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The Presidency: the Office, the Man, and the Constituencies

ISSUE:  Autumn 1974


The constitutional crisis inaugurated by the Watergate affair was bound to generate a continuing debate and voluminous analytical literature on the institutions and practices of American government and politics. If the debate and publicity had been simply a search for resolution of immediate problems––such as the involvement of Cabinet members and White House advisers, and even the culpability of the President himself––one might question the integrity of the body politic relative to the symbolic meaning of the constitution and our experience with its workings. But the more generalized concern is with issues pertinent to the latter and larger problems, thus proclaiming a felt national need for renewal or revival of the more profound meanings of the constitutional structures and usages that have served us well in the past and that we hope to revitalize for use in the future.

Paradoxically, much of the commentary on the nature of the constitutional order violated by Watergate and all of the shabby activities leading up to and following the Watergate exposure has demonstrated so profound a nostalgia for returning to structural origins that we may have lost sight of the living Constitution in our zeal for recalling its initial intentions. Thus it is that many of the extended analyses that have already appeared, including such formidable efforts as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s “Imperial Presidency,” focus on perennially ambivalent (and formal) constitutional arrangements, such as the separation of powers and checks and balances. While he does not abjure his earlier defense of the necessity for a strong presidency if the machinery of the constitution is to be kept in motion despite the inertia deliberately built into it, Mr. Schlesinger now finds that Congress has abdicated so many powers to the President that all brakes on a runaway executive are off. With his usual verbal felicity, Schlesinger has provided a shorthand solution to the problem in suggesting the need for a return to “comity” in the use of powers exercised by the President and those available to Congress.

But Schlesinger is not the only established authority to come forward with a remedy. If we may change the metaphor from a mechanistic to an organic one, it might be said that the specifics emanating from a wide variety of therapeutic sources include all the bromides that have been tried on a limited basis from time to time, as well as some that have been prominent in the prescription books without ever having been taken by the patient. Some would like to rejuvenate Congress by restoring its independent powers of legislation and congressional oversight of executive performance; others want to diminish the excessive vigor of the presidency by altering the term of office to a single six-year one, or by instituting a continual check on absolutist inclinations through the establishment of a plural executive; and still others look to the purgative effects of recurring impeachment proceedings or various forms of parliamentary and/or presidential powers of dissolution.

As a political scientist and quondam historian, I find all of these discussions stimulating and provocative, and many of them are ingeniously argued. But in other respects they seem to me to be diversionary, because the real problem is more a political than a structural one. The excesses revealed in the Watergate affair, as well as in other recent aberrant behavior and abortive governmental policies, certainly reflect an abuse of political power, but that abuse seems to me to result less from the lack of available checks on presidential power than from the incumbent’s inability to make effective use of the powers available to him, with a consequent resort to claims of independent formal powers that do not really exist. The fact is that the problems of excès de pouvoir or ultra vires on the part of President Nixon or his subordinates have been exposed and are now being contained within the framework of the political system. Congress, the courts, the news media, and even parts of the executive are bringing their formidable countervailing powers into effect as checks and correctives on the presidency as that office has been managed or mismanaged by Mr. Nixon. The danger that may be emerging from all the furor is a sort of political paralysis induced by a combination of overemphasis on constitutional checks and a complete loss of confidence in the efficacy of presidential power.

In order to set this argument in the proper context, it may be useful to assess the effect on the conduct of the presidential office of the ability of recent Presidents to exercise political leadership relative to the various constituencies a President has to work with and through in order to assert presidential power. This assessment, in turn, depends on an understanding of what the office of President has become––particularly since the advent of Franklin Roosevelt––under the dual influences of the nationalization of public issues and the increasing extension of the opportunity for popular participation in politics. We are all aware of the historical accretion of the powers of the President, but we are not always aware that this accretion was at least partly a function of the characteristics of the original constitutional structure of public offices and the powers assigned to them, in conjunction with the historic forces which moved us in the direction of the urban-industrial society and its concomitant, the centralized state. The presidency is the only office under the constitution filled by a process involving a nation-wide popular election. All other elective offices are locally based, and therefore exhibit the divisive characteristics of an unusually pluralistic society. The Constitution and the political practices that have grown out of it provide no other focal point for national political, policy, and executive leadership than the presidency. They do provide, however, for constraints and, in the final analysis, even obstructions, against the use of presidential power if a particular President is not able to respond to the demands on the office and exert leadership in relation to the many institutions and publics whose assent must be obtained if the demands are to be met.

