Richard Nuestadt once claimed, “we have not so much a government of separated powers as a government of separated institutions sharing powers” (qtd Hendrick (1988) p. 15). Since George Washington first stepped into office American presidents have had to pass their initiatives through Congress. The high hopes Presidents have when they come to office can quickly be smashed by a majority of the opposing party in either house. As a result of this, Presidents have to use various means to help them in their quest for passing bills through Congress. One of the most prominent of these is going public on issues of great importance, such as passing a budget or reforming an important area of government. In addition, Samuel Kernel believes that this public leadership strategy has become even more of a necessity in an era where members of Congress act as “free agents, ignoring traditional institutional arrangements in favor of public pressure from constituents and interest groups” (qtd in Mathew Corrigan) Bargaining between the Presidency and the legislature has become, to a large extent, ineffective.Presidencies in the Age of InformationThe impact in the growth and importance of media, especially television, over the last thirty years has been essential in the promotion of going public strategies. Corrigan (2001) claims that in the information age of the new century, “presidents have new outlets to go public. Media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, and C-Span provide national coverage to even minor public addresses. Video-teleconferencing offers the president the ability to speak to groups across the country from the Oval Office.”
The Reagan Presidency
No administration was more sharply affected by the media boom than Ronald Reagan’s. A master at video politics, Reagan took advantage of his public appeal to the fullest extent. Jacobs and Shapiro (2001) claim that, “the Reagan years are pivotal in understanding recent and future developments regarding the relationship between public opinion and presidential behaviour.” Reagan’s reputation as a strong president was built to a large extent through media portrayals.
Riding on the wave of high public opinion Reagan appealed to the public to accept the proposed reversal in tax and spending policies outlined in the budget of 1981. The attempt on his life by John W. Hinckely, Jr., was the last media boost he needed to push through his reforms. Lewis (2001) claims that, “During the first two years of the Reagan presidency, for example, the press continually
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