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13.2 How Presidents Get Things Done

Learning objectives.

After reading this section, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How does the president try to set the agenda for the political system, especially Congress?
  • What challenges does the president face in achieving his agenda?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the presidential veto?
  • Can and do presidents lead Congress?
  • What are the president’s powers as chief executive?
  • Why do presidents give so many speeches?
  • How do presidents seek public approval?

The political system was designed by the framers to be infrequently innovative, to act with neither efficiency nor dispatch. Authority is decentralized. Political parties are usually in conflict. Interests are diverse (Edwards III, 2009).

Yet, as we have explained, presidents face high expectations for action. Adding to these expectations is the soaring rhetoric of their election campaigns. For example, candidate Obama promised to deal with the problems of the economy, unemployment, housing, health care, Iraq, Afghanistan, and much more.

As we have also explained, presidents do not invariably or even often have the power to meet these expectations. Consider the economy. Because the government and media report the inflation and unemployment rates and the number of new jobs created (or not created), the public is consistently reminded of these measures when judging the president’s handling of the economy. And certainly the president does claim credit when the economy is doing well. Yet the president has far less control over the economy and these economic indicators than the media convey and many people believe.

A president’s opportunities to influence public policies depend in part on the preceding administration and the political circumstances under which the new president takes office (Skowronek, 2008). Presidents often face intractable issues, encounter unpredictable events, have to make complex policy decisions, and are beset by scandals (policy, financial, sexual).

Once in office, reality sinks in. Interviewing President Obama on The Daily Show , Jon Stewart wondered whether the president’s campaign slogan of “Yes we can” should be changed to “Yes we can, given certain conditions.” President Obama replied “I think I would say ‘yes we can, but…it’s not going to happen overnight’” (Stolberg, 2010).

So how do presidents get things done? Presidential powers and prerogatives do offer opportunities for leadership.

Between 1940 and 1973, six American presidents from both political parties secretly recorded just less than five thousand hours of their meetings and telephone conversations.

Check out http://millercenter.org/academic/presidentialrecordings .

Presidents indicate what issues should garner most attention and action; they help set the policy agenda. They lobby Congress to pass their programs, often by campaign-like swings around the country. Their position as head of their political party enables them to keep or gain allies (and win reelection). Inside the executive branch, presidents make policies by well-publicized appointments and executive orders. They use their ceremonial position as head of state to get into the news and gain public approval, making it easier to persuade others to follow their lead.

Agenda-Setter for the Political System

Presidents try to set the political agenda. They call attention to issues and solutions, using constitutional powers such as calling Congress into session, recommending bills, and informing its members about the state of the union, as well as giving speeches and making news (Hoffman & Howard, 2006).

Figure 13.3

A standing ovation after Obama's state of the union

The president’s constitutional responsibility to inform Congress on “the state of the union” has been elevated into a performance, nationally broadcast on all major networks and before a joint session on Capitol Hill, that summarizes the key items on his policy agenda.

Wikimedia Commons – public domain

Congress does not always defer to and sometimes spurns the president’s agenda. Its members serve smaller, more distinct constituencies for different terms. When presidents hail from the same party as the majority of Congress members, they have more influence to ensure that their ideas receive serious attention on Capitol Hill. So presidents work hard to keep or increase the number of members of their party in Congress: raising funds for the party (and their own campaign), campaigning for candidates, and throwing weight (and money) in a primary election behind the strongest or their preferred candidate. Presidential coattails—where members of Congress are carried to victory by the winning presidential candidates—are increasingly short. Most legislators win by larger margins in their district than does the president. In the elections midway through the president’s term, the president’s party generally loses seats in Congress. In 2010, despite President Obama’s efforts, the Republicans gained a whopping sixty-three seats and took control of the House of Representatives.

Since presidents usually have less party support in Congress in the second halves of their terms, they most often expect that Congress will be more amenable to their initiatives in their first two years. But even then, divided government , where one party controls the presidency and another party controls one or both chambers of Congress, has been common over the last fifty years. For presidents, the prospect of both a friendly House and Senate has become the exception.

Even when the White House and Congress are controlled by the same party, as with President Obama and the 2009 and 2010 Congress, presidents do not monopolize the legislative agenda. Congressional leaders, especially of the opposing party, push other issues—if only to pressure or embarrass the president. Members of Congress have made campaign promises they want to keep despite the president’s policy preferences. Interest groups with pet projects crowd in.

Nonetheless, presidents are better placed than any other individual to influence the legislative process. In particular, their high prominence in the news means that they have a powerful impact on what issues will—and will not—be considered in the political system as a whole.

What about the contents of “the president’s agenda”? The president is but one player among many shaping it. The transition from election to inauguration is just over two months (Bush had less time because of the disputed 2000 Florida vote). Presidents are preoccupied first with naming a cabinet and White House staff. To build an agenda, presidents “borrow, steal, co-opt, redraft, rename, and modify any proposal that fits their policy goals” (Light, 1999). Ideas largely come from fellow partisans outside the White House. Bills already introduced in Congress or programs proposed by the bureaucracy are handy. They have received discussion, study, and compromise that have built support. And presidents have more success getting borrowed legislation through Congress than policy proposals devised inside the White House (Rudalevige, 2002).

Crises and unexpected events affect presidents’ agenda choices. Issues pursue presidents, especially through questions and stories of White House reporters, as much as presidents pursue issues. A hugely destructive hurricane on the Gulf Coast propels issues of emergency management, poverty, and reconstruction onto the policy agenda whether a president wants them there or not.

Finally, many agenda items cannot be avoided. Presidents are charged by Congress with proposing an annual budget. Raw budget numbers represent serious policy choices. And there are ever more agenda items that never seem to get solved (e.g., energy, among many others).

Chief Lobbyist in Congress

After suggesting what Congress should do, presidents try to persuade legislators to follow through. But without a formal role, presidents are outsiders to the legislative process. They cannot introduce bills in Congress and must rely on members to do so.

Legislative Liaison

Presidents aim at legislative accomplishments by negotiating with legislators directly or through their legislative liaison officers: White House staffers assigned to deal with Congress who provide a conduit from president to Congress and back again. These staffers convey presidential preferences and pressure members of Congress; they also pass along members’ concerns to the White House. They count votes, line up coalitions, and suggest times for presidents to rally fellow party members. And they try to cut deals.

