Presidential Management And The Decision-Making Process

Is presidential management truly influencing the decision-making process? Furthermore, are the policy deliberations somehow impacted by a president’s management style? Presidential studies scholars – Alexander George, Richard Tanner Johnson - have argued that the level of centralization exerted by a president in either collegial or formal structures does have a bearing in policy-making. However, the degree of influence seems to be different from one administration to another. Thus, typologies of advisory systems have been developed to explain the policy process with application in the Nixon, Carter and Clinton administrations. To begin with, Nixon’s administration has been characterized by a formal centralized advisory system. In support of this lies the example presented by Hersh and Kimball, that states the fact that Nixon was not aware of its staff opposition regarding mining and air raids, but instead was listening to Kissinger’s vocal arguments in favor of a military strategy. Undoubtedly, the decisions taken in Nixon administration were influenced by Nixon’s and Kissinger’s views with little exceptions.

Secondly, a high centralization structure can be found in Carter’s administration as well, but paired with a collegial one. In the deliberation process, advisers did have the liberty of expressing their views since it was Carter’s belief that this lead to better decision making. However, it was his decision that mattered most in the end. Lastly, it was the way in which the Bosnia conflict during Clinton administration was handled that indicated an administration with a collegial management structure. Clinton’s management of decision-making was often hesitant and sometimes even absent. To exemplify this, Mitchell indicates how during the February 5 meeting the policy options adopted were the result of its advisers work.

To conclude with, understanding whether presidential management has a large influence or not on the policy-making process is of high importance. The role of advisers and their level of influence are better understood by examining the steps of decision-making. Understanding these aspects might present itself as an opportunity to also grasp what tactics, bureaucratic politics, and groupthink are. In order to accurately evaluate the success of a certain policy and consequently improve it or change it if needed, the threads of policy-making must be properly disentangled.

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