By Jeffrey E. Cohen
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Additional info for Presidential Responsiveness and Public Policy Making: The Publics and the Policies That Presidents Choose
This expectation leads presidents to feel responsible, and this responsibility motivates presidents to take on leadership. First I begin with a review of the development of the policy responsibility expectation. The Development of Policy Responsibility in the Presidency The presidency as initially designed was not given much policy responsibility. As conceptualized by the founders, the presidency was to be a clerkship except during times of emergency, like war. Ironically, the acquisition of policy responsibility in the presidency developed hand in hand with the strengthening of ties between the mass public and the president, even though, as I argue, these two expectations are in tension and are often contradictory.
Later on, specific policy advisers were attached to this office and the presidency, most notably the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and the National Security Adviser. The process of placing greater and greater policy responsibility on the president can be seen through the development of the Bureau of the Budget, later the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This agency has turned into a central staff agency for the president, with wide-ranging policy control and coordination responsibilities.
Some of those symbols relate to policy intentions and leanings. What presidents avoid is the conflict associated with making public policy. By playing down political conflict, presidents may help foster a sense of consensus about those policy directions. Presidents may be trying to create bandwagons, rallying the public behind their policy efforts. Still, Hinckley is correct that presidential rhetoric does not present very detailed discussions of issues or policy development. It is symbolic. But symbols can be potent political forces (Edelman 1964; Elder and Cobb 1983).