The textbook functions now ascribed to the presidency may be said to have solidified during Franklin Roosevelt’s period in office, and all subsequent incumbents have practiced variations on the themes already familiar in the 1930’s. The most prominent functions and powers of the contemporary presidency are usually defined in terms of the “chiefly” rôles of the President. In this connection, the President has been described as chief of state, political chief, chief legislator, and the chief executive. As Richard Neustadt has reminded us in his classic study of presidential power, these chiefly rôles are not really as separable as most of the analysts have made them appear to be; instead they are woven together in inextricable ways to constitute the overall pattern of the office, as well as the relation that the office maintains with all of the other institutions and general participants in the political process. It is nonetheless important that we be continually aware that the President serves not only as chief executive, but also as head of state, or as symbolic and ceremonial leader as well as the actual head of the government. As political leader, the President has no peer, because he is the only officer in the government with a national political constituency, and is thus of necessity the actual as well as symbolic head of the national party which is “in office” as long as his term continues. Largely because of this political leadership rôle, the President is the chief legislator, or main proposer of national policy. And finally, as chief executive, the President is the major directive or administrative officer of the government.

These functions, and the powers through which they are exercised, make it necessary for the President to exert political leadership over, and secure responses from, a vast and complicatedly interrelated––sometimes interlocking––set of constituencies. These constituencies provide the (often hazy) electoral and policy mandates on which the President acts; and it is a condition of the office that an incumbent respond effectively to the legitimate demands of these constituencies, because the extent to which a particular constituency or set of constituencies withholds assent to presidential proposals or actions constitutes the real constraint on the use of presidential power.

If the rôles of the President may not be separated for practical purposes, neither can the presidential constituencies, because they, too, overlap and interlock. However, for the taxonomic purposes at hand, we can break these presidential constituencies into four major ones. The first of these, which is the national electorate, or body politic as a whole, might be referred to as the “grand” constituency. This constituency consists potentially of the entire population of voting age, but in a pluralistic society it has to be conceived as a coalition of many special constituencies, with considerable attention always being focused on community or institutional influentials through whom various collective components of the grand constituency make themselves heard. A presidential candidate has to respond to this body, or at least to major segments of it, to secure his election; and once in office the President has to satisfy the general constituency reasonably well by giving this complicatedly structured mass a sense of direction and cohesion. Working with the grand constituency involves to some extent all the rôles of the President, but it requires special talents in the area of ceremonial and dignitary functions and in the general political leadership rôle, which is exercised largely through effective communication and public relations.

The second major constituency is the party organization, which is the medium through which the President indirectly secures access to the very office he holds. Although the party is organized from the National Chairman and the National Committee down through at least pro forma precinct organizations, the structure is extremely complex, and for the most part highly decentralized. Party officeholders constitute a major part of the informal, as well as the formal, organization, and these officeholders are usually more concerned with their own complex constituencies and local policy orientations than with the grander national designs of the President.

The congressional constituency is the third major element in the network of presidential politics. Congress is decentralized and particularized in its individual sources of power and access to office, and its members are further affected by the extent to which they are socialized to the mores and methods of distributing power in the deliberative body itself. It is this eclectic assembly, with its unique forms of internal cohesion and jealous sense of legislative prerogative, on which the President is dependent for legislation. Furthermore, depending on time and circumstances, the chief executive is under a greater or lesser degree of congressional surveillance in implementing policy. Some presidential leadership over Congress can be maintained through party channels, but the critical leadership depends on presidential skill in informal persuasive influences on powerful members and committees of Congress and the personal political impact that a President may have on the individual congressional districts and states by way of the coattail effect.

Finally, the President must work with the administrative, or bureaucratic, governmental officials appointed by the President, and the increasingly important members of the permanent civil service. The powers of the President in relation to the administrative structure may be more formally directive than in the case of his relations with the other three major constituencies, but the administrative power may also be even more slippery than the powers exercised in relation to any of the other major constituencies. The administrative structure consists of some two and one-third million people, organized into complex systems and possessing many opportunities subtilely to influence both the development and implementation of policy. Furthermore, because of the semi-permanence of much of this constituency, it can provide access to governmental services and methods of manipulating influence that the President cannot easily change, even if he can detect some of the sources of this power.

