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Published by: ashrafwood on Mar 03, 2011
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Administrative Politics and the Public Presidency
   Brandice Canes-Wrone
Princeton University   Prepared for a special collection of essays in
Presidential Studies Quarterly
on the ScientificStudy of the Administrative Presidency  May 2007    
I thank David Lewis and William Minozzi for helpful conversations and comments.  An earlier versionof this paper was presented in a roundtable at the 2007 Midwest Political Science Association Meetings inChicago.
Associate Professor of Politics and Public Affairs. 214 Robertson Hall; Princeton, NJ 08544.bcwrone@princeton.edu. Phone: (609)258-9047. Fax: (609)258-5533.
 As a field we know exceedingly little about how presidents’ public relations affect administrativepolitics. For instance, when will presidents create new agencies to satisfy public concern aboutan issue? When does public opinion provoke presidents to fire officials? The dearth of scholarship on these sorts of questions is striking, particularly given the emphasis in the literatureon the increased importance of public relations to the presidency. I argue that we cannot fullyunderstand bureaucratic politics without considering the impact of this development, whichscholars often call the “public presidency.” Furthermore, I argue that research on the publicpresidency has largely concentrated on legislative politics, which differ considerably fromadministrative politics. After delineating general claims, I outline theoretical and empiricalconsiderations for two specific avenues of research. My hope is that these considerations willhelp stimulate attention to how administrative politics are shaped by presidents’ public relations. 1
President George W. Bush has initiated several major policy reversals that involveadministrative politics. For example, in June of 2002 he gave a national address promoting thecreation of a Department of Homeland Security after having long opposed a cabinet-level officefor domestic security. This speech and the president’s subsequent actions helped create the officewith features he desired (Maltzman and Adams 2003; Canes-Wrone 2006). Four years later, onlya day after the Democrats had gained majorities in the House and Senate, Bush again abruptlyinitiated a significant administrative change. This time he fired Secretary of Defense DonaldRumsfeld despite having claimed a week before that Rumsfeld would remain in office for theremainder of the term (Gerstenzang 2006
.Political commentators were quick to declare that public opinion drove these policyswitches. In the case of the Department for Homeland Security, observers maintained thedecision was motivated by polling data that suggested the administration was not adequatelyaddressing the threat of terrorism (Balz 2002; Bettelheim and Barshay 2002). In the case of Rumsfeld, Bush himself tried to suggest public opinion was a factor. Speaking to the press theday after the midterm elections, Bush surmised that “Many Americans voted to register theirdispleasure at the lack of progress we are making [in Iraq]" and announced that the Pentagonneeded a “fresh perspective” that would involve new leadership (Bush 2006).One might expect scholarship to shed light on whether these incidents fit general patternsof how public opinion affects presidents’ decisions regarding the federal bureaucracy. After all,in recent years the literature on the administrative presidency has produced a wealth of systematic knowledge about a range of topics, including the politicization of appointments (e.g.,Moe 1985b; Lewis forthcoming), presidential control of the bureaucracy (e.g., Wood andWaterman 1991; Hammond and Knott 1996; Aberbach and Rockman 2000), budgetary politics 2

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