Legislative liaison focuses less on twisting arms than on maintaining “an era of good feelings” with Congress. Some favors are large: supporting an appropriation that benefits members’ constituencies; traveling to members’ home turf to help them raise funds for reelection; and appointing members’ cronies to high office. Others are small: inviting them up to the White House, where they can talk with reporters; sending them autographed photos or extra tickets for White House tours; and allowing them to announce grants. Presidents hope the cordiality will encourage legislators to return the favor when necessary (Collier, 1997).

Such good feelings are tough to maintain when presidents and the opposition party espouse conflicting policies, especially when that party has a majority in one or both chambers of Congress or both sides adopt take-it-or-leave-it stances.

When Congress sends a bill to the White House, a president can return it with objections (Cameron, 2000; Spitzer, 1988). This veto —Latin for “I forbid”—heightens the stakes. Congress can get its way only if it overrides the veto with two-thirds majorities in each chamber. Presidents who use the veto can block almost any bill they dislike; only around 4 percent of all vetoes have ever been successfully overridden (Stanley & Niemi, 1998). The threat of a veto can be enough to get Congress to enact legislation that presidents prefer.

The veto does have drawbacks for presidents:

  • Vetoes alienate members of Congress who worked hard crafting a bill. So vetoes are most used as a last resort. After the 1974 elections, Republican President Ford faced an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. A Ford legislative liaison officer recalled, “We never deliberately sat down and made the decision that we would veto sixty bills in two years.…It was the only alternative” (Light, 1999).
  • The veto is a blunt instrument. It is useless if Congress does not act on legislation in the first place. In his 1993 speech proposing health-care reform, President Clinton waved a pen and vowed to veto any bill that did not provide universal coverage. Such a threat meant nothing when Congress did not pass any reform. And unlike governors of most states, presidents lack a line-item veto , which allows a chief executive to reject parts of a bill. Congress sought to give the president this power in the late 1990s, but the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional (Clinton v. City of New York, 1998). Presidents must take or leave bills in their totality.
  • Congress can turn the veto against presidents. For example, it can pass a popular bill—especially in an election year—and dare the president to reject it. President Clinton faced such “veto bait” from the Republican Congress when he was up for reelection in 1996. The Defense of Marriage Act , which would have restricted federal recognition of marriage to opposite-sex couples, was deeply distasteful to lesbians and gay men (a key Democratic constituency) but strongly backed in public opinion polls. A Clinton veto could bring blame for killing the bill or provoke a humiliating override. Signing it ran the risk of infuriating lesbian and gay voters. Clinton ultimately signed the legislation—in the middle of the night with no cameras present.
  • Veto threats can backfire. After the Democrats took over the Senate in mid-2001, they moved the “patients’ bill of rights” authorizing lawsuits against health maintenance organizations to the top of the Senate agenda. President Bush said he would veto the bill unless it incorporated strict limits on rights to sue and low caps on damages won in lawsuits. Such a visible threat encouraged a public perception that Bush was opposed to any patients’ bill of rights, or even to patients’ rights at all (Bruni, 2001). Veto threats thus can be ineffective or create political damage (or, as in this case, both).

Savvy presidents use “vetoes not only to block legislation but to shape it.…Vetoes are not fatal bullets but bargaining ploys” (Cameron, 2000). Veto threats and vetoing ceremonies become key to presidential communications in the news, which welcomes the story of Capitol Hill-versus-White House disputes, particularly under divided government. In 1996, President Clinton faced a tough welfare reform bill from a Republican Congress whose leaders dared him to veto the bill so they could claim he broke his 1992 promise to “end welfare as we know it.” Clinton vetoed the first bill; Republicans reduced the cuts but kept tough provisions denying benefits to children born to welfare recipients. Clinton vetoed this second version; Republicans shrank the cuts again and reduced the impact on children. Finally, Clinton signed the bill—and ran ads during his reelection campaign proclaiming how he had “ended welfare as we know it.”

Signing Statements

In a signing statement , the president claims the right to ignore or refuse to enforce laws, parts of laws, or provisions of appropriations bills even though Congress has enacted them and he has signed them into law. This practice was uncommon until developed during President Ronald Reagan’s second term. It escalated under President George W. Bush, who rarely exercised the veto but instead issued almost 1,200 signing statements in eight years—about twice as many as all his predecessors combined. As one example, he rejected the requirement that he report to Congress on how he had provided safeguards against political interference in federally funded research. He justified his statements on the “inherent” power of the commander in chief and on a hitherto obscure doctrine called the unitary executive, which holds that the executive branch can overrule Congress and the courts on the basis of the president’s interpretation of the Constitution.

President Obama ordered executive officials to consult with the attorney general before relying on any of President Bush’s signing statements to bypass a law. Yet he initially issued some signing statements himself. Then, to avoid clashing with Congress, he refrained from doing so. He did claim that the executive branch could bypass what he deemed to be unconstitutional restraints on executive power. But he did not invoke the unitary executive theory (Savage, 2009; Savage, 2010).

Presidential Scorecards in Congress

How often do presidents get their way on Capitol Hill? On congressional roll call votes, Congress goes along with about three-fourths of presidential recommendations; the success rate is highest earlier in the term (Edwards III, 1989; Bond & Fleisher, 1990; Peterson, 1990; Mayhew, 1991). Even on controversial, important legislation for which they expressed a preference well in advance of congressional action, presidents still do well. Congress seldom ignores presidential agenda items entirely. One study estimates that over half of presidential recommendations are substantially reflected in legislative action (Peterson, 1990; Rudalevige, 2002).

Can and do presidents lead Congress, then? Not quite. Most presidential success is determined by Congress’s partisan and ideological makeup. Divided government and party polarization on Capitol Hill have made Congress more willing to disagree with the president. So recent presidents are less successful even while being choosier about bills to endorse. Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson staked out positions on well over half of congressional roll call votes. Their successors have taken positions on fewer than one-fourth of them—especially when their party did not control Congress. “Presidents, wary of an increasingly independent-minded congressional membership, have come to actively support legislation only when it is of particular importance to them, in an attempt to minimize defeat” (Ragsdale, 2008; Shull & Shaw, 1999).

Chief Executive

As chief executive, the president can move first and quickly, daring others to respond. Presidents like both the feeling of power and favorable news stories of them acting decisively. Though Congress and courts can respond, they often react slowly; many if not most presidential actions are never challenged (Moe, 2000; Howell, 2003). Such direct presidential action is based in several powers: to appoint officials, to issue executive orders, to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” and to wage war.

