Forming a government under the Constitution (1984) | ARCHIVES
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Forming a government under the Constitution (1984) | ARCHIVES

October 23, 2019


Announcer: From the nation’s capital, the
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research presents Public Policy Forums, a
series of programs featuring the nation’s top authorities presenting their differing
views on the vital issues which confront us. Today’s topic, Forming a Government Under
the Constitution. John: This public policy forum, one of a series
presented by the American Enterprise Institute is concerned with how our government organizes
itself following a presidential election and the ways in which the Constitution of the
United States shapes the necessary powers the president and the Congress use. Our subject, Forming a Government Under the
Constitution. Our Constitution written in 1787 provides
that once the newly elected or re-elected president takes the oath of office swearing
to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States he shall from time to
time give to the Congress information of the state of the union and recommend to their
consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. Further, he shall nominate and by and with
the advice and consent of the Senate shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers,
and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court and all other offices of the United States. Note that these constitutional provisions
refer to both the president and the Congress thereby emphasizing one of the primary characteristics
of our governmental system, the separation of the legislative and executive powers. The president for his part sets forth his
program and nominates department heads but only the Congress by rules of its own making
legislates and controls the purse strings. Also, the Senate under our Constitution must
confirm the president’s cabinet and other major appointees. The pressing question is do the requirements
of the Constitution that form the contours of the relationship between president and
Congress aid or hinder the formation of effective government after an election? For instance, Lloyd N. Cutler, counsel to
President Jimmy Carter wrote, “The separation of powers between the legislative and executive
branches whatever its merits in 1793 has become a structure that almost guarantees stalemate
today. We elect one presidential candidate after
another on the basis of our judgment of the overall program he presents, his ability to
carry it out, and his capacity to adapt his program to new developments as they arise.” But says Mr. Cutler, because we do not form
a government as they do in the parliamentary democracies, “We cannot fairly hold the president
accountable for the success or failure of his overall program because he lacks the constitutional
power to put the program into effect.” What can a president early in his administration
do to help him avoid stalemate with a Congress? How may the Congress organize itself to work
effectively with the executive branch? Well, to examine these and other questions
we have a distinguished panel. To my far right, Mr. Stuart Eizenstat currently
with the law firm of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy. Mr. Eizenstat was from 1977 to 1981 President
Jimmy Carter’s Executive Director of the White House domestic policy staff. He was one of the principal authors of the
Democratic Party Platform in 1976 and was Director of Policy Planning and Analysis in
the Carter-Mondale transition planning group following President Carter’s election. To my immediate right, is the Honorable Richard
Bolling former Democratic Congressman from the Fifth District of Missouri. Mr. Bolling served for 34 years in the Congress,
became Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee in 1979. He is considered to have been one of the major
moving forces behind reform of the house committee seniority system having written two books
in the 1960s entitled “House Out of Order,” a very good title, and “Power in the House”
that were influential in the movement to reform house procedures. To my immediate left, Dr. Herbert Stein, senior
fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Dr. Stein is a former member and chairman
of the Council of Economic Advisers under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He is the author most recently of “Presidential
Economics: The Making of Economic Policy from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond.” To my far left is Mr. David Gergen who until
January of 1984 was Director of Communications in the Reagan White House. Mr. Gergen has served a total of 8 of the
past 13 years in the White House as a member of President Richard Nixon’s speech writing
and research team, as special counsel to President Gerald Ford. During the late 1970s, Mr. Gergen helped found
and edit AEI’s public opinion magazine. I should mention here that both Mr. Bolling
a Democrat and Mr. Gergen a Republican are visiting fellows at AEI. Now, to begin with, let me ask the same question
of each of you. We often hear about the initial honeymoon
the president and the Congress go on just after a presidential election, but it ordinarily
doesn’t last very long, and people complain that urgent problems aren’t being solved. Are the expectations we have of our government
too high or has the capacity of our governmental system simply not kept pace with what the
government of a superpower must do in the world of the 20th century? Mr. Eizenstat. Eizenstat: You know, our founding fathers
created a government which, John as you mentioned, has a separation of powers and those of us
like myself who have worked for presidents in the White House always bemoan the fact
that presidential authority is not any greater, but that’s when we agree with what the president
wants. When we’re on the outside and we disagree
with what a particular president wants, then we think the checks and balances work just
fine. And in fact, the system is working just as
the founding fathers wanted it to work. The real answer to your question is that there
is a very narrow window after a president is elected, this goes back to FDR, Johnson
and his landslide, president Reagan in 1980 and you have to use that window in an effective
way. We in the Carter years did not use that initial
period effectively and really squandered that honeymoon period. You have to focus on one or two very key priorities
and you’ll get those priorities past during that honeymoon period. John: Mr. Congressman. Bolling: Well, in the time that you mentioned
I served with eight presidents and each one was very different in the way that he established
his government, his part of government and the response of the Congress was equally different
from one time to another. It seems to me that none of the presidents
with whom I’ve served have been able to maximize the opportunity to exercise their power over
a long period of time. Part of that is the 22nd Amendment which gives
them only two terms, part of it is the kind of difficulty that is caused very few presidents
to serve two terms, but it seems to me that we can do rather better and I think one of
the things that’s very important about discussions like this is that it is much too little studied
in a practical way. Usually, people come in with very large suggestions
for very large changes which are very impractical such as a series of constitutional amendments
instead of looking at the possibilities. I think there are enormous possibilities in
