How do incumbents campaign and govern simultaneously?
August 17, 2004 7:13 AM   Subscribe

USAGovtFilter: When any incumbent president runs for reelection and campaigns quite heavily, for months, how does all of the work of the executive branch get done?[mi]

Is that what Air Force One is for? Does the executive branch really have anything to do besides delegation of responsibility and final approval of laws, etc?
posted by sciurus to Law & Government (8 answers total)
The President rarely does any real day-to-day business. He steers the ship, and his staff, led by the cabinet, execute his vision. To borrow Bush's "CEO-president" metaphor, the head of any large company is rarely in the office. He's of cutting deals and setting strategy. Occasionally he comes back and signs some paperwork.
posted by mkultra at 7:18 AM on August 17, 2004

Yeah, the president's role has really become an "executive" role in the business sense of things, not just in the classic Constitutional sense. Even a legendary policy wonk like Clinton could really only get his arms around a tiny fraction of what the executive branch is really doing, and Bush has heartily adopted the "president as CEO" model.

In that sense, ironically, there's actually strong overlap between his campaigning and some of the core responsibilities of his role--like a business CEO, a big part of his job is presenting and selling his administration's take on things to the rest of the world, and Bush does that relentlessly while he's on the campaign trail. You may strongly disagree with combining the two, but there's a strong case that in the modern presidency, it's what he should be doing even in a second term, when he's not campaigning for re-election. (Again, look at Clinton--Monicagate not withstanding, he still went out and pushed the public face of his administration.
posted by LairBob at 7:48 AM on August 17, 2004

Also, remember that the "executive branch" of the US government is huge--much, much larger than just the White House and the president's staff--and actually the largest branch of the government, by far. It encompasses all the major Cabinet agencies, like the Treasury, the State Department, Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, Transportation, etc., and any one of those is enormous.
posted by LairBob at 7:53 AM on August 17, 2004

Shouldn't somebody have said "it gets done by the people who do it the rest of the time" by now?
posted by biffa at 8:09 AM on August 17, 2004

Yeah, I'm thinking, how does Dick Cheney run the government when he's campaigning? An SOB, sure, but a tough one, I guess.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:16 AM on August 17, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks LairBob, I work on executive branch stuff all the time [mostly EPA] so I'm familiar that tons of the work gets done by the grunters. I suppose it just boggles my mind that a politician can be 'busy running the county/state/country' until election season rolls around. Obviously a dumb question for AskMe, but your answer helps a bit.
posted by sciurus at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2004

np...I think it's a fascinating question myself. It's not to say that the position has become any kind of figurehead, but it's almost a much more "meta" position than you would intuitively assume. When someone like Clinton makes a big deal of reading a book a week, and staying up till 2:00AM debating policy, it makes it seem like it's a much more engaged role, but that's really almost an illusion. At most, he could be dealing with...what...maybe 1/10 of 1% of all the real policy-making that's going on? In a lot of ways, I think Bush has just openly embraced the reality of the role.
posted by LairBob at 9:57 AM on August 17, 2004

When the person is out of touch, you get party rule.

And what a lovely state that's turning out to be...
posted by NortonDC at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2004

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