Which of the following groups does the president most rely upon for advice?
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This chapter looks at how presidents exercise leadership and how executive power is restricted. Presidents are held to a high standard in the United States (perhaps too much). The public’s perception of the president as a powerhouse is distorted by the myth of the president as a powerhouse.
Presidents work in a system of checks and balances that includes competing centres of authority. Other policymakers with whom they interact all have their own goals, desires, and power sources. The president must have highly developed political skills to mobilize power, resolve conflict, negotiate, and reach agreements in order to be successful. According to political scientist Richard Neustadt, presidential power is the ability to convince rather than order.
The authors have emphasized the strong belief in limited government, liberty, individualism, equality, and democracy in the American political culture in American Government. These principles breed a skepticism of strong leadership, authority, and the government as a whole. Americans are split on the subject of the presidency. In the one hand, they want to believe in a strong president that will make a difference. Americans, on the other hand, despise power concentration. Despite the fact that presidential responsibilities have grown significantly in recent decades, there has been no corresponding increase in presidential authority or administrative resources to meet these new demands. Individualism is ingrained in the American psyche, and authority is viewed with suspicion.
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The president does not formulate policy or make all executive decisions on his own. Presidents have come to rely on a large White House staff to manage a variety of administrative activities, including policymaking and speechwriting. The president’s staff is devoted to him, not to Congress or a government department. The White House workers, if left unchecked by the president, may become a source of controversy. A good example is President Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
The executive branch is not organized in any way that the Constitution dictates. “Executive departments,” which became the foundation for the cabinet, are listed. A president seeks input from members of his cabinet in their areas of expertise, rather than relying solely on the White House staff. Cabinet secretaries, on the other hand, are mostly in charge of the departments they lead.
The White House Office, the National Security Council, the Council of Economic Advisors, and the Office of Management and Budget make up the Executive Office of the President (EOP), which advises the president on key policy issues.
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In 1929, Herbert Hoover entered the White House with a sense of hope and the prospect of a “Fresh Day.” He boasted in his inaugural address that “the fruits of achievement are more safe in no country” and that “anyone not only can be rich, but ought to be rich.” He cautioned his audience about the risks of a massive, activist federal government while also condemning large corporations’ self-serving greed. Hoover reaffirmed his belief in the centrality of the individual in the American experience, a concept he had explored in depth in his book American Individualism, published in 1922.
Hoover’s cabinet selections were usually excellent. Secretary of State Henry Stimson, Secretary of the Interior Ray Wilbur, Secretary of the Navy Charles Adams, and Attorney General William Mitchell more than made up for the lackluster performances of Secretary of War James Good, Secretary of Labor James Davis, Secretary of Commerce Robert Lamont, and Secretary of Agriculture Arthur Hyde. As the President’s main link to (and advisor on) the Republican Party, Postmaster General Walter F. Brown proved invaluable to Hoover. Hoover kept Coolidge’s appointee, Andrew Mellon, as Treasury Secretary, despite Mellon’s economic views being much less progressive than the President’s. For economic advice, Hoover turned to Undersecretary of the Treasury Odgen Mills. In reality, Hoover stocked the upper echelons of various executive departments with confidantes to whom he turned for advice on a regular basis.
We looked at some of the key ways that being in a group influences individual group members’ actions, which, in turn, influences the group’s overall success in the previous section. Another critical role for groups is to make decisions, in addition to maintaining high levels of success. Indeed, we often entrust important decisions in our communities to associations rather than people, such as those taken by juries and political parties. One critical question to consider is whether it is appropriate to place more confidence in groups than in individuals to make sound decisions. Is it true that having several heads is preferable to having one?
It turns out that answering this question can be difficult. For one thing, researching decision making is difficult because it is difficult to judge a decision’s quality based on what was known at the time, regardless of the outcome. This is especially difficult because we have a strong tendency to focus too heavily on the outcome when evaluating decision-making, a phenomenon known as outcome bias. Furthermore, since decision-making in laboratory settings usually involves supplying group participants with more knowledge than they would have in the real world (Johnson & Johnson, 2012), the findings could not always generalize.