chapter  3
16 Pages

The Layered Rhetorical Presidency

WithDavid A. Crockett

While presidency scholars tend to focus on Tulis’s account of the rise of rhetoric as a central tool of presidential strategy, his work is perhaps even more important for the shift in perspective it represents from the dominant orientation of most presidency scholarship as of

, which studied strategies of presidential efficacy and concerned itself with individual presidents’ success or failure, from their own perspective. When I

studied political science as an undergraduate, I was assigned only one fulllength book about the presidency: Richard Neustadt’s classic,

Presidential Power

, first published in

. Neustadt had sparked a behavioral revolution, in which the focus of scholarship shifted from presidents’ formal and constitutional powers to their personal skill and reputation. Neustadt’s influence runs deeper than that, however. In his Preface to several editions, Neustadt (e.g.,

, xx) clearly explains his orientation: “My interest is in what a President can do to make his own will felt within his own Administration; what he can do, as one man among many, to carry his own choices through that maze of personalities and institutions called the government of the United States.” To that end, Neustadt’s methodology is “to view the Presidency from over the President’s shoulder” (xxi). The result is a how-to manual on presidential success and effectiveness. Neustadt’s concern is with the president’s ability to obtain his goals. Indeed, in the summation of his original study, Neustadt (


) states explicitly that his criterion of presidential performance is “effective influence.”