When I read the Washington Post story about how the Energy Department is refusing to turn over the list of staffers who worked on climate change issues to the Trump transition team, it immediately brought me back to the single most influential book I have read on the American presidency, Richard Neustadt’s Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents. First published in 1960, and revised through the Reagan years, Neustadt’s classic study of presidential power and leadership provided an almost machiavellian study of what the president has to do to lead, and accomplish his goals. His primary thesis was that presidential power is not the power to command, but instead the power to persuade.
Early in the book, Neustadt provided a classic example that new president will face when he tries to issue commands.
In the early summer of 1952, before the heat of the campaign, President Truman used to contemplate the problems of the general-become-president should Eisenhower win the forthcoming election. “He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”
In many ways, when I think of this quote, I can’t help imagining the next president being in a very similar situation.
“He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that! And nothing will happen. Poor Donald– it won’t be a bit like The Apprentice. He’ll find it very frustrating.”