that window of opportunity and in the situations that remain after the window of opportunity
closes. And I think they can be examined, I think
they can be shown to be inadequately used because too many of our presidents haven’t
been very well trained in American history. John: Dr. Stein. Stein: Well, I’d like to say something about
this honeymoon idea. I think it’s greatly overrated and it’s turned
out to be a trap for many presidents, that is almost all presidents come into office
with a vision of Franklin Roosevelt and his first 100 days before them and the wonders
that were then achieved not realizing that about half of the things that were done in
those first 100 days were terrible mistakes and much of it unconstitutional. So, Presidents come in with a desire to do
something rapidly and they don’t really know what to do in those 100 days. It isn’t as if presidents come in with some
very well-tailored plan which needs to be executed and which they can’t get through. I’ve written on occasion of two presidents
coming into office that they should spend their first 100 days up in Camp David thinking
and not making any speeches, not making any proposals to Congress, but trying to figure
out what to do because the fact is that in the two or three years before they got elected
they certainly weren’t thinking about what they ought to do. In fact, most of what they said about what
they ought to do is just for public consumption and not for enactment. So, I think we got off on the wrong foot if
we ask ourselves how can we arrange things so that the presidents will get enacted what
they thought ought to be done in the first 100 days. First, they ought to think of something good
to do. Gergen: Well, I don’t think there’s any question
but that a good honeymoon in the presidency does not guarantee a long marriage and we’ve
seen that time and time again in various presidencies in recent years. I would have to tell you though, I think that
the Reagan experience in the first term suggests that perhaps we ought to be rethinking our
ideas about the presidency. When he first came in, there was a good deal
of pessimism in the literature about the ability to govern in this country. And I can’t say that people agreed with everything
he did in the first term but many of his critics would now say that at least he proved during
that first term that there were powers there in the presidency perhaps lightened which
still could be used effectively, and which indicated that a man still could or hopefully
will and soon could govern in that office. As recently as the report done by the Urban
Institute on the Reagan first term, they had many criticisms of his policies, but they
pointed out very strongly that his ability to govern had surprised even them. And I think that’s partly because he understood
that when he came in, as Stu said, this window that you had of opportunity and used that
skillfully. He also had a very clear philosophy and a
set of clear goals and we can discuss how some of that was carried out and some of the
waning of power that perhaps occurred in the latter part of his first term. I think the more interesting question that
now confronts the country is it possible to govern in a second term and I think the jury
is still very much out on that. We haven’t had a second term president, after
all, that served a full term obviously since Eisenhower and I don’t think any of us yet
knows what it’s going to be like to go through this process. The early indications are that the challenges
are in fact more difficult and that is, in fact, more difficult to work with the Congress
and to govern successfully. Bolling: I think one thing is been said that
really bothers me and that is the notion that a president comes in without any ideas. There’s a view that a lot of people hold that
view but that certainly was not my original experience. The man that I first served with was Harry
Truman and he had a lot of ideas. They were the ideas that he expressed in the
campaign. And the reason that he had the surprise election
was that the people who voted rather lightly perceived that he had some ideas that they
were different from the oppositions. I don’t want to sound naïve about this, I
ran 17 different times in general elections in relatively tough territory and I think
I know how to deal with the politics of it, but ideas go very well in campaigns. It’s only relevantly recently in media campaigns
that they have been left out and it seems to be we should get back to the basic point
and the basic point is that people are elected to govern with ideas and programs and that
should be one of the first demands. The fact that we haven’t been able to do it
recently doesn’t mean that it can’t be done again. Stein: I didn’t say that they didn’t come
in with ideas, I said they didn’t come in with well-articulated and realistic ideas
and the process of campaigning put the great premium as we’ve seen over and over again
on all kinds of promises which turn out to be a great encumbrance upon the president
once he gets into office. And I think in Mr. Gergen’s experience of
President Reagan’s ability in the first term to get his ideas across, well it’s never been
very difficult to sell the American people on having their taxes reduced by 25%. I mean, that was not a great act of management
or leadership in my opinion, but I think there is also a kind of struggle to develop ideas,
to create a program even when it doesn’t exist for the sake of having something that you
can some package to present in the first 100 days. I think the problems are never such that they
need to be dealt with in 100 days and cannot benefit from some more mature consideration
than will have been given during the campaign. John: Mr. Eizenstat. Eizenstat: I’d like to tie these points together
with my earlier point about a window of opportunity. If a president comes into office and uses
his first several months to implement what the public expects from his campaign, will
be his main emphasis, then he will succeed, that’s what President Reagan did. Everyone knew that what he wanted was a series
of budget cuts and tax cuts that became his primary focus. On the other hand, when President Carter came
into office in 1977, contrast our program in the first year with the focused Reagan
program we proposed, for example, an energy program which I think was a good program,
but it came outside any campaign context. Dick, it wasn’t part of the debate, people
didn’t expect it, the Congress didn’t expect it, it came out of context. So, if you carry one or two main campaign
ideas into that window of opportunity at the beginning, then you’re going to have at least
during that period until your popularity, as it inevitably will, will begin to wane,
considerable success. The problem is when you disperse your resources
and when you focus on issues that have not been discussed during the campaign, and which
the Congress and the public have no anticipation will be coming. John: Gergen. Gergen: I absolutely agree with that, you
know Stu, I think that for instance the energy plant that Jim Schlesinger worked up there
in the first 90 days of the Carter administration had that been developed prior to the campaign
or during the campaign and could you Mr. Carter have spoken out on that he would’ve had a
much better chance of getting that enacted in 1977 instead of the kind of problems that
you engaged in. It seems to me that the responsibilities on
these candidates to do their thinking and as I said with particular reference to Mr.
