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By Matthew Robert Kerbel
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Extra info for Beyond persuasion: organizational efficiency and presidential power
To do this, we need to agree on a definition of power. We can rely on the guidance of convention to establish a working understanding of an admittedly broad concept. Traditionally, presidential power was seen as a function of the office, and the various constitutionally derived roles its occupant could play. 4 Thus, the president could be understood to exercise power differently as commander-in-chief than as chief of state, although the dissimilarities displayed here are better understood to stem from the prerogatives or powers of the office than from any particular actions taken by its occupant.
Seen as a form of influence, power, too, is a relative term. It also is dynamic, not so much an entity but a set of interactions, to be understood relative to those who exercise it and in the context in which they play their roles. An important component of that context is the institutional position that gives the power wielder a platform from which to operate, or to rule in the Weberian sense. 5 Because he is president, an individual Page 3 may be widely recognized to be in a position to mobilize the army, invite senators to state dinners, or veto legislation, and he may use these to wield power in the sense that he is the holder of these resources and they are desired by those he seeks to influence.
The objective is to devise a reasonable account of behavior from collective observations. Page 22 Second, there is no way to ensure that the set of observations in print is in any way complete. This can be partially checked by relying on multiple media, but there is no way to capture private, unrecorded observations. It is also possible that some presidents faced a more critical press, although many journalists, like David Gergen, claim that standards for presidential coverage are uniformly high: "We [reporters] have a tendency to jump on our presidents too hard; too rarely do we give them the benefit of the doubt; we subject them to standards that no individual could meet; we build them up when they are first elected and portray them as saviors of our system.