Chapter Title

As in the transition, effectiveness begins with the President's circumstances. This chapter details two kinds. The first describes the constitutional core of granted authority, by using a simple geometric representation. That model highlights the gist of the constitution's separation of powers: a cohesive congressional majority rules while the presidency suffers from strategic weaknesses. The analysis then estimates how the central institutional features of the Congress affect the likelihood of such cohesion. Following the founders, this model assumes a powerful reelection motive. It demonstrates that given that motive, congressional decentralization becomes the central organizational motif and, given such decentralization, congressional majorities can achieve cohesion in only two ways. They can either accommodate across committee jurisdictions using "reciprocity." For example, they can follow Sam Rayburn's quintessential advice, "to get along, you have to go along." Or members can achieve cohesion by coordinating their policy outcomes through a centralized hierarchy. Since accommodating poses advantages for reelection minded members, the chapter concludes that a presidential administration can affect policy to the extent that it can take advantage of congressional cleavages that develop out of this accommodating style.

The second characterization of circumstance describes the historical setting of the Johnson presidency. Using constituency characteristics, the chapter outlines congressional predispositions, which in turn suggests the potential for congressional cohesion. The analysis introduces a new measure of predisposition, based on constituency characteristics and position within the congressional organization. Second, the chapter summarizes the standard descriptions of opportunities regularly presumed to enhance and undermine presidential effectiveness, e. g., the state of the domestic economy and the world situation. This analysis also develops a new measure of a number patterns associated with the rhythms of presidential tenure, including the presidential "honeymoon" and the "lame duck" periods. It also describes what some politicians think of as the "bank account presidency" of declining influence. (41 pages)

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From the introduction to "Presidential Position"

You could tell a man to go to hell, but if you had a properly constructed constitution, making him go would pose a problem. To Alexander Hamilton, who preferred a strong, energetic and independent presidency, the Constitution had succeeded in freeing the President from congressional influence. The constitutional founders had lived through an historical period fraught with legislative encroachments, with a representative depostism replacing a monarchial. They expected the overwhelming power of the people's tornado and, hence, appreciated any independence from its influence. In modern times, when the popular democracy had come to invest so much in presidential leadership, that independence seemed to carry other implications.

LBJ understood Hamilton. He knew the power of the congressional majority. All his professional life, he had preached the lessons of politics utilizing his perspective on that power. Those lessons, those perspectives, that power, all seemed to come together in this time. In September 1963, for example, the civil rights movement won a victory. They convinced Emmanuel Celler's House Judiciary Subcommittee to report a strong civil rights proposal. Unexpectedly outmaneuvered by the civil rights groups, in a year when every group seemed competent at outmaneuvering his administration, President Kennedy railed in frustration against this ploy. In that Oval Office outburst, the President blamed Clarence Mitchell of the NAACP, charging he had "run away from the situation" and doomed the bill to inevitable defeat. Building for the 1964 election, and knowing the devastating consequences on his reputation that civil rights regularly wrought, Kennedy could not restrain his anger with Mitchell and the other strategists. Referring to them, he shouted, "They don't care!"

Of course, Clarence Mitchell "cared." Even the President knew that much. A self-proclaimed "law and order man," Mitchell had become an ubiquotous presence on Capitol Hill, prowling the halls in search of justice and the law's protection for his constituents and in doing so. When he died in 1984, Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker, Jr. eulogized Mitchell as "the lion in the lobby." Mitchell cared. He just didn't agree with how the administration saw the situation. By 1964, Mitchell could count votes.

Mitchell had not always prowled the Congress with such effect, though. By his own admission, he often had cared too much for legislative victories, pressing too hard, impatiently. In the mid-1950s, he had learned one of power's lessons, from LBJ. In the days following Brown v. Board, Mitchell often had found Johnson, as Senate Majority Leader, opposing what the NAACP viewed essential. LBJ respected Mitchell's commitment and understood his impatience. After a hard day's struggle, LBJ would invite Mitchell back to his office for a drink. In these encounters between lobbyst and leader, LBJ always presented Mitchell with the same epiphany and query. It came straight from Hamilton's views on the legislative vortex. Sitting in the Majority Leader's cavernous and ornate office, surrounded by the grandeur of the legislative power, LBJ would glance sidewise at Mitchell with his eyes narrowed, a look of intensity. "Clarence," he would then say gently, "you can get anything that you have the votes to get." He would pause to let this first lesson sink in, and then he would say, "How many votes have you got?"

After hearing this lesson a few times, Mitchell took it to heart. How many votes, indeed. How many votes, Mitchell began to wonder, did he actually have among those he had lobbied? He began learning to count. He began to discern the difference between "getting the music" that suggested a sym-pa-the-tic ear and "hearing the words" that sealed a commitment. Mitchell cared, but he had come to possess something else as well - a sense of the possible. Kennedy really railed against the chance that Mitchell had demonstrated the possibility of a successful legislative strategy which differed from that the administration had pursued. The strategy that the administration had invested itself in, despite Johnson's warnings not to mire itself in legislative details, had now left the administration mired.