This list of constituencies could be expanded and further differentiated. One might consider, for example, that the chief executives and the foreign officers of other nation states are in some ways constituents of the President, since he has to work with and through them as our chief representative in international politics. Again, one might consider clearly defined interest groups as major independent presidential constituencies with respect to certain areas of domestic policy. But the four major constituencies previously delineated should be sufficient for purposes of basic analysis.

If the President must secure mandates both for his terms of office and for policy development and implementation from these major constituencies, and if the several presidential rôles can be carried out only through an ability to prevail over the potential constraints that these constituencies impose on presidential power, perhaps the best measure of presidential effectiveness is the skill demonstrated by a President in mobilizing the major constituencies to support him in his bid for office and in the enactment and enforcement of the general programs and particular policies he seeks to inaugurate. Formal powers, even those assigned by the Constitution, must still be made politically effective; and as Neustadt again points out, presidential power in this sense is the power to persuade rather than the privilege to command. The office, then, does not make an individual President powerful, because the power does not automatically emanate from legal sources, although the latter may be looked to as justification for the use of certain types of power. Conversely, external limits on presidential power depend more on the will of the major constituencies to place constraints on presidential action than on any power actually confided to them or denied to the President. Perceived in these terms, the assessment of presidential effectiveness depends heavily on the capacity of a given President to secure the confidence and support of the constituency or combination of constituencies needed to realize his purposes. And that confidence and support can be obtained only if a President can demonstrate to the reasonable satisfaction of the constituencies that his responses to them are congruent with their particular purposes.

At this point it seems pertinent to ask how the Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt onward have coped with the major constituencies in effecting their respective uses of presidential power. Space obviously does not permit an analysis of all six incumbents in relation to the four major constituencies. All of the Presidents under consideration enjoyed some successes, and all of them endured some failures. Some were unusually effective with one or more of the constituencies, and most of them fell conspicuously short of effective leadership of one or more of the major constituencies.

In many respects, Franklin Roosevelt was the master of the political leadership rôle in relation to the first two constituencies. As a national leader, he was a great symbolic figure who gave a sense of direction and stability to a nation in the midst of an economic crisis. His use of the media for public persuasion was rarely excelled; he even skillfully utilized a generally unfavorable press in mobilizing public opinion. He molded a national majority constituency, not solely for the purpose of staying in office, but also to initiate programs of his own devising as he concentrated, first, on domestic and, later, on foreign affairs.

As party leader, Roosevelt reconstructed the base of the Democratic Party. Utilizing the organizational genius of James Farley to maximum effect, he managed to build a grass-roots organization that transformed the party from national minority status to a semipermanent majority status. His coattail effect was so great, despite the failure of his attempts at congressional election purges in the late 1930’s, that he managed to create a coalition of officeholders as well as a coalition of geographic and socioeconomic electoral constituencies. Largely because of his skills with the general public and his party, Roosevelt was able to add the congressional constituency leadership rôle to the other rôles of the President. Diffuse, experimental, and pragmatic as it was, Roosevelt’s legislative program was politically, and in some cases programmatically, effective.

Many students of the presidency tend to play down Franklin Roosevelt’s effectiveness as chief administrator. Some, in fact, label him a poor administrator, apparently because of his tendency to proliferate federal agencies, and because a good bit of organizational confusion was apparent during his administration and a great many of his appointees tended to clash with one another. Such judgments, however, tend to overlook some of the positive qualities in Roosevelt’s use of the directive powers of the Presidency. The 1936 “Report” of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management, popularly known as the “Brownlow Committee” after the surname of its chairman, produced many, if not most, of the recommendations that institutionalized the presidency by providing the office with a White House staff that made it manageable relative to the enormously increased demands on it. Roosevelt also prosecuted the war effort from 1941 to 1945 with one of the least elaborate war cabinets of any chief executive involved in a major war in recent times. Perhaps the single most important clue to the relative success of Roosevelt with his administrative constituency, as well as his other constituencies, was the quality of the men he appointed to office during his administration. Roosevelt was obviously confident of his ability to manage the talented men who were attracted to Washington by a combination of his personal magnetism and the intellectual excitement of the New Deal. He even co-opted Republican leaders into the administration, especially some known internationalists after 1937. He loved to manage conflict without suppressing it, and was particularly partial to capable curmudgeons such as Harold Ickes. He maintained consummate advisers on political organization and tactics, including James Farley and Louis Howe, but in large measure he kept the political tacticians out of the area of public policy.

