Tough Times for the President: Political Adversity and the Sources of Executive Power


Tough Times for the President: Political Adversity and the Sources of Executive Power

School or Department

History and Government



By examining case studies of tough times for the president, this book broadens the understanding of presidential power and both the limits and opportunities chief executives face as they govern from the Oval Office. It points to a new view of the sources of presidential power. This study of presidential adversity illuminates the fundamental sources of executive power-executive actions, foreign policy initiatives, organizational changes, going public, and unconventional actions-that form a foundation for the persuasive influence that many see as the epitome of presidential leadership. It also shows how presidents cope with the kinds of tough circumstances in which chief executives find themselves all too often. The case studies show American chief executives facing some of the toughest political situations of their presidencies, and illuminates important episodes in modern political history. The authors show Gerald Ford trying to govern without any of the traditional sources of political capital, Bill Clinton recovering from two near-death political experiences (the loss of Congress in 1994, then the Lewinsky scandal), and the unraveling of the George W. Bush presidency. The authors also use these insights to help build an alternative understanding of presidential power. The authors' cases of presidents in tough times leads to a new view of presidential power as situational leverage. They sketch an understanding of power as leverage that takes into account the resources that a president is able to apply in a particular situation, weighed against the risks and obstacles that threaten to undermine presidential goals and the opportunities that help to motivate the president. This approach presents a more accurate, realistic, and useful view of presidential power than Richard Neustadt's catchy but misleading "power to persuade." Moreover, viewing power as leverage helps to account for why recent presidents have devoted time and attention to employing and expanding their capacity for unilateral action. Tough Times for the President is a unique book because it provides a different perspective on America's most important office. Most books on the presidency focus on issues of presidential leadership, presidential greatness, or influence over policy, but none compares how presidents have responded to the political challenges confronting them.



Publication Date



Cambria Press


American Politics | History | United States History

Tough Times for the President: Political Adversity and the Sources of Executive Power