Appointment Powers

Presidents both hire and (with the exception of regulatory commissions) fire executive officers. They also appoint ambassadors, the members of independent agencies, and the judiciary (Lewis, 2008; Mackenzie, 2001).

The months between election and inauguration are consumed by the need to rapidly assemble a cabinet , a group that reports to and advises the president, made up of the heads of the fourteen executive departments and whatever other positions the president accords cabinet-level rank . Finding “the right person for the job” is but one criterion. Cabinet appointees overwhelmingly hail from the president’s party; choosing fellow partisans rewards the winning coalition and helps achieve policy (Cohen, 1988). Presidents also try to create a team that, in Clinton’s phrase, “looks like America.” In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower was stung by the news media’s joke that his first cabinet—all male, all white—consisted of “nine millionaires and a plumber” (the latter was a union official, a short-lived labor secretary). By contrast, George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s cabinets had a generous complement of persons of color and women—and at least one member of the other party.

These presidential appointees must be confirmed by the Senate. If the Senate rarely votes down a nominee on the floor, it no longer rubber-stamps scandal-free nominees. A nominee may be stopped in a committee. About one out of every twenty key nominations is never confirmed, usually when a committee does not schedule it for a vote (Kurtz, Fleisher, & Bond, 1988).

Confirmation hearings are opportunities for senators to quiz nominees about pet projects of interest to their states, to elicit pledges to testify or provide information, and to extract promises of policy actions (Mackenzie, 1981). To win confirmation, cabinet officers pledge to be responsive and accountable to Congress. Subcabinet officials and federal judges, lacking the prominence of cabinet and Supreme Court nominees, are even more belatedly nominated and more slowly confirmed. Even senators in the president’s party routinely block nominees to protest poor treatment or win concessions.

As a result, presidents have to wait a long time before their appointees take office. Five months into President George W. Bush’s first term, one study showed that of the 494 cabinet and subcabinet positions to fill, under half had received nominations; under one-fourth had been confirmed (Dao, 2001; Hines, 2001). One scholar observed, “In America today, you can get a master’s degree, build a house, bicycle across country, or make a baby in less time than it takes to put the average appointee on the job” (Mackenzie, 2001). With presidential appointments unfilled, initiatives are delayed and day-to-day running of the departments is left by default to career civil servants.

No wonder presidents can, and increasingly do, install an acting appointee or use their power to make recess appointments (Mackenzie, 2001). But such unilateral action can produce a backlash. In 2004, two nominees for federal court had been held up by Democratic senators; when Congress was out of session for a week, President Bush named them to judgeships in recess appointments. Furious Democrats threatened to filibuster or otherwise block all Bush’s judicial nominees. Bush had no choice but to make a deal that he would not make any more judicial recess appointments for the rest of the year (Lewis, 2004).

Executive Orders

Presidents make policies by executive orders (Mayer, 2001). This power comes from the constitutional mandate that they “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Executive orders are directives to administrators in the executive branch on how to implement legislation. Courts treat them as equivalent to laws. Dramatic events have resulted from executive orders. Some famous executive orders include Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s closing the banks to avoid runs on deposits and his authorizing internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Truman’s desegregation of the armed forces, Kennedy’s establishment of the Peace Corps, and Nixon’s creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. More typically, executive orders reorganize the executive branch and impose restrictions or directives on what bureaucrats may or may not do. The attraction of executive orders was captured by one aide to President Clinton: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kind of cool” (Begala, 1998). Related ways for presidents to try to get things done are by memoranda to cabinet officers, proclamations authorized by legislation, and (usually secret) national security directives (Cooper, 2002).

Executive orders are imperfect for presidents; they can be easily overturned. One president can do something “with the stroke of a pen”; the next can easily undo it. President Reagan’s executive order withholding American aid to international population control agencies that provide abortion counseling was rescinded by an executive order by President Clinton in 1993, then reinstated by another executive order by President Bush in 2001—and rescinded once more by President Obama in 2009. Moreover, since executive orders are supposed to be a mere execution of what Congress has already decided, they can be superseded by congressional action.

Opportunities to act on behalf of the entire nation in international affairs are irresistible to presidents. Presidents almost always gravitate toward foreign policy as their terms progress. Domestic policy wonk Bill Clinton metamorphosed into a foreign policy enthusiast from 1993 to 2001. Even prior to 9/11 the notoriously untraveled George W. Bush was undergoing the same transformation. President Obama has been just as if not more involved in foreign policy than his predecessors.

Congress—as long as it is consulted—is less inclined to challenge presidential initiatives in foreign policy than in domestic policy. This idea that the president has greater autonomy in foreign than domestic policy is known as the “Two Presidencies Thesis” (Hinckley, 1994; Fleisher et al., 2000; Rudalevige, 2002).

War powers provide another key avenue for presidents to act unilaterally. After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel to the US Department of Justice argued that as commander in chief President Bush could do what was necessary to protect the American people (Yoo, 2005).

Since World War II, presidents have never asked Congress for (or received) a declaration of war. Instead, they rely on open-ended congressional authorizations to use force (such as for wars in Vietnam and “against terrorism”), United Nations resolutions (wars in Korea and the Persian Gulf), North American Treaty Organization (NATO) actions (peacekeeping operations and war in the former Yugoslavia), and orchestrated requests from tiny international organizations like the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (invasion of Grenada). Sometimes, presidents amass all these: in his last press conference before the start of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, President Bush invoked the congressional authorization of force, UN resolutions, and the inherent power of the president to protect the United States derived from his oath of office.

Congress can react against undeclared wars by cutting funds for military interventions. Such efforts are time consuming and not in place until long after the initial incursion. But congressional action, or its threat, did prevent military intervention in Southeast Asia during the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975 and sped up the withdrawal of American troops from Lebanon in the mid-1980s and Somalia in 1993 (Howell & Pevehouse, 2007).

Congress’s most concerted effort to restrict presidential war powers, the War Powers Act , which passed over President Nixon’s veto in 1973, may have backfired. It established that presidents must consult with Congress prior to a foreign commitment of troops, must report to Congress within forty-eight hours of the introduction of armed forces, and must withdraw such troops after sixty days if Congress does not approve. All presidents denounce this legislation. But it gives them the right to commit troops for sixty days with little more than requirements to consult and report—conditions presidents often feel free to ignore. And the presidential prerogative under the War Powers Act to commit troops on a short-term basis means that Congress often reacts after the fact. Since Vietnam, the act has done little to prevent presidents from unilaterally launching invasions (Fisher, 1995; Hinckley, 1994).