In sum, Roosevelt roused the latent powers of the office in an effort to deal with domestic and foreign crises of virtually unprecedented dimensions. In evoking these powers, he was both responsive to the major constituencies and capable of mobilizing them to support the new and extended rôles of the presidency. Even though he was rebuffed and restrained at times, most notably in the Supreme Court reorganization fight in 1937 and the attempt at an electoral purge of certain Democratic members of Congress in 1938, his overall record with the major constituencies has not been matched by any of his successors. In part, of course, the unusual nature of the times furnished the opportunities, but it was Roosevelt as political, party, legislative, and administrative leader who seized these opportunities and turned the potential into reality.

The men who succeeded Roosevelt, down to President Nixon, have exhibited a wide variety of talents and limitations in dealing with the major constituencies. A few examples may be cited without attempting to cover all the categories in every case. President Truman came into office in 1945 under serious political handicaps. Perhaps his major misfortune was succeeding Roosevelt directly. His hold on the grand constituency was never very great, and his party lapsed into disarray after Roosevelt’s death. Although never a great mobilizer of public opinion, Harry Truman did manage to secure a grudging respect among segments of the grand constituency, his party, and Congress through his persistence and ability to stay on top of many of the public issues of the time. Truman was probably strongest as an administrator; his earlier skills in this respect have been overlooked until fairly recently because they were so localized, although due credit has been given to his effectiveness in leading the congressional inquiry into World War II government contracts with industry. Truman’s organizational skills stood him in good stead in consolidating much of the New Deal economic program, in reorganizing the armed services into at least a partially unified system, and in laying the planning groundwork for later social programs such as the Civil Rights Acts, Medicare, and other domestic policies.

President Eisenhower played his most effective rôle as a symbolic figure. He had a great personal hold on the loyalty of the grand constituency. As a leader he was quiescent, but confident; at the right time in history, even bumbling can be appealing. As a political figure who placed himself above party, he did little to put the Republican Party back in working order. As a congressional leader, Eisenhower was confronted with a Congress which contained an opposition majority for six of his eight years in office. He did manage to secure the assistance of the powerful Senate Majority Leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, in the passage of such major legislation as the Civil Rights Act of 1958 and the beginnings of Federal Aid to Education. As a man with limited program aspirations anyway, Eisenhowever tried his best to work, in relation to his administrative constituency, through a rather elaborate delegation of authority, both to his White House Office staff (particularly Sherman Adams), and his chief administrative subordinates through the establishment of a cabinet secretariat. Much of Eisenhower’s success with the major constituencies, then, came by way of a real or apparent abrogation of power rather than a manipulative use of it.

President John F. Kennedy achieved great popular success with the general electorate after narrowly squeaking into office in 1960. In part the success derived from the skill with which President Kennedy worked with representatives of the various news media. But part of it came also from glittering promises held out to the whole or parts of the grand constituency. President Kennedy may have promised more than he could achieve by means of his capacities for political leadership over the other major constituencies; at least one commentator has noted that in his issuance of an excessive number of promissory notes he incurred debts that have been difficult for his successors to pay off. President Kennedy’s executive and administrative capacities were not fully tested before his untimely death, but certainly in relation to the congressional constituency, his term in office was characterized by relatively greater failure than success.

Like Mr. Truman, President Lyndon B. Johnson had the misfortune to succeed an enormously popular President under the most tragic of circumstances. He was never personally popular with the general public: he had the reputation of being cornpone with the media, he was the inheritor of the Eastern antipathy to the South, and he was hardly aided in either his political or policy aspirations by some of the carry-over Kennedy appointments. Even his huge victory in 1964 was mostly the result of opposition to Senator Barry Goldwater, or at least the politics symbolized by Senator Goldwater. In his desire for a government by consensus, President Johnson let the grass-roots Democratic Party constituency wither. When all is said and done, however, Lyndon Johnson proved to be one of the most effective Presidents ever with respect to the congressional constituency. He had the advantage of having been a superlative legislative leader himself, and he capitalized on this and other resources to enact the most extensive domestic legislative program since the days of the New Deal.

