deploy use of radio to better his position in the office. “Fireside chats” were radio shows during which FDR would discuss some of the issues and policies our government was dealing with at the time. These talks were rare but extremely efficient in achieving their goal which was to promote FDR’s policy. The use of television was the next step up. JFK was the first president to use television as a means of going public. In going public president’s appearance tends to be a very important factor. During the Kennedy v. Nixon election campaign, Kennedy’s appearance on the television contributed to his winning the election. During televised debates Kennedy would always look professional, clean cut and would stand out from the background. Nixon on the other hand appeared indifferent and would sort of blend with the background, therefore loosing some of the attention. Ronald Reagan was the president who perhaps was the best at going public. As already mentioned, when going public, president must seem to have authority, must be presentable and must use all media available in order to further the impact and to reach out to as many people as possible. Ronald Reagan was a pro at this. Former actor seemed to know all secrets of the trade. First of all, Reagan had an outstanding PR staff. People in his administration knew what were the most important issues, what is the most important speech to write, what exactly to say in the speech. Reagan himself was great at saying what needed to be said. During his speeches public seemed not to loose interest, mainly because when Reagan walked in he would know exactly here to position himself to be most visible to everybody and to be able to maintain eye contact with entire audience. He would have perfect facial expressions to accompany his speech or any part of it, and most important he made the public believe that his way was definitely the bast way to go. All of these factors contributed to increased public approval ratings for the president. Higher approval ratings in turn lead to more leverage in dealing with different issues which, ultimately is the goal to effective political leadership.
In conclusion, to become an effective leader, president must be able to persuade Congress, interest groups, the military and various other institutions, and he must be able to communicate with the American public. These may not seem like difficult tasks, but they indeed are. Only a handful of our previous presidents have been able to effectively reach out to the public. When one considers the variety of people that live in the United States it is understandable why it is so hard to please everyone. The task of persuading is also not getting any easier, especially with the split-ticket voting many Americans prefer. Over the last few decades one could rarely see Democratic president and Democratic Congress in at the same time and vice versa. In order to succeed in persuading and going public, a United States president must have moral authority, must have a good staff working with him and must have good public approval ratings. If all of these requirements are met president will be able to take up more policies and resolve more issues thus becoming a more effective political leader.
POLITICAL SCIENCE EXTRA CREDIT PAPER
Youssefi, Yaas Tina
May 12, 1999