Johnson's lesson had seemed so simple, Mitchell admitted, that he really wondered why it had taken so long for him to grasp. Effective law-making came down to this simple prescription for congressional power: "you can get anything that you have the votes to get." LBJ had spent his whole professional career pursuing, coraling, and then using the congressional power derived from just having enough votes. Mitchell would to. Now armed with politic's lesson and a just cause, he became a lion.

LBJ, power's teacher, also understood the other side of that prescription. What had become an historical edge to Hamilton's words. For decades, he had observed presidents, executive agencies, and judges, despite their own powers, trying to avoid the attraction of "devotion" to the legislative vortex. The courts bending whenever it seemed the President had the congressional votes, resisting when he did not. Agencies obsequious before congressional committees, seeking their instructions by sign, intimidation, or innuendo. Presidents lowered their aims, assumed miracles, and advocated for half measures whenever their policy objectives did not attract enough of those precious votes. The founders had inserted an immense chasm between the congressional branch of votes, power, and energy and the presidential branch of decision, coherence, and focus. They had designed their chasm to prejudice against a single source of congressional authority - a system designed to protect the presidency. Time had transformed Hamilton's conception of balanced competition, though, into one of executive frustration. Bridging that chasm had become the essential presidential challenge. This chapter explores the nature of the system LBJ and Hamilton described. It begins with Hamilton's separation of power and with this first of LBJ's two lessons. It assesses the simple prescription that through a combination of constitutional endowments and anticipated reaction, Congress dominates the system: that "you can get anything you have to votes to get." The chapter then describes the possibility of building such a congressional government, emphasizing the strengths and weakness of two systems of congressional leadership - accommodation and coordination. Leadership by accommodation fits better into the structure of congressional decision-making better than leadership by coordination because it better solves the critical coalition-building problems of the members. It requires little in the way of information about policies, for example. It affords members a piece of the policy-making over which they can play an important and valuable role.

Accommodation, however, has its weaknesses. It leaves to committees and focussed coalitions the power to avoid consideration of some policies. Breaking this control requires a willingness to overcome accommodation. The chapter concludes with what seems like a justification for a more complex model of power emphasizing constitutional bargaining and, ipso facto, presidential discretion. The chapter then ends with LBJ's second lesson, the one about telling a man to go to hell.

From another section of Presidential Position

Constitutional Strictures

A simple model of constitutional structure illustrates why the administration stood by helpless. The model has four central characteristics. First, it supposes an orderly routine for considering policy questions, derived from the Constitution, Article I, Section 7:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approves he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.
- U. S. Constitution, Article I, section 7.
The sequence of consideration begins with a congressional policy decision, reflecting a separations of power. The President then responds with a veto or by signing the legislation. And, finally, where necessitated, a congressional override decision follows.

Second, following the Constitution again, the model assumes that the legislative consideration routine differs depending on the kind of question. For regular policy determinations, the legislature must approve changes from the status quo ante by a simple majority. For vetoes, the legislature must override the president's decision by a two-thirds majority.

Third, the model assumes that decision-makers have specific policy preferences reflecting their own ideal conceptions. While this model makes no assumption about the origins of decision-makers' preferences, later analyses of the congressional process assumes they originate with constituency interests and vary according to differences in constitutencies. The model implies that, in behavioral terms, these policy preferences define a metric similar to "distance" and this metric dictates how members join coalitions. Thus, congressional coalitions form around alternatives which appear closest to the ideal conception of policy for a majority of members.

Where policy alternatives exist on a common dimension, for example, the level of foreign aid appropriations, the dictates of majority coalition formation, given this simple model, underscore the importance of the "median" member. Literally at the center of the coalition formation process, the median member becomes a common element in every winning majority. Take the group {1,2,3,4,5}. Without forming coalitions by violating the notion of distance, the group has six majorities (some minimal, some extraordinary in size): {1,2,3}, {1,2,3,4}, {1,2,3,4,5}, {2,3,4,5}, {2,3,4}, and {3,4,5}. Everyone of those majorities overlap in the single member - at the median - Member "3." Indeed, given the assumptions, a majority coalition cannot form without the median member. While that member does not necessarily lead any of these coalitions, facilitating their formation, "3's" participation becomes tantamount to success.

Fourth, to facilitate analysis, the model assumes that all actors possess complete information. This assumption means that the President, the congressional majorities and their organizers, as well as executive agencies where involved, have a thorough understanding of each others' preferences. Hence, decision-makers can anticipate responses to any contemplated strategic choice by merely observing a proposal in relation to constitutionally defined critical points. For example, consider the middle of the congressional membership, which occupies the core of all possible policy majorities. Members, and Presidents understand that the median voter's preferences dictate the congressional policy-making routines in this model. They also understand where that puts policy considerations. In effect, they know what they can get for the votes they have and they know how many votes they have for each policy alternative that they might propose.

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