It may be that President Johnson’s skills with the congressional constituency so far exceeded his ability to work with other groups that he tended to elevate the legislative leadership rôle into too dominant a position. In a recent comment on President Johnson’s book, “The Vantage Point,” in the Book-of-the-Month Club News, Professor John Roche, an erstwhile resident intellectual in the Johnson administration, expresses great admiration for the late President’s mastery of intricate detail. On one occasion Roche had an opportunity to watch the President brief a cabinet member who was due to testify before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee about his department’s budget. According to Roche, the Secretary had little idea of what was in the budget, the membership of the subcommittee, or the types of presentation needed to elicit a favorable response. President Johnson spent three hours vainly attempting to instruct the cabinet member on methods of handling all of the problems likely to arise in his appearance before the committee. The Secretary then returned to his office “…and denounced the President as a bully.” The President in turn suggested to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget ”….that the Secretary’s next budget include a Seeing-Eye dog.” Perhaps President Johnson was too directive as an administrative leader, because certainly when he became overly committed in foreign affairs––the area about which he knew least and had to do most––he seemed to lose control of the implementation of the impressive domestic program he had developed.

An analysis of President Nixon’s abilities to work with and through the major constituencies is a painful one. Somewhat like President Johnson, President Nixon won what appears to have been a more negative than positive mandate in 1972, after having won one of the narrowest presidential elections in history over a disorganized and demoralized Democratic Party in 1968. Despite these circumstances, the President tried to interpret the 1972 mandate as a positive one, without much attention to the substantive terms of that mandate. In attempting to respond to the public, President Nixon seems to have relied far too

much on the formal or dignitary powers of the office, while exhibiting few of the personal attributes needed to use these powers effectively. His relations with the communications media were incredibly bad; the posture of defensive hostility seemed to be the primary reaction to what may or may not be excesses on the part of the working press. A President does not have to become subservient to the pressures of aggressive newsmen or women, but he does need to respond to them in ways that reflect a willingness to come to grips openly with the major challenges to issues and policies thrown out by the press in its responsibilities for keeping the public informed.

In relation to the party constituency, President Nixon did work hard to reorganize the Republican Party after the Goldwater fiasco. However, his efforts seem to have been directed mainly toward the party élites, so the base of the party was not broadened in a way that might have enabled the Republicans to make some inroads into the long-standing numerical supremacy of the Democratic Party. In retrospect, President Nixon’s concern with securing the presidential nomination seems to have dominated his relations with the party to the exclusion of almost all other considerations. There is no evidence to indicate that President Nixon’s relations with Republican officeholders in the states were very good, and they certainly deteriorated in the aftermath of Watergate. Here again, lack of responsiveness to the needs of local officeholders and party leaders indicates the President’s isolation from the effective working base on which reconstitution of a strong party depends.

In his relations with Congress Mr. Nixon was also aloof, apparently expecting that formal lines of communication, in conjunction with the inherent prestige of the presidential office, should be sufficient, thus overlooking the fact that Congress has its own means of institutional reinforcement, and that it is composed of politicians whose egos must be flattered if they are to use their fragmented sources of power to effect presidential purposes. Despite his previous service in both houses of Congress, Mr. Nixon had no real record of inside leadership on which he could rely for maintaining close working relations with Congress. His rise to national prominence, in fact, was based on his hard-line attacks on Communists and alleged Communist sympathizers; in a sense, Mr. Nixon’s political relations were built more on the negative qualities of ferreting out evil than on the positive ones of working co-operatively with other Congressmen to achieve positive goals. Since his accession to the presidency, both Mr. Nixon and his closest staff associates have stressed the independent powers of the executive office and have shown little deference to the position of Congress as a coequal in the constitutional separation of powers arrangements. Since Watergate the White House has become even more cavalier, perhaps even to the point of contempt, in both its expressed attitudes and actions with respect to congressional authority. President Nixon gave promise of coming up with some innovative domestic programs, such as revenue-sharing and the reform of the welfare system, but the lack of will to follow through and the inability to work with the congressional constituency have left these programs in abeyance.

Mr. Nixon’s record with the administrative constituency was not only worse than his efforts with any of the other major constituencies, but was the source of much of his ineffectiveness with the electorate, his party, and Congress. Many of his chief appointments proved to be little short of disastrous. It is symptomatic that the turnover in major officeholders during President Nixon’s incumbency was as great as or greater than is the case of any predecessor over a comparable period of time. And once the President had exhausted the human resources on which he relied most heavily––the worst being forced out of office and many of the best leaving because they could not in good conscience continue to serve––few individuals with the requisite talents for great office were willing to risk affiliation with the Administration.

