Tough Times for the President

Cambria Press Publication review author #APSA2015 #POTUS
#APSA2015 Tough Times for the Presidency by Ryan Barilleaux and Jewerl Maxwell

Cambria Press publication

Tough Times for the President
(Chapter Excerpts)

Chapter 1: Presidents in Tough Times

“Many presidents face situations of political adversity. Some even face adversity on more than one occasion. The case studies will enhance our understanding not only of the power of the presidency but of how chief executives have been able to deal with adversity. Even the adverse circumstances faced by Barack Obama in 2011, or those that some future president will encounter, do not fall to the depths experienced by Gerald Ford, and examining this record will be instructive for chief executives and their advisors seeking a way to grapple with tough times for the president.”

Chapter 2: Governing in the Wake of an Unmandate

“What is an unmandate? The term applies to those situations in which voters repudiate the chief executive by punishing the president’s party in a midterm election. Though it is usually the case that the president’s party loses seats in a midterm election, in an unmandate the president’s party suffers exceptionally high losses. The clearest case of an unmandate is when the president’s party, holding a majority in both houses of  Congress, is reduced to minority status in the House and/or the Senate. In the period since World War II, this repudiation occurred five times: 1946, 1954, 1994, 2006, and 2010. The presidents affected by these unmandates faced congressional majorities eager to resist White House legislative initiatives and advance their own policy agendas.”

Chapter 3: Scandals and Presidential Power

“Within a twenty-five-year period, American politics witnessed three presidents plagued by scandals and cover-ups of actions taken by the respective presidents and/or their subordinates. In each case, we find that the periods of scandal presented the particular president with unique challenges in his interaction with other governmental officials, the media, and the American people. Again, as Ceaser so aptly suggested, scandals place “the Presidency on the defensive in the eyes of the nation” and thus significantly weaken the president. In spite of this weakened position, the cases of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton demonstrate that presidents do not become politically paralyzed by such circumstances. In particular, each case illustrates the extremely important role of unilateral actions, both domestically and internationally.”

Chapter 4: Governing in Times of National Division

“[…] periods of national division pose particular difficulties for chief executives. In such cases, presidents face not only divisions within the electorate at large but divisions within their own party, as the nation remains divided over the proper policies to combat instability within the political system. During such periods, political and economic factors combine to place pressure on the president that hinders his ability to lead effectively. Examples include the obstacles Lyndon Johnson faced throughout 1967 and 1968 as the country sought direction regarding the Vietnam War; the extreme difficulties Jimmy Carter encountered throughout 1979 and 1980, resulting from the weakened economy and the Iranian hostage crisis; and the impediments George H. W. Bush met in 1992 as the country faced a looming recession.”

Chapter 5: Adversity and Power in the Ford Presidency

“Gerald Ford’s presidency was marked by a rare degree of political adversity. He came to office as the successor to the disgraced Richard Nixon, who was forced to resign in the face of threatened impeachment over the Watergate scandal. Ford had been an unelected vice president, the first appointed to that office under the provisions of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. He faced a Congress controlled by Democratic majorities, which were enlarged in the 1974 midterm elections only a few months after he assumed office. Following his pardon of Richard Nixon in September 1974, Ford’s approval ratings plummeted and he faced cries of outrage over the pardon. He even faced dissension within his own party as conservatives led by Ronald Reagan challenged his policies and leadership.”

Chapter 6: Tough Times Point to a New View of Presidential Power

“As analysts consider presidential ends and means, they need to develop a kind of “golden rule” for understanding the presidency: one that they are willing to grant to their enemies as well as their heroes. The best place to begin that understanding is the Constitution. Of course, there is considerable debate about constitutional interpretation, but that is a fact of politics and does not mean that there is no ground for agreement about most constitutional issues. Debates about the fringes of the Constitution— certain actions that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have taken in the war on terrorism, for example—obscure the fact that there is a broad consensus on what is constitutional presidential action.”

This book is part of the Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy in America (PIPPA) book series  (Editors: Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly). See more well-reviewed books in the Cambria Press PIPPA Series.

About the authors: 
Ryan J. Barilleaux is Paul Rejai Professor of Political Science at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

Jewerl Maxwell is Associate Dean of the Center for Lifelong Learning and an assistant professor of political science at Cedarville University.

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