President Obama did not seek Congressional authorization before ordering the US military to join attacks on the Libyan air defenses and government forces in March 2011. After the bombing campaign started, Obama sent Congress a letter contending that as commander in chief he had constitutional authority for the attacks. The White House lawyers distinguished between this limited military operation and a war.

Presidents and the People

Public approval helps the president assure agreement, attract support, and discourage opposition. Presidents with high popularity win more victories in Congress on high-priority bills (Canes-Wrone, 2006). But obtaining public approval can be complicated. Presidents face contradictory expectations, even demands, from the public: to be an ordinary person yet display heroic qualities, to be nonpolitical yet excel (unobtrusively) at the politics required to get things done, to be a visionary leader yet respond to public opinion (Cronin & Genovese, 2009).

Public Approval

For over fifty years, pollsters have asked survey respondents, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way that the president is handling his job?” Over time there has been variation from one president to the next, but the general pattern is unmistakable (Stimson, 1976; Kernell, 1978; Brody, 1991). Approval starts out fairly high (near the percentage of the popular vote), increases slightly during the honeymoon, fades over the term, and then levels off. Presidents differ largely in the rate at which their approval rating declines. President Kennedy’s support eroded only slightly, as opposed to the devastating drops experienced by Ford and Carter. Presidents in their first terms are well aware that, if they fall below 50 percent, they are in danger of losing reelection or of losing allies in Congress in the midterm elections.

Events during a president’s term—and how the news media frame them—drive approval ratings up or down. Depictions of economic hard times, drawn-out military engagements (e.g., Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq), unpopular decisions (e.g., Ford’s pardon of Nixon), and other bad news drag approval ratings lower. The main upward push comes from quick international interventions, as for President Obama after the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, or successfully addressing national emergencies, which boost a president’s approval for several months. Under such conditions, official Washington speaks more in one voice than usual, the media drop their criticism as a result, and presidents depict themselves as embodiments of a united America. The successful war against Iraq in 1991 pushed approval ratings for the elder Bush to 90 percent, exceeded only by the ratings of his son after 9/11. It may be beside the point whether the president’s decision was smart or a blunder. Kennedy’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, later recalled how the president’s approval ratings actually climbed after Kennedy backed a failed invasion by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs: “He called me into his office and he said, ‘Did you see that Gallup poll today?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Do you think I have to continue doing stupid things like that to remain popular with the American people?’” (Hallin, 1992)

But as a crisis subsides, so too do official unity, tributes in the press, and the president’s lofty approval ratings. Short-term effects wane over the course of time. Bush’s huge boost from 9/11 lasted well into early 2003; he got a smaller, shorter lift from the invasion of Iraq in April 2003 and another from the capture of Saddam Hussein in December before dropping to levels perilously near, then below, 50 percent. Narrowly reelected in 2008, Bush saw his approval sink to new lows (around 30 percent) over the course of his second term.

Naturally and inevitably, presidents employ pollsters to measure public opinion. Poll data can influence presidents’ behavior, the calculation and presentation of their decisions and policies, and their rhetoric (Jacobs & Shapiro, 2000).

After the devastating loss of Congress to the Republicans midway through his first term, President Clinton hired public relations consultant Dick Morris to find widely popular issues on which he could take a stand. Morris used a “60 percent rule”: if six out of ten Americans were in favor of something, Clinton had to be too. Thus the Clinton White House crafted and adopted some policies knowing that they had broad popular support, such as balancing the budget and “reforming” welfare.

Even when public opinion data have no effects on a presidential decision, they can still be used to ascertain the best way to justify the policy or to find out how to present (i.e., spin) unpopular policies so that they become more acceptable to the public. Polls can identify the words and phrases that best sell policies to people. President George W. Bush referred to “school choice” instead of “school voucher programs,” to the “death tax” instead of “inheritance taxes,” and to “wealth-generating private accounts” rather than “the privatization of Social Security.” He presented reducing taxes for wealthy Americans as a “jobs” package (Green, 2002; Fritz, Keefer, & Nyhan, 2004).

Polls can even be used to adjust a president’s personal behavior. After a poll showed that some people did not believe that President Obama was a Christian, he attended services, with photographers in tow, at a prominent church in Washington, DC.


Presidents speak for various reasons: to represent the country, address issues, promote policies, and seek legislative accomplishments; to raise funds for their campaign, their party, and its candidates; and to berate the opposition. They also speak to control the executive branch by publicizing their thematic focus, ushering along appointments, and issuing executive orders (Grossman & Kumar, 1980; Maltese, 1992). They aim their speeches at those physically present and, often, at the far larger audience reached through the media.

In their speeches, presidents celebrate, express national emotion, educate, advocate, persuade, and attack. Their speeches vary in importance, subject, and venue. They give major ones, such as the inauguration and State of the Union. They memorialize events such as 9/11 and speak at the site of tragedies (as President Obama did on January 12, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona, after the shootings of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and bystanders by a crazed gunman). They give commencement addresses. They speak at party rallies. And they make numerous routine remarks and brief statements.

Watch President Obama’s Full Speech at Tucson Memorial

Presidents are more or less engaged in composing and editing their speeches. For speeches that articulate policies, the contents will usually be considered in advance by the people in the relevant executive branch departments and agencies who make suggestions and try to resolve or meld conflicting views, for example, on foreign policy by the State and Defense departments, the CIA, and National Security Council. It will be up to the president, to buy in on, modify, or reject themes, arguments, and language.

The president’s speechwriters are involved in the organization and contents of the speech (Schlesinger, 2008). They contribute memorable phrases, jokes, applause lines, transitions, repetition, rhythm, emphases, and places to pause. They write for ease of delivery, the cadence of the president’s voice, mannerisms of expression, idioms, pace, and timing.

In search of friendly audiences, congenial news media and vivid backdrops, presidents often travel outside Washington to give their speeches (Hart, 1986; Hinckley, 1991; Hager & Sullivan, 1994). In his first one hundred days in office in 2001, George W. Bush visited twenty-six states to give speeches; this was a new record even though he refused to spend a night anywhere other than in his own beds at the White House, at Camp David (the presidential retreat), or on his Texas ranch (Sanger & Lacey, 2001).

