Strategically Speaking: A New Analysis of Presidents Going Public

35 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2008

See all articles by Joshua D. Clinton

Joshua D. Clinton

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

David E. Lewis

Vanderbilt University - Department of Political Science; Vanderbilt University - Law School

Stephanie Riegg Cellini

George Washington University - School of Public Policy and Public Administration (SPPPA)

Barry R. Weingast

Stanford University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 2004

Abstract

A new approach to studying the presidency has recently emerged from the formal theory of American politics that is being applied to a variety of presidential activities including vetoes, unilateral action, and appointments. We use the phenomenon of presidential public activities to illustrate the contribution this new approach for our understanding of the presidency. We argue that it is a mistake to undertake an analysis of presidential activities like public speeches without considering both the political environment - specifically the preferences of important congressional actors - and the policy change being pursued (i.e., the location of the status quo policy). Abstracting away from the idiosyncratic features of individual presidents and embedding presidential public activity in the larger separation of powers system illuminates three different logics undergirding public activity, namely changing legislator preferences, claiming credit for the passage of legislation, and making veto threats credible. Examining presidential activity without accounting for the different possible motivations for going public or the fact that presidents are a single actor in the policymaking process operating under both institutional and political constraints risks overestimating presidential influence. We conclude that the new approach to the study of the presidency can illuminate important theoretical insights and improve empirical analysis.

Suggested Citation

Clinton, Joshua D. and Lewis, David E. and Cellini, Stephanie Riegg R. and Weingast, Barry R., Strategically Speaking: A New Analysis of Presidents Going Public (July 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1153516 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1153516

Joshua D. Clinton

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

David E. Lewis

Vanderbilt University - Department of Political Science ( email )

VU Station B #351817
Nashville, TN 37235-1817
United States
615-322-6222 (Phone)

Vanderbilt University - Law School

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Stephanie Riegg R. Cellini

George Washington University - School of Public Policy and Public Administration (SPPPA) ( email )

805 21st Street, NW
Media and Public Affairs Building, Room 602
Washington, DC 20052
United States

Barry R. Weingast (Contact Author)

Stanford University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
650-723-0497 (Phone)
650-723-1808 (Fax)

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