The faults are too obvious to require much elaboration. In attempting to institutionalize the presidency, Mr. Nixon inserted White House staff members between himself and his Cabinet members and other line executives, thus narrowing the flow of information to him from those most immediately responsible for programs. Mr. Nixon has always been a man who gave the impression of being aloof and impersonal. The individuals closest to him, most notably Messrs. Ehrlichman and Haldeman, were more preoccupied with constructing barriers against access to the President than with building sturdy bridges between Mr. Nixon and the constituencies. A President needs protection, of course, but he has an even greater need for reliability in those things which are and ought to be reported to him; the office itself has enough isolating qualities built into it to require no further efforts at insulating the President against unpleasant reality. And regardless of the fact that most cabinet-level appointments are made out of considerations of political preference, discretion must be used in deciding which offices may be used in the pursuit of continuing electoral goals and which must be maintained in relative purity so far as policy implementation is concerned. The perils of managing a presidential campaign while serving as Secretary of Commerce and Attorney General respectively are patent in the cases of Messrs. Stans and Mitchell.

One cannot, of course, ignore the one strong point in Mr. Nixon’s administrative arrangements––his effectiveness in foreign affairs and the dependence of that effectiveness on the appointment of Mr. Kissinger, first as Adviser on foreign relations and later as Secretary of State. And even though that appointment and the self-effacement of Mr. Kissinger’s predecessor, Secretary Rogers, may not have been as fortuitous as they appear, no President can afford to rely for success solely on the management either of domestic or foreign policy. As Mr. Johnson demonstrated earlier, in the long run it is necessary to be effective in both, for the two are inseparable and interdependent in the total administrative rôle of the President.

In brief, Mr. Nixon fell short of demonstrating the capability of developing the responsive leadership that must be maintained with the major constituencies if the matured presidential office is to be handled effectively. And one thing has led into another in relentless sequence. Skepticism about his ability to appeal to the electorate and about reliance on grass-roots party organization produced the sordid campaign of 1972: CREEP, the dirty tricks division, hidden funds, and ultimately Watergate. The isolation of the President behind a façade of manipulative advisers damaged party, congressional, and administrative relations, as well as press and public relations.

In the absence of solid constituency relations all the President had to fall back on was the actual occupancy of the office and a repeated flinging of its formal powers in the face of countervailing powers. The assertion that he would not abandon the office until he did what he was elected to do ignores the fact that the electoral mandate is dependent on a continual rather than a fixed and periodically recurring relation with the grand constituency. The impoundment of appropriated funds and the outright abrogation of programs obligated by congressional action not only limits presidential persuasiveness in virtually all other areas of policy initiation, but simply invites retaliation in all the forms available to Congress, including counter-legislation, overriding of vetoes, investigations, and movements for impeachment. It is ironic that the President purported to defend the Office by insisting on his personal right to retention when his use of the position had so reduced his capacity to respond to the demands on it.

Long before the present crisis the late Professor Clinton Rossiter compared the functions and rôles of the presidency to the functions of the “haughty and exclusive” Pooh-Bah in “The Mikado,” who filled the offices of “First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop of Titipu, and Lord Mayor, both acting and elect.” President Nixon seemed to wish to be all these things in the personal, ceremonial, and dignitary sense, but apparently did not recognize that the effective functions are less dependent on the mere trappings of office than on the evocation of constituency support for their exercise.

The real problem, then, is making the presidency work politically rather than curtailing those powers which have devolved on the Office as part of the living constitutional arrangement. The most drastic structural reform is unlikely to assure prior restraint on abuse of power by any branch of government. The present suspension of effectiveness in the exercise of presidential power is proof that the constraints are still viable. The elimination of all contingency so far as potential abuse of power by a governmental institution is concerned probably cannot be achieved short of rendering the institution completely powerless. In the case of Mr. Nixon, checks and balances have been called into being so effectively that the presidency appears to be in a state of paralysis, at least in domestic politics. Clearly a restoration of the leadership rôle of the presidency was in order, and this ultimately led to resignation as the only alternative to impeachment or letting the Office remain in a paralytic state for the rest of Mr. Nixon’s term. It may also point to the need for some piecemeal reform of party organization, election and campaign finance laws, and organization and accountability of the executive branch. But the failure of one administration does not call for the abandonment of a system of presidential government that has demonstrated its capability for adaptation; nor does it call for the emasculation of the powers of an office that most of our Presidents have managed effectively so long as their constituency relations did not break down completely.


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