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The President And The Bully Pulpit

Barack Obama and presidential leadership. The “juice” question. Does he have it?

President Barack Obama answers questions during his new conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (AP)

President Barack Obama answers questions during his new conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (AP)

Mr. President, do you still have “the juice” to do the job?  What a question, at the hundred-day mark of a president’s second term.  But that’s the question President Obama got this week, at his Tuesday press conference, from Jonathan Karl of ABC News.  Do you still have the juice, Mr. President?  Oooph.

Barack Obama has faced implacable opposition from a Republican Party with a whip hand in the House and the filibuster.  But what can, should a president – this president – do when he’s up against it?  And does he have the juice?

This hour, On Point:  presidential leadership and “the juice.”

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

George Edwards, professor of political science at Texas A&M. Professor of American government at the University of Oxford. Author of several books on American presidents including “Overreach: Leadership in the Obama Presidency,” and “The Strategic President: Persuasion and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership.”

Beverly Gage, professor of history at Yale University. An expert on 20th-Century U.S. history, including the presidency. (@beverlygage)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times (Maureen Dowd): No Bully in the Pulpit — President Obama has watched the blood-dimmed tide drowning the ceremony of innocence, as Yeats wrote, and he has learned how to emotionally connect with Americans in searing moments, as he did from the White House late Friday night after the second bombing suspect was apprehended in Boston. Unfortunately, he still has not learned how to govern.

National Journal: The Myth of the Bully Pulpit — “The method of transportation and the speed of communication have changed—but not the supreme confidence of presidents that they can use words to move votes. For Ronald Reagan, it was his oft-stated warning to lawmakers, ‘When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.’ Reagan was called the Great Communicator, but his attempts to use his eloquence to move Congress most often came up short. That is the conclusion of George C. Edwards III, the presidential historian at Texas A&M University who has conducted the most in-depth study of the bully pulpit and who suggests this White House should lower its expectations for the current exercise.”

The Washington Post: President Obama vs Congress, Explained — “In Obama’s defense, he suffers a bit from what I’ll call Caro Syndrome — where we live in the universe in which everyone sees the post of Senate majority leader and president through the lens of Robert Caro and LBJ. That’s just a bit ridiculous. The idea that someone can be bullied into voting their way just doesn’t work in this era of freelance congressmen relying on superPACs. Harry Reid fumes every time someone wishes he could be like LBJ (for what it’s worth, mild-mannered Mike Mansfield accomplished a helluva lot more than LBJ ever did as majority leader).”

Excerpt: ‘Overreach’ by George Edwards

Excerpt: ‘The Strategic President’ by George Edwards

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