Presidential leadership

Since it is Presidents’ Day, I thought I would write about presidents.

Everyone thinks of the president as a leader, but how should he or she lead the country? How should the president lead in relation to Congress and his or her political party?

James MacGregor Burns, historian and political scientist, developed a typology of presidential leadership. His models are named after early Americans and their beliefs on leadership. The question ultimately is: Who Should Take the Lead in Setting Policy?

• Madisonian Model: The president relies on Congress to lead in setting policy. The president mainly administers policies set by Congress.

• Hamiltonian Model: The president should be heroic and above partisanship. He or she should rely on the Constitution and public opinion for support. The president should lead in all areas and ignore Congress if necessary.

• Jeffersonian Model: The president should lead through his or her party. He or she should act similar to a Prime Minister in a Parliamentary System. The party, influenced and lead by the president, sets policy. The president assists the party with getting their platform enacted.

The model chosen to lead the country and set policy is not fixed for any one president. Presidents can be seen as moving from model to model depending upon the situation, including the position in their term or type of policy. A president may lead in foreign policy following the Hamiltonian Model, domestic affairs may lend themselves more to the Madisonian Model, while appointments and patronage decisions may best be done through the Jeffersonian Model.

While there may not be one correct model, presidents should make use of all three models when necessary. A dogmatic approach to leadership is seldom effective. An effective president is one who has a range of skills and is perceptive enough to know when to employ the requisite talent.

Go Yotes.

Dr. Jasper M. LiCalzi
Professor and Chair
Department of Political Economy
The College of Idaho

I agree, except...

... that the Jeffersonian model seems to be less compatible than the other two. To me, the Madisonian and Hamiltonian models go together well... that a president can lead heroically and be above partisanship, and as a consequence allow Congress to set policy; they seem to go hand in hand (other than the ignoring Congress part, and even that seems like it could be a natural consequence of the marriage of the two models). So, while I am certainly a progressive and would want my president working toward a progressive agenda, I don't like the idea of an extremely partisan leader. Odd, I never really thought of Jefferson as being partisan... must be all that glowing Founding Fathers crap from elementary school and TV.

You're lucky in that respect!

Models I knew of were Revell and Monogram. By the time I got to 1980 I'd never thought too heavily about giving a president a style. There have been over forty of them and it's been a matter of what Congress or the Courts would let you do. I know a few presidents the Congress had a love-hate thing with and it wasn't a matter of any panache, only teamwork.

Charisma is great but if the TRICAMERAL setup doesn't fly it's no party even with hot wings.

Is there an "other" option?

So where, then, does GWB lie (heh)? The Hamiltonian is definitely out.

The president should be like a father's son/daughter. Someone we'd be proud of when faced with decisions because they are the sprig of our loins and because we always try to make them in our image.

I like to think that David Wu (D - ORE) would describe the president as the borg queen of Star Trek, a single voice that just acts on behalf of the collective. Google Vulcans+White+House if you've no idea what I'm talking about.