Memorable settings may be chosen as backdrops for speeches, but they can backfire. On May 1, 2003, President Bush emerged in a flight suit from a plane just landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and spoke in front of a huge banner that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished,” implying the end of major combat operations in Iraq. The banner was positioned for the television cameras to ensure that the open sea, not San Diego, appeared in the background. The slogan may have originated with the ship’s commander or sailors, but the Bush people designed and placed it perfectly for the cameras and choreographed the scene.

Figure 13.4

President George W. Bush shaking hands with Al Maliki

As violence in Iraq continued and worsened, the banner would be framed by critics of the war as a publicity stunt, a symbol of the administration’s arrogance and failure.

Wikimedia Commons – public domain.

Speechmaking can entail going public : presidents give a major address to promote public approval of their decisions, to advance their policy objectives and solutions in Congress and the bureaucracy, or to defend themselves against accusations of illegality and immorality. Going public is “a strategic adaptation to the information age” (Kernell, 2007; Farnsworth, 2009).

According to a study of presidents’ television addresses, they fail to increase public approval of the president and rarely increase public support for the policy action the president advocates (Edwards III, 2003). There can, however, be a rally phenomenon . The president’s approval rating rises during periods of international tension and likely use of American force. Even at a time of policy failure, the president can frame the issue and lead public opinion. Crisis news coverage likely supports the president.

Moreover, nowadays, presidents, while still going public—that is, appealing to national audiences—increasingly go local: they take a targeted approach to influencing public opinion. They go for audiences who might be persuadable, such as their party base and interest groups, and to strategically chosen locations (Cohen, 2010).

Key Takeaways

The president gets things done as an agenda-setter and the chief lobbyist and via his veto power and signing statements. To what extent he can lead Congress depends on its party composition and ideological makeup. As the chief executive, the president gets things done through the appointment powers, executive orders, and war powers. The president seeks power and public approval through speeches and by heeding public response to polls.

  • What tools does the president have to set the political agenda? What determines what’s on the president’s own agenda?
  • How do presidents use their veto power? What are the disadvantages of vetoing or threatening to veto legislation?
  • How does the president’s position as chief executive allow him to act quickly and decisively? What powers does the president have to respond to events directly?
  • What factors affect the president’s public approval ratings? What can presidents do to increase their approval ratings?

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Edwards III, G. C., On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 241.

Edwards III, G. C., The Strategic President: Persuasion and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009).

Farnsworth, S. J., Spinner in Chief: How Presidents Sell Their Policies and Themselves (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2009).

Fisher, L., Presidential War Power (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1995)

Fleisher, R., Jon R. Bond, Glen S. Krutz, and Stephen Hanna, “The Demise of the Two Presidencies,” American Politics Quarterly 28 (2000): 3–25

Fritz, B., Bryan Keefer, and Brendan Nyhan, All the President’s Spin: George W. Bush, the Media, and the Truth (New York: Touchstone, 2004).

Green, J., “The Other War Room,” Washington Monthly 34, no. 4 (April 2002): 11–16

Grossman, M. B. and Martha Joynt Kumar, Portraying the President: The White House and the News Media (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980)

Hager, G. L. and Terry Sullivan, “President-Centered and Presidency-Centered Explanations of Presidential Public Activity,” American Journal of Political Science 38 (November 1994): 1079–1103.

Hallin, D. C., ed., The Presidency, the Press and the People (La Jolla: University of California, San Diego, 1992), 21.

Hart, R., The Sound of Leadership: Presidential Communication in the Modern Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986)

Hinckley, B., Less than Meets the Eye: Foreign Policy Making and the Myth of the Assertive Congress (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

Hinckley, B., The Symbolic Presidency (New York: Routledge, 1991)

Hines, C. N., “Lag in Appointments Strains the Cabinet,” New York Times , June 14, 2001, A20.

Hoffman, D. R. and Alison D. Howard, Addressing the State of the Union (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006).

Howell, W. G., Power without Persuasion: The Politics of Direct Presidential Action (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003).

Howell, W. G. and Jon C. Pevehouse, While Dangers Gather: Congressional Checks on Presidential War Powers (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).

Jacobs, L. and Robert Shapiro, Politicians Don’t Pander (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

Kernell, S., “Explaining Presidential Popularity,” American Political Science Review 72 (1978): 506–22

Kernell, S., Going Public: New Strategies of Presidential Leadership , 4th ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2007), 2

Kurtz, G. S., Richard Fleisher, and Jon R. Bond, “From Abe Fortas to Zoë Baird: Why Some Presidential Nominations Fail in the Senate,” American Political Science Review 92 (December 1998): 871–81.

Lewis, D. E., The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008)

Lewis, N. A., “Deal Ends Impasse over Judicial Nominees,” New York Times , May 19, 2004, A1.

Light, P. C., The President’s Agenda: Domestic Policy Choice from Kennedy to Clinton , 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 89.

Mackenzie, G. C., ed., Innocent until Nominated: The Breakdown of the Presidential Appointments Process , ed. G. Calvin Mackenzie (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2001).

Mackenzie, G. C., The Politics of Presidential Appointments (New York: Free Press, 1981), especially chap. 7.

Maltese, J. A., Spin Control: The White House Office of Communications and the Management of Presidential News (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).

Mayer, K. R., With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

Mayhew, D. R., Divided We Govern: Party Control, Lawmaking, and Investigations, 1946–1990 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991).

Moe, T. M., “The Presidency and the Bureaucracy: The Presidential Advantage,” in The Presidency and the Political System , 6th ed., ed. Michael Nelson (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2000), 443–74

Peterson, M. A., Legislating Together: The White House and Capitol Hill from Eisenhower to Reagan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990).

Ragsdale, L., Vital Statistics on the Presidency , 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2008), 360.

Rudalevige, A., Managing the President’s Program: Presidential Leadership and Legislative Policy Formulation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).

Sanger, D. E. and Marc Lacey, “In Early Battles, Bush Learns Need for Compromises,” New York Times , April 29, 2001, A1.

Savage, C., “Obama’s Embrace of a Bush Tactic Riles Congress,” New York Times , August 9, 2009, A1

Savage, C., “Obama Takes a New Route to Opposing Parts of Laws,” New York Times , January 9, 2010, A9.

Schlesinger, R., White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008).

Shull, S. A. and Thomas C. Shaw, Explaining Congressional-Presidential Relations: A Multiple Perspective Approach (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), chap. 4.

Skowronek, S., Presidential Leadership in Political Time (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2008).