Carter but to do their thinking before they start campaigning and to answer the question
in their own minds why do they want to be President? What is it they want to do with that office? You remember that was the question that Teddy
Kennedy couldn’t answer in the famous Roger Mudd interview because he really hadn’t thought
that clearly about what he wanted to do and I think the period of thinking has to be done
before you run or while you’re running because it does seem to be once you get in you have
to hit the ground running. That is your opportunity when the public is
paying attention close attention to what you want to do to get moving with the public and
with a Congress and get something enacted. I think if you wait six months down the road,
the train has probably left the station in terms of how much you can accomplish. John: Dr. Stein. Stein: I think part of our problem is that
while we may have ideas or programs in the minds of a presidential candidate we don’t
have any party ideas. The president comes in with a set of ideas
which are his ideas but not necessarily the ideas of his party and it seems to me that
the party’s mechanism is very deficient in its operation especially the party that’s
out of power in the development of a program which can then become the program of its candidate. Bolling: Well, I think one aspect of that
is certainly true it’s difficult in a campaign and our campaigns are very long to do much
consecutive thinking, but I can cite several examples and not all of them are Democratic
examples where the administration came in with a pretty good broad set of ideas that
it intended to implement. The next step which we haven’t really mentioned
is that the window of opportunity is where it’s with the people and it’s with the Congress. And it’s perfectly true that what Stuart said
about the Carter administration and energy was half the case. We managed to get the Carter program through
the house in a rather healthy fashion because we were organized to do it and used the devices
that were available then to do it and it fell in the Senate for a variety of reasons that
are involved or concentration on the house. What happened in the Reagan, 1981 is that
he came in with some very broad notions on taxes, some more specific ones on cuts and
was able to bring together the votes to pass it. It was a phenomenal performance, but the real
significance of the performance was that he did get every Republican with perhaps one
or two exceptions and he managed to pick up enough Democrats. And the reason that you can’t make your program
a party program in advance of a president is that the parties are split. Even the Republicans are split today under
a Republican president and the Democrats are split three ways. John: Mr. Eizenstat. Eizenstat: I think this point about parties
that Professor Stein and Dick mentioned goes to the very heart of the real problem of governing
under our system. And that is in a parliamentary system where
you have a merger of your executive and legislative branch, the party mean something. You have a shadow cabinet when the opposition
party is not in power. That shadow cabinet works together, they develop
plans and white papers together and then if they are elected, they can implement those
programs and the shadow cabinet becomes the real cabinet. In our system, on the other hand, we have
totally bifurcated and separated presidential politics from congressional politics and those
people who can implement a president’s program namely the members of Congress have virtually
no role in either developing his program as he runs or helping him get nominated. And unless we merge the two, the congressional
and the presidential politics into a stronger party organization, then we’re going to continue
to have this legislative presidential impasse. For example, again, contrast with parliamentary
systems where you have shadow cabinets used to working together most presidents of the
United States and I include I believe President Reagan and Ford and Carter barely knew the
majority of cabinet members they appointed. They have may have worked with them incidentally
10 years ago or had met them at a cocktail party or had them on a task force and met
with them once and that’s no way to govern. John: But that, historically, is the way we
have governed. Stein: Well, there have been exceptions when
you take the Congressional and it seems to me that’s important to look a long way back
in history. There’s no reason why Congress today can’t
be organized, and I think it’s fair to say that it isn’t very well organized in terms
of any party activity or any programmatic activity. It isn’t a partisan matter. But you can create organization in Congress
and it was done for a very long time under Republicans in the latter part of the last
century and the early part of this one. And there’s nothing really impossible about
creating Congressional committee party government which is fair to the democratic process. It requires there being a team at the leadership
of both parties in each body. It’s not impossible. It’s really rather convenient and easy to
do if you could just sell the idea. The Republicans already do that. John: Mr. Congressman, did not the reforms
which the party particularly the Democratic Party initiated following 1948 watering down
and diluting the cooperative base of congressional leadership and the party leadership and the
process of convention, etc. kind of strip the gears for exactly the kind of interior
discipline within the whole body of politic of a party if it’s going to be able to show
leadership. Bolling: My analysis would be a little bit
different. What happened in the Congress particularly
in the house and the Senate was that there was an appearance that the Democrats were
in the majority and they were technically but in terms of ideas and the national party
view, the presidential view, the Democrats were actually most of the time in the minority. There was not a majority for the Roosevelt
program even in defense and taxes under defense during most of that period. The first time that they came to be a real
Democratic majority whether it was a voting number of majority that were capable of passing
bills was much later than that. It wasn’t even in the Truman administration
except on foreign policy. A careful analysis shows that the problem
is that there’s been a misinterpretation about what party was in power in the Congress. John: And the whole issue of what needs to
