Tonight, apparently, Trump will finally get to make his State of the Union speech. John Cassidy has some interesting reflections on the shrunken state of his presidency:
The Harvard political scientist Richard Neustadt famously remarked that the Oval Office “is no place for amateurs.” This is because, as Neustadt pointed out in his book “Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents,” which was originally published in 1960, the Presidency is, structurally, a weak office. Its occupant has to deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government. Even inside the sprawling executive branch, it isn’t easy to direct Cabinet secretaries, agency heads, and career public officials, many of whom have their own expertise and agendas. Given this challenging environment, Neustadt concluded, “Presidential power is the power to persuade.” If a President loses the ability to bring other players along with him, he is lost.
More than a year ago, in a piece published at Vox, Matthew Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, argued that Donald Trump was “a weak president” in the Neustadt sense of the term. Glassman pointed to Trump’s low approval ratings, early setbacks that the Administration had suffered, such as court rulings against his travel ban, and the failure to repeal Obamacare. The White House’s victories, such as the passage of a tax-reform bill, “usually involve Trump having adopted the position of the congressional Republicans, not the other way around,” Glassman noted.