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PowerandProminence inWashington,D.C. ThomasC. Reeves. The Life and Times of Joe McCarthi•: A Biography. New York: s·tein and Day, i982. · 819+xvipp. DonaldA. Ritchie. James M. Landis: Dean of the Regulators. Cambridge,Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980. 267+ xivpp. JordanA. Schwarz. The Speculator: BernardM. Baruch in Washington, 1917-1965. ChapelHill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981. 679+ xviipp. G.F. Goodwin In 1787the Constitution of the United States created a national government in which political power was divided between the President and Congress. Although both remained central, others soon began to exercise political power. In the early nineteenth century, the federal judiciary established the right to review executive and legislative actions. The rise of mass political parties meant that elected officials would have to consider the popular will. Politician-administrators in the Cabinet and lobbyists who represented special interests demanded influence on the making of laws and policy. Even in the nineteenth century, the small federal bureaucracy possessed the power to impede or facilitate the execution of laws and policies. The trend toward a wider distribution of political power within the federal government seems to have been arrested in the twentieth century with the concentration of authority and responsibility in the executive office. Yet the increasing complexity of government and the sheer weight of responsibility have led the President to share his power with a middle group of administrators , informants, mediators and special agents, who rank below his "official family"-members of the Cabinet and trusted advisors- and above a horde ofpetty bureaucrats and functionaries. Included within this group are members of independent commissions, taskforces and government corporations to whom the President and Congress havegiven specific assignments. Frustrated by rigid bureaucratic procedures, Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 1985,95-106 96 G. F.Goodwin the President has also turned to trouble shooters who, operating outside normal bureaucratic channels, convey information and proposals from one set of bureaucrats to another or clear bottlenecks. Legal technicians who draft complex legislation and testify before the appropriate congressional committees have come to share one of the President's most important functions- the preparation of a legislative program. In his role as educator, the President has often called upon well-known individuals to serve as publicists for causes either controversial or obscure. For those who wish to join the President's entourage, the path is well marked. Generally, appointees have achieved sufficient prominence in the business or academic world to gain the glamor, prestige or expertise thought necessary for these appointments. Some ideological compatibility is vital, and a timely financial contribution to a campaign is useful. To enjoy a long career as a presidential appointee or advisor, an individual must initiate and maintain friendly relationships with Presidents, members of their Cabinets and powerful congressmen. Although a feware able to build a power base independent of the President, all are ultimately dependent upon him. The President may share his power and prestige, but he retains the control of a puppeteer. He can offer additional appointments to the loyal and deserving, or string others along with vague offers of future employment, or exile to the business or academic worlds those who displease him. Notwithstanding the concentration of authority in the executive branch, however shared or distributed, congressmen continue to enjoy power and prestige. Members of the congressional establishment, relatively unknown and often working behind the scenes, use chairmanships of important committees and knowledge of congressional procedures to defeat or alter presidential programs and to ensure acceptable appointments. Less senior and less knowledgeable congressmen have discovered other ways to gain power and prominence. Periods of crisis or public discontent give them their opportunities, and they gain fame and power by appealing to voters' fears and anxieties with widely publicized, sensational accusations. They are aided in their crusade by the President's opponents who see them as a means of weakening and discrediting the President and his party. James M. Landis, the subject of a biography by Donald A. Ritchie, was one of many brilliant, energetic administrators who came to Washington in the 1930sto draft New Deal legislation and to serve on commissions and agencies. A professor at Harvard Law School, serving...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 95-106
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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