be done or can be done become to grips with at least the two major areas which need examination
is constitutional amendment necessary to bring about shall we say a more cohesive effective
efficient United States government. Eizenstat: Well John, in your introduction
you quoted my former White House colleague Lloyd Cutler who believes that there should
be such and we ought to have a parliamentary system. While I’m intrigued by the ease of governing
in a parliamentary system I think it would be A) very difficult to ever accomplish and
therefore not worth our time and resources and B) if we ever had a parliamentary system,
we’d probably have five or six parties because of the great diversity in our country. The places where parliamentary systems work
are places where you have a relatively homogeneous population which we do not have. What I’d like to see are some changes within
the context of our current government and without the need of going through the trauma
of a constitutional amendment. For example, I would like to see a system
in which the elected officials, the Dick Bollings have the predominant say-so, not the interest
groups and the nomination of a candidate for their party and in the drafting of the platform. So David, when that president is nominated,
the platform would be one that he and the members of Congress had written not one that
was written by outside interest groups. Second, I would like to see a system, and
I believe the caucuses Dick could do this in which the Democrats in the House, the Republicans
in the Senate would say, “We are going to permit a president to have three to five votes
on his bills on the floor. We will not permit a situation in which a
committee can block a president’s proposal. We’ll give him an up or down vote.” Let the Rules Committee pass that along with
bills that come out of the committee so that a president at least has a chance to get his
major legislative and budget priorities voted on up or down so that he can exercise his
maximum power. Now, that can be done within our own constitutional
authority. Bolling: And it was done, it was an unwritten
rule when Rayburn was the speaker and he was for a very long time that on a major matter
the president should have an opportunity to have a vote whether Rayburn was for it or
not. And one of the dilemmas that we have today
is that we forget that we have made the institutions work when there was a little more civility,
a little more understanding that the government had to work in many ways in a bipartisan way. There is no way in my judgment to make this
government work effectively for a long period of time unless there is effective partisan
communication. Stein: Well, I think that that’s a very good
point that maybe we started with the wrong premise which was that the government doesn’t
work. And, in fact, if you look at the results in
our system, the government does seem to work very well. We come up to various brinks, but we always
recoil from the brink. When things get very bad, we manage. Of course my guru in this field is Bryce Harlow
has had so much experience in dealing with the Congress and he says well, Congress always
insists on its prerogative until some matter of grave responsibility arises and then they’re
very happy to leave the responsibility to the president and that’s the way in which
we make very difficult decisions. So, the thing has not worked so badly. And another thing I think we have to say is
we too cannot expect constitutional amendments to solve all the problems of responsibility
and intelligence in managing our affairs that is if we don’t have that there’s no constitutional
amendment that’s going to save us. I think at some time we ought to talk about
the responsibility of the public because all these people, presidents and Congress operate
within the limits of what some kind of private leadership out there will support. And I think that’s the thing that has been
lacking here in this country a great deal in the last 30 years or so some responsible
public opinion out there other than what emanates from Washington. Gergen: I’m glad that the conversation has
come more to the view that in fact we do not have as much of a stalemate or lack the kind
of political courage in the system that I think was suggested earlier. It does seem to me that there’s a better reason
to be encouraged about this system today than there was five years ago. If I’d been in Stu’s position leaving the
Carter White House with the kind of problems you encountered, which were very real, I think
I would’ve been discouraged about our ability to govern because it seems to me you had some
very well-crafted proposals that you had trouble dealing with the Congress on and for a variety
of reasons, which we don’t need to get into. But I think that in the last few years yes,
we enacted major tax cuts and those weren’t hard, but we also enacted tax increases, we
also enacted the Social Security bill. The Social Security bill in the Carter administration,
both those were tough bills to enact. They took some political courage to get them
done. I personally, the more you look at these constitutional
amendments, I think the less attractive they become as a way to resolve or solve whatever
problems do exist in particular the question of the six-year term which has been batted
around a good deal in the last few years. My hunch is that the further we get into the
second Reagan term, the less popular that idea is going to be. That people are going to recognize more and
more the difficulties of the lame duck. If anything, I think we ought to repeal the
22nd Amendment which was bad, it’s anti-democratic and it was based on, I think, not a whim but
certainly, the passions of the time which in retrospect I think we’d be better off without
it. But, if we were going to be doing things,
I think that Stu is pushing the right button in saying let’s strengthen the parties. Let’s find a way to make the parties and the
candidates more synonymous and make the ideas of the parties more powerful. One idea, the only constitutional amendment
that has ever appealed to me personally has been the suggestion that you make the congressmen
and women run on a coterminous basis with a president, that their elections be every
four years. The Senate elections be every six, but allow
a president to come in with a fresh Congress and those people don’t have to stand again
until four years later and they really have, I think they rise and fall together. John: What do you say then to the argument
