Monday, November 03, 2003

Richard Neustadt Dead

Neustadt was one of the most influential students of the presidency. He regarded the extra-constitutional "power to persuade" as primary, and one has to wonder whether he contributed to the erosion of constitutionalism as a result. Neustadt favored a strong president, but was insensitive to how the Constitution established a strong presidency. One could say that Neustadt was too Machiavellian and not Machiavellian enough -- too Machiavellian because he favored extra-constitutional power, not Machiavellian enough because he disapproved of Eisenhower's use of force during desegregation. Neustadt forgot (or was unwilling to consider) that the real, constitutional powers of the president can be rather useful to his ability to persuade. The real and the formal are not as different as Neustadt would have liked to admit. Neustadt also forgot that human recalcitrance does not always respond to persuasion. Moreover, his assessment of Eisenhower generally as a do-nothing president was widely off the mark. Fred Greenstein was the first to refute that assessment, and Carnes Lord has most recently endorsed the refutation.


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