The Presidency – Part 2
January 27 , 2014
• The president is the only nationally elected official.
• Relationship with the American public.
o Vital. Some are more charismatic. More often than not however, most
presidents have to work at cultivating this relationship with the public –
much harder for modern presidents with technology, sound bites, media,
• “Going public”
o Directly addressing citizens.
o Includes: Twitter, Facebook, town hall meetings, canvasing, speeches, etc.
o Presidents are always looking at innovative ways to relate to the people.
o Most recent: “Vitrual Big Blcok of Cheese Day”
• Relate directly to Americans.
• Why do this?
o Perception of president’s success or failure.
o Manage perceptions
Perception is reality.
Now more than ever, presidents are trying to manage this
perception (of their success or failure) – this is why they go public:
to control the spin.
o Control the spin.
If the President can tell the story first, they can shape the news.
• The power of images.
o Make or break.
• Michael Dukaksis
o “Dukaksis in the tank moment.”
o Entire political campaigns have been destroyed by one photo. Dukaksis
was seen as weak on defense, so his people brought him to GDLS for him
to ride in a tank. Bush Sr. administration used this photo to show that he
was something that he was not. *See commercial “The Tank Ad”.
• Obama’s “Politics 101”
o Referred to the Dukaksis incident.
World of Stagecraft
• Political stagecraft
• “Soundbite culture”
• Constant repetition, ampligication, and novelty/drama (so people don’t forget
what he/she really said). • Polls
o The White House uses polls. Based on these results, collected and studied
daily (on the President’s performance), they will alter their technique
accordingly. The message doesn’t change, but the packaging will.
• Message remains, packaging changes.
o Market research
High Your Rankings Must Be
How do you test if a President and his techniques are successful?
• Actually measure?
• Approval ratings.
• “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Luke Skywalker is handling is job as
• Keep in mind, polls can be tailored. Questions are more objectively posed by
certain polling companies.
• High Approval Ratings
o Higher ratings, easier governing.
o Members of Congress are also polled (approval ratings are studied).
If the people you represent/your constituents are in favour of the
President, you won’t bash or challenge him.
o “War president”
Rally around the flag; cause a spike in approval ratings (depending
on how the President handles it).
Bush – initial response to 9/11 shot his approval ratings up around
the world. However, when turning to Iraq, they went down.
Carter – response to Iranian hostage crisis, he was seen as weak
and approval ratings fell.
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
• Low approval ratings
• Importance of relationship with the public.
o Approval ratings will not reflect longterm attitudes, historical rankings,
• The better the relationship, the happier the public is, the higher approval ratings
wills be, and the easier the presidency will be.
Sabre Pyramid P. 510 in text.
• Historical rankings
• Changing perspectives on past issues alter views of performance.
o Give an issue time, the understanding of the situation will change, and so
will the public’s perception and reputation of greatness.
o New evidence is found, memoirs, DNA, etc. lead to changes on
perspectives. These change the narrative.
• Passage of time
o Historians, memoirs, etc.
o Narrative changes.
• Presidents often try to lead a legacy, which typically manifest themselves in the
forms of grand policies (e.g. ObamaCare, Iraq, Middle East) – it takes decades
sometimes, for the impact of these initiatives to set in.
o ObamaCare – just starting out, it LOOKS like a failure now. However, the
public does not have an understanding of the system – it is an attempt to
change society’s entire perception of an issue.
• Political orders.
o Provide a useful framework for taking context into consideration –
coalitions, institutions, organizations, policies, etc..
• Each order can be characterized by 3 steps:
• Right time, right place or vice versa.
A New Order Arises
• Spirited leader (e.g. Lincoln)
• Introduces a bold, new philosophy.
• Enthusiastically received
• Unifies the country.
• For opponents, this is a dangerous person to have in office – they can mobilize
multiple massive groups.
The Order is Refreshed
• Will eventually weaken or fizzle out (either by success, death, or voted out, or
• The leader was the necessary cohesion.
• Assassination of Lincoln
o Slavery – some did not support him for moral grounds, but because it
furthered free labour capitalism.
o “Free labour” capitalism • Theodore Roosevelt 190109
o Came in to save the Republicans (Lincoln was also a Republican).
o Refreshed the public with new ideas, and was better suited to deal wit free
o Played a critical role in launching American Imperialism. Promoted a
pseudoscientific racism, attempting to justify the Indian wars, annexation
of Cuba an