which has been made that the two-year terms for the House of Representatives are an instrument
by which the people dissatisfied with the first two years of a president’s governing
can make their dissatisfaction loud and clearly known? Gergen: Well, I think we’ve come a long way
in being able to sense public dissatisfaction and be able to measure it fairly well but
if you had the Senate election based every six years, you would have a third of the Senate
up every two years and there would be an obvious way for the public to register its views. I think there are a lot of destructive elements
in forcing a congressman to have to go back and run every two years. It’ll be far better if they had the time to
worry about long-term policy questions and we looked at some issues like that which strengthen
their hand and also made them co-responsible with the president for the fate of the agenda
of the president and the Congress. Bolling: Now, I’ve been on both sides of that. John: I was going to say, you played a very
large hand in some of the reforms of recent years. Bolling: Well, the idea of a four-year term
is attractive naturally to a man who has to run all the time, but I don’t think it’s so
bad to have people from one body who are that freshly attending to their constituency. I think the two-year term is an absolutely
essential safety veil. I think there are other ways to fiddle with
the elections a little bit that perhaps don’t involve a constitutional amendment but I’m
not sure on that. But I’m very sure that as one congressman
I’m against the four-year term John: Mr. Eizenstat. Eizenstat: We have had in this country cycles
of greater presidential authority and other cycles of greater congressional authority. President Reagan has perhaps reversed in part
what was clearly a 10-year period after Watergate, the resignation of President Nixon, the Vietnam
War, the Cambodia Experience of a major shift of power away from the president to the Congress
but he only has partially done it. If you look at the powers that have been removed
from the president over the last decade, he no longer has credit control or wage and price
authority, the Congress has imposed a series of legislative vetoes which limit his capacity
to issue regulations. The Congressional Budget Office has been created
which take away the president’s monopoly on budget forecasting and economic forecasting. The staffs of the Congress have grown tremendously. Now, all of these things are important if
you’re going to have a Congress which works, but I don’t think we should be under any illusion
that they haven’t come at the expense of a president’s capacity to govern because they
have. John: Let me come particularly Dr. Stein to
the issue of economics which is paying such a large role domestically, internationally. You have taken a long hard look at what you
call presidential economics, have said in the past that most people would agree that
our governing processes have many deficiencies and that many focuses on the budget. Essentially, early 70s, we’ve had a budget
process, very broadly-based budget process. What needs to be done? Stein: Well, I think that’s a good example
of a problem which is unlikely to be solved by procedural change that is there are a lot
of proposals one of which is that we should have a constitutional amendment requiring
a balanced budget. I don’t think that solves the problem or will
solve the problem even if we had it. I think that this is a case in which the difficulty
is with the understanding of the policy, of the significance of its requirements, and
that that would not be overcome by some change in organization. And I think somebody needs to take the lead
in improving national understanding of this and there I go back to the nostalgia that
I share with Congressman Bolling for those days after World War II when we did seem able
to make a national policy in a less partisan way and where there was a lot of leadership
from the private sector. I think our problem about the budget is not
that we are not getting the budget that the people want, I think we are getting the budget
that the people want, but the people don’t understand what’s good for them. And somebody needs to tell them that and it’s
unlikely to be the president who will tell them that because that’s not the business
that presidents are in. They’re not in the business of telling people
that things are tough. So, somebody has to tell them that. I think that we are seeing a rise of some
public spokesmen who are telling that, that message is getting across, and that’s how
it will be solved. I don’t think it will be solved by an organizational
change. John: Mr. Congressman. Bolling: I agree with the thrust of that,
but I really disagree with the notion that it isn’t the president’s responsibility and
the members of Congress and the Senate’s responsibility to say things are tough. In my judgment, it’s not true that the people
of this country will put up with that. They may not put up with it for an election
but by and large, they’re willing to face the troubles. And I think the real magic in Harry Truman’s
experience is that number one he was able to say what he believed, he got elected because
he said it. His popularity went down to never, down to
23% because of the Korean War. And who is the person that is generally the
most popular President not living today? Harry Truman. Stein: Well, that’s a way to acquire popularity
but basically, I agree with what you said and I’m not denying that it’s the president’s
responsibility, I’m just making a kind of unhappy prediction that it will not be fulfilled
and that we have to look to others to fulfill that responsibility. I certainly hope that presidents will do that,
and I think you are right. In my opinion, you have a much better basis
for saying this than I do, but I do think that many politicians are unduly cynical about
the American people and about what they will stand for and are unwilling to talk candidly
to them because they are afraid the public will not stand for it. I think the public would welcome it. John: Well now, I think it is fair, from what
you have said, to deduce that you do not, any of you feel a constitutional amendment
is necessarily a good road to take and there are other roads which you had begun to discuss. It has been suggested to help get at some
of these problems and resolve them, we ought to have a bipartisan coalition government
for at least one presidential term. Do any of you think that this might work,