Spitzer, R. J., The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988).

Stanley, H. W. and Richard G. Niemi, Vital Statistics on American Politics, 1999–2000 (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1998), table 6-9.

Stimson, J. A., “Public Support for American Presidents: A Cyclical Model,” Public Opinion Quarterly 40 (1976): 1–21

Stolberg, S. G., “Hope and Change as Promised, Just Not Overnight,” New York Times , October 28, 2010, A18.

Yoo, J., The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

American Government and Politics in the Information Age Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • appointment
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  • assignability
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  • 1.1 Etymology
  • 1.2 Pronunciation
  • 1.3.1 Usage notes
  • 1.3.2 Derived terms
  • 1.3.3 Translations
  • 1.4 Anagrams
  • 2.1 Etymology
  • 2.2 Pronunciation
  • 2.3.1 Related terms
  • 2.4 Further reading

English [ edit ]

Etymology [ edit ].

From Middle English assignacioun , from Old French assignacion , from Latin assīgnātiō .

Pronunciation [ edit ]

  • IPA ( key ) : /æsɪɡˈneɪʃən/

Noun [ edit ]

assignation ( countable and uncountable , plural assignations )

  • 1714 , Alexander Pope , “ The Rape of the Lock ”, in The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope , volume I, London: [ … ] W [ illiam ] Bowyer , for Bernard Lintot ,   [ … ] , published 1717 , →OCLC , canto III: While nymphs take treats, or assignations give.
  • 1749 , [John Cleland ], “ (Please specify the letter or volume) ”, in Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure [ Fanny Hill ], London: [ … ] G. Fenton [ i.e. , Fenton and Ralph Griffiths ]   [ … ] , →OCLC : As soon as Mr. Barville saw me, he got up, with a visible air of pleasure and surprize, and saluting me, asked Mrs. Cole if it was possible that so fine and delicate a creature would voluntarily submit to such sufferings and rigours as were the subject of his assignation .
  • 1986 , John le Carré , A Perfect Spy : What assignations followed we can never know, except that, according to Morrie, Rick did once boast that there was more than cake and lemon barley waiting for him up at The Glades when he delivered the church magazine.
  • 1996 , David Foster Wallace , Infinite Jest   [ … ] , Boston, Mass., New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown and Company , →ISBN , page 30 : ‘That you could dare to imagine we’d fail conversationally to countenance certain weekly shall we say maternal … assignations with a certain unnamed bisexual bassoonist in the Albertan Secret Guard’s tactical-bands unit?’
  • 1659 , T[itus] Livius [ i.e. , Livy ], “ (please specify the book number) ”, in Philemon Holland , transl., The Romane Historie   [ … ] , London: [ … ] W. Hunt, for George Sawbridge,   [ … ] , →OCLC : This order being taken in the senate, as touching the appointment and assignation of those provinces.
  • A making over by transfer of title ; assignment .

Usage notes [ edit ]

Modern usage confines the word to mean an agreed-upon place for illicit sex, but earlier usage is broader, and considerably more innocent.

Derived terms [ edit ]

  • house of assignation

Translations [ edit ]

Anagrams [ edit ].

  • saginations

French [ edit ]

From Old French assignacion , from Latin assīgnātiō .

  • IPA ( key ) : /a.si.ɲa.sjɔ̃/

assignation   f ( plural assignations )

  • ( law ) summons , subpoena

Related terms [ edit ]

Further reading [ edit ].

  • “ assignation ”, in Trésor de la langue française informatisé [ Digitized Treasury of the French Language ] , 2012.

assignation definition politics

  • English terms inherited from Middle English
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  • English lemmas
  • English nouns
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  • English countable nouns
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  • French terms inherited from Old French
  • French terms derived from Old French
  • French terms derived from Latin
  • French 4-syllable words
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assignation in American English

