This was a real achievement, and Eisenhower did it with his particular style of leadership. He acted to make it appear as if the presidency was a nonpartisan office. This does not mean he stayed out of politics but that he kept his political movements behind the scenes. Eisenhower's presidency is often called the "hidden-hand" presidency. For many years, it was believed that Eisenhower was merely a pleasant, grandfatherly figurehead who allowed important decisions to be made by powerful aides. Despite appearances at the time, however, Eisenhower was always in control. He simply chose to work behind the scenes, leading to the characterization of his management style as the "hidden hand." To facilitate this arrangement, Eisenhower supervised the creation of two additions to the White House Office. The first was the chief of staff, and the second was a new office, the Office of Legislative Liaison. The chief of staff was created to act as the president's gatekeeper, and Eisenhower was well served by his chief of staff, Sherman Adams. The Office of Legislative Liaison is the White House's lobbying office, and it helps the president's relations with Congress. Eisenhower is regarded as an effective, successful president who is ranked much more highly now than he once was, thanks to recognition of his management style as president. In many ways, Kennedy's presidency is an example of perception versus reality. When comparing surveys of the public and surveys of presidential scholars about Kennedy's presidency, there is usually a sizeable a gap between the views of citizens and scholars. Citizens see him as great, whereas scholars rank him as merely average. After eight years of the grandfatherly Eisenhower, Kennedy brought the appearance of youth and vitality to the White House. In reality, however, Kennedy was in constant pain caused by chronic illnesses. When the youthful, exuberant image portrayed by Kennedy and his family was combined with the tragic way Kennedy's life ended, it created a legend of his presidency that does not necessarily measure up to reality. The legend was furthered tremendously by an interview his widow, Jackie, gave to the Life magazine journalist Theodore White shortly after Kennedy's death. In the interview, she mentioned the musical Camelot, which led White to compare Kennedy's presidency with the story of the fictional King Arthur. Ever since, many people have referred to Kennedy's presidency as "Camelot." Kennedy was not a great president, and much of his behavior was reckless. However, many people have a much more positive impression of him. Reagan's relationship with the American people was largely positive, with just a couple of periods of low approval. His relationship with the news media, however, was contentious for most of his presidency. Reporters seemed mystified by the fact that nothing negative about Reagan ever seemed to have an impact on his popularity, and many journalists began to refer to him as the "Teflon president," because no criticism ever seemed to stick to him. Reagan's media image was carefully handled by a team of advisers, including Michael Deaver and David Gergen. The basic idea was to keep the president's messages simple, limit reporters' access to him, control what the media reported by having a "story of the day" from the White House every day, and make sure that when he appeared before the public, he looked good. Reagan was a highly skilled public performer, making the job of his media advisers that much easier. It takes time to see what kind of enduring impact presidential policies have. It also takes time for an accurate historical record to be generated—this comes from books and interviews given by former administration officials, the release of presidential records through the National Archives and Records Administration, and the gathering of information from many other sources. Much of our understanding of any president while that president is still in office comes from the news media. To paraphrase a comment made by journalist Jim Lehrer during a 2003 television documentary about the Kennedy assassination: Although the news media certainly make a contribution to history, what they report is not, in fact, history (Lehrer, Jim. Interview. JFK: Breaking the News. 2003. ). By the very nature of what they do, the news media report their best understanding of what is happening as it happens. As events unfold, early reports are often revealed to be inaccurate. We also can't rely too much on the news media for our understanding about politics because, for the most part, journalists are experts on reporting the news, not analyzing the events they cover. There is no reason to put any special faith in reporters' take on complicated events. They simply do not have the necessary expertise to put those events in context. When party conventions became the way to choose a party's presidential nominee, the choice of a vice presidential nominee was often an afterthought, left to the last minute, leaving little time for rational deliberation. Of particular importance was the fact that, typically, presidential candidates had little input in choosing their running mates. The choice of a vice presidential candidate who was not in sync with the president could cause trouble for the president. Vice presidents who caused political problems for the presidents they served with include John C. Calhoun, Millard Fillmore, Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Dawes, John Nance Garner, and Henry Wallace. Presidential Program: The scope of the president's agenda can be important. One strategy is grand simplification, which is defined by a focus on a few key programs. Another strategy is the modest strides approach in which the president puts forth multiple priorities that are not necessarily integrated or overly dramatic. A third approach is the encyclopedic design, which is a comprehensive program to deal with an entire range of problems.
Political Style: This refers to how the president relates to lawmakers, and it can affect the president's legislative success. One approach is the president as nice guy. The nice-guy president performs favors, such as fund-raising, making appearances, giving invitations to the White House, and patronage. Another approach is the president as hardball player. The hardball president uses threats and intimidation to keep members of Congress in line. Such tactics may amount to dirty tricks. In using this approach, the president may also attack Congress via the news media and speeches. A third approach is the president as detached player. The detached president may distance him or herself from congressional politics and let Congress go its own way, especially if a measure is of marginal interest to the president. This tactic is useful in maintaining a nonpolitical image, like Eisenhower did.
Timing: It is conventional wisdom that new presidents need to "hit the ground running" and pursue an aggressive agenda when they enter office. One way to hit the ground running is the "shotgun" approach, which means proposing many programs to Congress at once.
Public Relations: The president uses television, other media, public approval, speeches, and sound bites to try to influence Congress.
The role of the president is to nominate judges and justices. The rationale for this, according to Hamilton, is that a single person is more likely to pick proper people for the jobs than a group because one person uses a single standard, is more impartial, and minimizes "personal attachments." Hamilton argued that having one person make appointments would help avoid choices based on factional interests, compromises, and criteria other than merit and skill. According to Hamilton, the role of the Senate is to give advice and consent to the president's choices. This is a check on possible favoritism of the president to prevent "unfit characters" due to family connection, personal attachment, political popularity, and ideology. The Senate's role is also intended to guard against changing whims and against dramatic changes in the ideological direction of the courts. The Senate is also supposed to guard against corruption. This is a tradition that allows senators of the president's party who are from the state where a federal district court vacancy exists to sponsor or veto candidates he or she likes or dislikes. As an institution, the members of the Senate support this tradition, regardless of party because, eventually, all the senators benefit from it. The tradition allows a single senator an absolute veto power over judicial nominees, and it requires the president to check with senators ahead of time. This tradition makes the process one of senatorial appointment, with the advice and consent of the president, which is the reverse of what the Constitution prescribes. Eastland argues that the president should take an active role in the nomination process of lower-court judges, despite the tradition of senatorial courtesy, to be sure of leaving a mark on the judiciary. Eastland writes approvingly of Reagan's method with lower-court judges, for instance. He notes that Reagan handled senatorial courtesy by having senators provide three to five names per vacancy, which gave him greater discretion and made him more than a mere clerk in the process.