that it would be useful and what would be the process of forming such a coalition government? Who would like to start that one? Bolling: Well, it’s possible but I don’t think
it’s possible in any orderly fashion. The first thing that has to happen is that
a president has to come in who really believes that he has to function by a bipartisanship. And he looks at what he’s got in the Congress
to deal with and the House and the Senate and he figures out how many people he’s got
in his party and he figures out how many people he’s got in the other party that he can get
in different approaches to the same problem. The classic example of this being done is
that matter of Social Security. The first thing that came up from the administration
was so unacceptable that we sort of set it up to use it as a political whipping board,
we Democrats. And after that had gone on for a while and
everybody began to see that there was no way out, that it was going to partisanly beneficial,
that it could only be done by a bipartisan effort we began to maneuver on the hill and
in the White House different people on how we could get together a commission that would
have the good sense to deal with all of the difficult things in a way that wasn’t nonpartisan
but it was partisan in a balanced way. And they came out with a bill that offended
everybody somewhat but was still possible to pass and that’s exactly how the Greenspan
Commission worked and it’s exactly how it came into being. So, I think the bipartisan approach which
is seldom acknowledged often plays a larger role and people are willing to say in a campaign
and I think it’s demonstrable that we can do a great deal on that. I personally am not prepared to say that I
might not be for a constitutional amendment. A group is still trying to look at that. My judgment is that the probability is that
there won’t be. John: Mr. Eizenstat. Eizenstat: If what we mean by bipartisan government
is having every third cabinet officer a Democrat and a Republican administration or vice versa
that really creates an artificial sense that you’re trying to be bipartisan. Dick’s point is the one that really matters
and that is even if you’re a Democrat and all your cabinet officers are Democrats, or
you’re a Republican President and all your cabinet officers are Republicans, the key
is forging in the Congress were it counts a bipartisan consensus and that can be done. Let me give you an example in a very difficult
area, that was the Panama Canal Treaty. The Panama Canal Treaty was a terribly divisive
issue. It was one which tore the public apart in
many ways and which separated people in the Senate and yet we would not have passed that
treaty and had it ratified had it not been for Howard Baker. Howard Baker, in an act of bipartisanship,
helped support that and helped get it through. And that’s the way in which you govern not
by creating an artificial bipartisan cabinet. Gergen: He might as soon you forget that. Eizenstat: Well, he’ll be reminded of it frequently. [laughter] John: Well that, because we will have to move
to our question and answer session soon, we’ll take up one more issue. The New York Times quoted one aid to the Senate
leadership thus, “We’ve gone from older people to younger people from more experienced legislative
types to less experienced types from guys who know you don’t always get your way to
those who are bound and determined to get their way no matter what. There is a lack of sense of responsibility
in governing. They don’t think they have to be part of a
compromise. If you get enough of these people around the
place will grind to a halt and it often has.” He describes it as monkey wrench politics
which majority leader Bob Dole says has almost become standard. And in the House, the minority leader Bob
Michael has said that he is alarmed by this individualism and that when individualism
becomes an epidemic it will destroy us. Now, do you think that is a major element? Bolling: Well, I think it has been a major
element and I think to a very great degree it’s beginning to stop because the people
that came in both in the Republican side and the Democratic side in the House in 1974,
1976, were rather unusual. They were almost not interested in party at
least on the Democratic side. They were interested in changing government
and they were interested in stopping the Vietnam war and they came in on their own steam. They didn’t get much party help. They knew how to handle the media. They knew how to raise money and they came
in as very independent people. The brightest of them and they’re an enormous
number, very bright ones in those classes and the later classes, they began to learn
that you can’t pass legislation without majorities. So, they learned that independence is not
enough in the legislative battles. It may be in the political battles, but not
the legislative battles. John: Right. We have, I think, got a very large canvas
that it’s big enough now so it’s time to give our audience the opportunity to ask this distinguished
panel questions. And so, we’ll move to the question and answer
session. May I have the first question, please? Walter: I’m Walter Berns of the American Enterprise
Institute. My question is this, I wonder why the presidential
power or the president’s power should be greater during the 100 days honeymoon period, as you
describe it then it is during the rest of his term or to ask the question metaphorically,
the panel’s metaphor not mine, why should the window of opportunity be open during that
period and closed in another and to be still more precise, why should the constitutional
structure allow that window to be open during that period and not open during the rest of
the term? John: Mr. Eizenstat. Eizenstat: The answer gets to the nature of
our government. When Margaret Thatcher before the Falklands
invasion was at 25% popularity she could still govern because she had a parliamentary majority
with a tight party discipline. In our system, a president’s only real power
is his capacity to mobilize public opinion. It is what Neustadt and Truman called the
power of persuasion. That power of persuasion markedly declines
after a president’s first-year absence some other unusual situation because he has to
take so many decisions that are so unpopular and because of the diffusion of our governmental
power. So, that when he has a 25% popularity as for
example President Carter was toward the end of his term, he cannot govern effectively