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  • 1.1 Defining Politics: Who Gets What, When, Where, How, and Why?
  • Introduction
  • 1.2 Public Policy, Public Interest, and Power
  • 1.3 Political Science: The Systematic Study of Politics
  • 1.4 Normative Political Science
  • 1.5 Empirical Political Science
  • 1.6 Individuals, Groups, Institutions, and International Relations
  • Review Questions
  • Suggested Readings
  • 2.1 What Goals Should We Seek in Politics?
  • 2.2 Why Do Humans Make the Political Choices That They Do?
  • 2.3 Human Behavior Is Partially Predictable
  • 2.4 The Importance of Context for Political Decisions
  • 3.1 The Classical Origins of Western Political Ideologies
  • 3.2 The Laws of Nature and the Social Contract
  • 3.3 The Development of Varieties of Liberalism
  • 3.4 Nationalism, Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism
  • 3.5 Contemporary Democratic Liberalism
  • 3.6 Contemporary Ideologies Further to the Political Left
  • 3.7 Contemporary Ideologies Further to the Political Right
  • 3.8 Political Ideologies That Reject Political Ideology: Scientific Socialism, Burkeanism, and Religious Extremism
  • 4.1 The Freedom of the Individual
  • 4.2 Constitutions and Individual Liberties
  • 4.3 The Right to Privacy, Self-Determination, and the Freedom of Ideas
  • 4.4 Freedom of Movement
  • 4.5 The Rights of the Accused
  • 4.6 The Right to a Healthy Environment
  • 5.1 What Is Political Participation?
  • 5.2 What Limits Voter Participation in the United States?
  • 5.3 How Do Individuals Participate Other Than Voting?
  • 5.4 What Is Public Opinion and Where Does It Come From?
  • 5.5 How Do We Measure Public Opinion?
  • 5.6 Why Is Public Opinion Important?
  • 6.1 Political Socialization: The Ways People Become Political
  • 6.2 Political Culture: How People Express Their Political Identity
  • 6.3 Collective Dilemmas: Making Group Decisions
  • 6.4 Collective Action Problems: The Problem of Incentives
  • 6.5 Resolving Collective Action Problems
  • 7.1 Civil Rights and Constitutionalism
  • 7.2 Political Culture and Majority-Minority Relations
  • 7.3 Civil Rights Abuses
  • 7.4 Civil Rights Movements
  • 7.5 How Do Governments Bring About Civil Rights Change?
  • 8.1 What Is an Interest Group?
  • 8.2 What Are the Pros and Cons of Interest Groups?
  • 8.3 Political Parties
  • 8.4 What Are the Limits of Parties?
  • 8.5 What Are Elections and Who Participates?
  • 8.6 How Do People Participate in Elections?
  • 9.1 What Do Legislatures Do?
  • 9.2 What Is the Difference between Parliamentary and Presidential Systems?
  • 9.3 What Is the Difference between Unicameral and Bicameral Systems?
  • 9.4 The Decline of Legislative Influence
  • 10.1 Democracies: Parliamentary, Presidential, and Semi-Presidential Regimes
  • 10.2 The Executive in Presidential Regimes
  • 10.3 The Executive in Parliamentary Regimes
  • 10.4 Advantages, Disadvantages, and Challenges of Presidential and Parliamentary Regimes
  • 10.5 Semi-Presidential Regimes
  • 10.6 How Do Cabinets Function in Presidential and Parliamentary Regimes?
  • 10.7 What Are the Purpose and Function of Bureaucracies?
  • 11.1 What Is the Judiciary?
  • 11.2 How Does the Judiciary Take Action?
  • 11.3 Types of Legal Systems around the World
  • 11.4 Criminal versus Civil Laws
  • 11.5 Due Process and Judicial Fairness
  • 11.6 Judicial Review versus Executive Sovereignty
  • 12.1 The Media as a Political Institution: Why Does It Matter?
  • 12.2 Types of Media and the Changing Media Landscape
  • 12.3 How Do Media and Elections Interact?
  • 12.4 The Internet and Social Media
  • 12.5 Declining Global Trust in the Media
  • 13.1 Contemporary Government Regimes: Power, Legitimacy, and Authority
  • 13.2 Categorizing Contemporary Regimes
  • 13.3 Recent Trends: Illiberal Representative Regimes
  • 14.1 What Is Power, and How Do We Measure It?
  • 14.2 Understanding the Different Types of Actors in the International System
  • 14.3 Sovereignty and Anarchy
  • 14.4 Using Levels of Analysis to Understand Conflict
  • 14.5 The Realist Worldview
  • 14.6 The Liberal and Social Worldview
  • 14.7 Critical Worldviews
  • 15.1 The Problem of Global Governance
  • 15.2 International Law
  • 15.3 The United Nations and Global Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)
  • 15.4 How Do Regional IGOs Contribute to Global Governance?
  • 15.5 Non-state Actors: Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)
  • 15.6 Non-state Actors beyond NGOs
  • 16.1 The Origins of International Political Economy
  • 16.2 The Advent of the Liberal Economy
  • 16.3 The Bretton Woods Institutions
  • 16.4 The Post–Cold War Period and Modernization Theory
  • 16.5 From the 1990s to the 2020s: Current Issues in IPE
  • 16.6 Considering Poverty, Inequality, and the Environmental Crisis

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Define and describe politics from various perspectives.
  • Identify what makes a behavior political.
  • Identify and discuss the three core elements of any political event: rules, reality, and choices.
  • Define and discuss varieties of constitutions.

Politics has existed as long as humans have faced scarcity, have had different beliefs and preferences, and have had to resolve these differences while allocating scarce resources. It will continue to exist so long as these human conditions persist—that is, forever. Politics are fundamental to the human condition.

Politics means different things to different people. Politics , and related terms like political and politician , can have both positive and negative connotations. The Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that humans were “political animals” in that only by engaging in politics could humans reach their highest potential. 5 Yet often, the terms political and politician can be used in disparaging ways to refer to individuals using trickery or manipulation to obtain or preserve their status or authority. More formally, a politician is someone running for elective office or serving in it or as a person who is using the skills of a politician in other social interaction. A political actor is anyone who is engaged in political activity. Politics involves all the actions of government and all the people who work for, serve, or challenge it.

This book takes the broadest view, adopting the guidance of political scientist Harold Lasswell , who defined politics as “who gets what, when, how.” 6 Politics exists wherever people interact with one another to make decisions that affect them collectively. Politics exists within families. When parents decide where the family will live: politics. The family (who) gets a place to live (what) at the point of decision (when) based on the parents’ choice (how). When your school decides what tuition to charge: politics. When the government imposes taxes or funds education: politics. Most generally, politics is any interaction among individuals, groups, or institutions that seek to arrive at a decision about how to make a collective choice, or to solve some collective problem. Political science focuses primarily on these interactions as they involve governments. 7

Every political event is different. The mass protests in Hong Kong in 2020, inspired by those seeking to protect their political rights, were not exactly the same as the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States or the climate change actions animated by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg . Yet as varied as political situations can be, there are commonalities across these events and over all political activities. Whenever you seek to understand a political event—whether an election in Tanzania, a protest in Estonia, or a public health program in Indonesia—it is useful to focus on the following:

What are the most important rules ? What is the reality of the existing event or environment? What choices do the participants make? Political outcomes—for example, which candidate wins an election—are based on the interaction of these rules, realities, and choices.

The importance of rules in politics or in life cannot be overstated. In virtually every human endeavor, the most successful individuals are likely to have a keen knowledge of the rules and how to use (or break) the rules to the advantage of their cause. Ignorance of the rules makes accomplishing your goals more difficult.

Rules can be highly precise or open to interpretation. In chess, for example, the rules are completely known to all players: each piece can move in certain directions but in no other ones. Each player takes a turn; that’s the rule. Although chess is highly complex, each player’s options at any given time are known. Chess champions—in fact, all champions—know how to use the rules to their advantage.

College campuses have their own sets of formal and informal rules, and not all of them are as precise as those in chess. The de jure rules are the rules as they are written, the formal rules. The de facto rules are the ones actually practiced or enforced, the informal rules. For example: a sign might state that the ( de jure ) speed limit is 55 miles per hour, but if police do not give tickets to drivers unless they are driving 65 miles per hour, then that is the de facto rule. To thrive at college, it is useful to understand not only the formal rules but also the informal rules, which have been called “the hidden curriculum.” 8

A sign on the side of a road indicates the speed limit is 55 miles per hour. On the road, cars travel in both directions.

The rules in any political environment affect who has power and how they can use it. Consider the rules that determine who can vote and how. These rules can be permissive or strict, making voting either easier or harder to do. The harder it is to vote, the fewer people will actually cast their ballots and vice versa. Voting rules influence who shows up to vote. Politicians who believe they have a better chance of success under permissive voting rules are likely to advocate for such rules, while politicians who believe they are more likely to prevail under restrictive voting rules will advocate for them instead.