as the way a prime minister does because our system doesn’t permit it. That 25% translates to the Congress which
has to implement as programs into a lack of public support for those programs. John: Yes, sir, Mr. Gergen. Gergen: I’d like to add to that. I don’t think there’s anything written into
the system about this 100 days or the fact that power disappears. It does seem to me power in the city is very
ephemeral. It does slip away from a president very easily. The 100 days period or something there in
the early months gives a president a chance to lay the foundation for his program. If that program is successful, I think power
than can be built on power. Once he is got a successful start or as in
Reagan’s case, for instance, power slipped away from him in year two but as the economy
came back on year three, power began to flow back toward the presidency and he was able
to go on and do some other things. So, it’s really a question of whether you
seize that opportunity to do the kind of things early that then restore and give you a foundation,
later on, to govern successfully. John: Next question, please? Robert: My name is Robert Ross from Southeastern
University. The window of opportunity of which President
Reagan took such great advantage in the first year of his presidency if you look at the
numbers there was a remarkable solidarity within the Congressional Republicans not that
there was much change in the voting patterns of the Congressional Democrats. Doesn’t this indicate that to make the system
work a president must not simply be a leader of the country but also a leader of his party? Eizenstat: That’s the point that I was making
earlier. It seems to me that the Republicans have come
as close as any political party has during the 1980s in building a national political
party. We as Democrats have not yet done that and
the reason I think that we had the kind of solidarity that you referred to and that Dick
talked about when the president was trying to pass his 81 budget cuts is because they
did run on the same platform. They did run as a national party. Their advertising was done nationally. The Republican national committee became a
real functioning institution. And so they, therefore, came as close as we
have come in modern times to really having a national party in which the Congressional
wing and the presidential wing felt that unity of purpose. John: Dr. Stein. Stein: Well, I think that the 1981 experience
illustrates David Gergen’s point that there’s a lot going on in the country beside the passage
of those 100 days because Mr. Reagan had a great few months at the beginning but around
Labor Day in 1981 the stock market began to decline, the bond market began to decline,
interest rates were rising and it became apparent that we weren’t getting this great upsurge
of economy that had been expected from the program which had just been adopted. And then suddenly people began to ask questions
and there was talk about the need for a tax increase and we soon, by December of that
year, were confronting this monstrous $100 billion deficit which had not been expected. So, that what happened was not merely that
more than 100 days had passed since Inauguration Day but that a lot of the bloom had gone off
the program and that, of course, had something to do with the loss of ability to sell the
country and the Congress. John: Next question, please? David: David Cohen, Institute for Public Policy
Advocacy. As a means of strengthening political parties
and governing, I’d like to know how the panel would react to the idea of each party assembling
its Congressional officeholders, governors and state legislative leaders after the election
to try and hammer out what its priorities would be over the next two years. John: Mr. Bolling, you want to start that
one? Bolling: I think it be a good exercise sort
of like the midterm conventions. I’m not sure that I see exactly how it would
come out. My impression is that the Democratic Party
is still sufficiently divided so that it would be perhaps a little bit raucous and might
tend to set things up so that there would be a division as there was back in Stephenson
days between the National Committee types and the Congressional types. You’ll remember that back in those days the
Democrats tried to have a national committee that was led by leaders including Congressional
leaders. Now the two Congressional leaders turned down
the opportunity and we ended up with two policy groups working for the same party and it was
really rather awkward. But I would think it would be a very good
idea to get those people together fairly systematically over a period of time, so they would get to
know each other. Some efforts were made to do that during the
Carter administration as I remember it and they were useful and would’ve been more useful
if we could’ve done more of it. John: Mr. Gergen? Gergen: Well, their all-powerful staffs might
veto the idea, so I guess you’d have a hard time probably getting it through, but I think
we ought to be exploring a lot of different ways to bring the parties together and give
them more of an opportunity and more of a voice in national affairs as parties. For instance, I have thought we ought to at
least explore the idea of the television networks providing to the parties on a regular basis
not just in election campaign but during the year, each year, time when they can go to
the country and discuss the issues before the country to give each party a half an hour
or an hour back to back and let the parties decide who’s going to speak for them and have
a serious dialogue about the nature of the problems that are out there. John: All right. Next question. Yes, sir, please? John: I’m John Kendrick of the George Washington
University. Bipartisanship sounds good but is it realistic
considering the basically adversarial nature of democracy. A case in point is with respect to foreign-policy
at present. In contrast, a bipartisanship at the time
of the Berlin crisis, when Congressman Bolling first came to Washington, now there seems
to be a good deal of divisiveness over our policies in Central America where it seems
to me our vital national interests are involved. And if we can’t get bipartisanship there,
is it realistic to think we can get it in almost any situation. Bolling: I would say that it was provable
that bipartisanship could be made to work but not in every case. There are ways in which presidents can have
considerable influence even on people who vote against him and one has to know how to
deal with Congress in a non-adversary way as well as an adversary way. A lot of what happened in 1982 was to two
greater degree left to Congress to work out among itself. Howard Baker had to do all kinds of things
on that tax increase that no majority leader in the Senate should have to do. Stein: Well, I think that in a way the question
answers itself because Mr. Kendrick believes, and I agree that there’s a vital national
interest down there in Central America but there are an awful lot of people who don’t
and I’m sure that Congress, all the members of Congress would rally around if they had
the same view of what the vital national interests was, but they don’t and we’re greatly divided
about such things and no amount of structural change is going to influence that. The thing that we had after World War II was
a very common view of what the vital national interest was and before we got into World
War II we were quite divided about that. The fact that Mr. Roosevelt was a great leader
did not enable him to get the things that he wanted done about our defense program and
foreign-policy and so on. We did come out at a certain moment with a
consensus about the national interest and we don’t have it now. I’m sure that there are circumstances, you
know, if the Berlin Wall or the Berlin Blockade arose again we probably can’t be sure. We’d probably have a consensus that there
was a vital national interest, but who knows about Nicaragua. John: Anybody else for that? Next question, please? Yes, sir? Pete: Pursuing Mr. Gergen’s suggestion of
a four-year house term… John: Would you identify yourself and affiliation? Pete: Yes. Pete Schoffler with the Committee on the Constitutional
System. I wonder if Mr. Bolling’s idea of the safety
valve could perhaps be achieved by some type of public referendum in the event of a major
stalemate during a four-year term? Bolling: Well, certainly, my objection to
the safety valve problem in a four-year term would be taken care of if we could devise
a technique. And as you know that’s come up in our discussions
and that’s one of the reasons that I had my caveat when I said I was not prepared to say
that I was against all constitutional changes at this stage. I think if we could figure out how there’d
be that safety valve and there are a lot of ingenious suggestions, then I wouldn’t have
any objections to the four-year term. John: Anybody else want to talk to that? Mr. Eizenstat. Eizenstat: I think David’s suggestion and
I’m not necessarily endorsing it goes to the point again of the division of responsibility
between the two branches and the lack of elected official involvement and participation in
the nomination and an election of our president. What happens when a president’s popularity
wanes is that the members of Congress, including the members of his own party, run away from
him as if he were a pariah or indeed attack him like a shark would somebody wounded in
the water. It is when he can show that he has personal
and public popularity that they will come to his side, but the key problem is that unless
a President can maintain that personal popularity, David mentions ’81 he had it because of the
honeymoon period. ’82 he lost it because of the recession. ’83 he got some of it back because of the
recovery. But unless that popularity can be sustained
around the 45% to 50% level, he cannot effectively govern, and our system doesn’t permit him
to do so. John: Dr. Stein? Stein: Well, I think we may have a different
notion of what it means to govern. That is to govern doesn’t mean that the president
gets his way. We have this division of powers for what people
thought was a very good reason and that was to prevent the government from being too powerful
and prevent the executive from being too powerful. And I think that there have been a lot of
number of occasions, I’m sure, in which what looked to the president like a stalemate,
an inability to govern was really a very prudent situation for the country. And I’m not sure that all the cases in which
the presidents demonstrated their great ability to govern were, in the end, wise or beneficial. So, I think this does relate somewhat to the
question of the national referenda. We have deliberately created a system in which
we don’t take a public poll on major issues. We operate through a representative system
in which there’s some sand in the machinery that keeps the government from running away
with everything and I think that’s a very beneficial idea. Gergen: Well, I certainly agree that there’s
no monopoly on wisdom at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It does seem to me that it’s been true time
and again that absent presidential leadership and absent the ability of a president to make
decisions that have some authority in Congress that we get very little action. The most recent incident I think is been over
this tax reform issue in which the treasury department has put its head together and come
up with what many regard as a very intelligent proposal, others might disagree with that
but the initial reaction Congress was we’re not going to get tax reform unless the president
takes the lead. There was no indication that anyone in Congress
was willing to stand up and be counted on the issue unless the president got out front. And I think we see that time and time again
in our national life that unless we have an effective president, we don’t have effective
government. John: Well, this concludes another public
policy forum presented by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. On behalf of AEI our thanks to the distinguished
and expert panelists Mr. Stuart Eizenstat, the Honorable Richard Bolling, Dr. Herbert
Stein, and Mr. David Gergen. We’d also like to thank our guests and experts
in the audience for their participation. Goodbye from Washington. Announcer: It is the aim of AEI to clarify
issues of the day by presenting many viewpoints in the hope that by doing so those who wish
to learn about the decision-making process will benefit from such a free exchange of
informed and enlightened opinion. This public policy forum series is created
and supplied to this station as a public service by the American Enterprise Institute, Washington,
D.C. AEI is a non-profit, non-partisan publicly supported research and education organization. For a transcript of this program, send $3.75
to The American Enterprise Institute. 1150 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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