Rules might appear to be neutral—that is, they may seem fair and not designed to favor one group over another—but this is not entirely true. Until recently, to become a pilot in the US Air Force, a person had to be no shorter than 5 feet 4 inches and no taller than 6 feet 5 inches: the short and the tall were excluded from this opportunity. The rule might be in place for a good reason—in this case, to ensure that pilots can fit properly into their seats—but rules like these allocate opportunities and resources to some while withholding them from others. Because this rule excluded over 40 percent of American women from becoming pilots, it has been modified. 9

Rules are everywhere in politics. Your family has rules—even if the main rule is “no rules”—as does your school. Rules, such as Robert’s Rules of Order , 10 govern legislatures, and the criminal justice system, the tax system, and the national immigration systems are all based, at least in principle, on rules.

Rules and institutions are closely related. The institution of marriage or the institution of the family, for example, are the sets of rules (rights, roles, and responsibilities) by which those within the marriage or family live. Alternatively, institutions can be organizations, which are groups of people working together for a common purpose whose actions are governed by rules.

Perhaps the most important set of rules for any institution or organization is its constitution . The constitution affirms the most basic legal principles of a country or a state. These principles typically include the structure of the government, its duties, and the rights of the people. Constitutions can be quite general or extremely detailed. The Constitution of Monaco has fewer than 4,000 words, while the Constitution of India has nearly 150,000 words. 11 Unlike the United States, some countries, including Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, do not have a single document they call the constitution but instead rely on other written and even unwritten sources. In most countries the constitution is called just that—the constitution—although Germany, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and a few other countries call their constitutions the basic law. 12

What Is a Constitution?

Constitutions define the relationship between people and their government. They give powers to and place limits upon the government and serve as the basis for any other laws or government activities.

Constitutions are perhaps the most important set of rules in a country because, after all, they are just pieces of paper. The true importance of a country’s constitution depends on the politics of that country. In the United States, the Constitution is venerated almost as if it were a religious document. Most of the biggest conflicts throughout US history have involved disputes over what the Constitution requires, allows, or prohibits. When the US Supreme Court rules that a political action is unconstitutional, the violator—whether it be the president, the Congress, or any other group or individual in society—is expected to comply with the ruling and stop the action. 13 But this is not always the case everywhere. Politicians in any country may be tempted to ignore their constitutions, especially when it comes to the rights they ostensibly guarantee, and whether those politicians prevail depends on whether other political actors are willing and able to uphold the constitution.

Because rules affect the allocation of power and other scarce resources, political actors spend substantial time and effort fighting over them. In general, political actors seek to establish rules that benefit them and their allies.

A red sign on a wall reads, “No cycling, busking, animal fouling, littering, loitering, skateboarding, skating, spitting.” It also reads, “Dogs to be kept on leads; keep left.”

Rules guide and constrain behavior, but the reality on the ground at any specific time also impacts political outcomes. Reality —facts—is not a matter of opinion, although people can dispute the nature of reality. Something is a fact , for example, when there is compelling evidence that an event has happened or a condition exists. The sun rises in the East: reality. The United Nations is an international organization: fact (reality). 14 Has the United Nations made the world a better place? That is a matter of opinion, although those who say “yes” or “no” can provide facts that support their views about reality. 15

How candidates can raise and spend money on their electoral campaigns may be limited by campaign finance laws, but if one candidate raises twice as much money as the other candidate, that is an important fact. If one candidate is the incumbent —a politician already serving in office and running for reelection—and the other is not, that is an important fact. These are important facts because whether or not a candidate is an incumbent and how much campaign money they raise may affect their chances of winning the election. In US elections, for example, incumbents generally have a better chance of being elected (although the strength of this relationship has varied over time), while the impact of fundraising on electoral success is open to question. 16

In chess, the rules are constant, never changing during the game. The reality changes as play proceeds—at any moment each player has a specific number of pieces in particular places on the board. What happens then depends on the choices the players make. This is as true for politics as for any other game. A key difference between chess and politics is that, in politics, the players themselves can change the rules of the game while they are playing.

The board for the boardgame Risk is set up and in play. Three red and three white dice and a deck of game cards are placed on the board.

Politics can be thought of as having the characteristics of a game. The players—anyone involved in political action—make strategic choices, given the rules and the current conditions, in an attempt to “win” the game by obtaining their goals.

Rules provide constraints and opportunities. Reality presents resources and challenges. The choices participants make in the face of rules and reality determine political outcomes. Choice exists whenever political actors face options, which they always do. If there are two candidates in an election for a single position, the voter has to choose between them, not being able to vote for both. Even if there is only one candidate, the voter still has an option: to vote for the candidate or to abstain.

In a democracy , the winning candidate wins because more voters chose to vote, and vote for that candidate, than for other options. The very definition of democracy is that it is a form of government in which the people have the ability to choose their leaders or, in some cases, the policies that they will adopt. 17

Political outcomes are always contingent; they cannot be predicted with certainty in advance. That does not mean, however, that outcomes are completely unpredictable. By accounting for the rules, how human behavior works, and existing realities, it is possible to reasonably predict what is likely to happen and explain what does happen.

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Synonyms of assignation

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Synonyms & Similar Words

  • appointment
  • arrangement
  • get - together

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“Assignation.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/assignation. Accessed 6 Nov. 2023.

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  • assignation

ASSIGNATION, Scotch law. The ceding or yielding a thing to another of which intimation must be made.

  • assignation of writs
  • conveyancing
  • hypothecation
  • incorporeal property
  • asportation
  • Assassination
  • Assault and Battery
  • assault by penetration
  • assault penalty
  • assault with a deadly weapon, sexual assault with a weapon
  • Assaulted by bus driver at ATM, any recourse?
  • Assaulting a police officer, counterclaims.
  • Assertory covenant
  • Assessed Valuation
  • Assessment of damages
  • Assets Recovery Agency
  • Asseveration
  • Assigned Account
  • Assigned Risk
  • Assigned Risk Plan
  • Assignment for Benefit of Creditors
  • Assignment of dower
  • Assignment of errors
  • Assises of jerusalem
  • Assistance, Writ of
  • Assize of mort d' ancestor
  • Assize, or Assise
  • Associate Justice
  • associated company
  • association
  • Association of Chief Police Officers
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White House’s John Kirby Pushes Back on Tlaib Accusing Biden of Supporting ‘Genocide’: ‘Irresponsible’

Posted: November 6, 2023 | Last updated: November 6, 2023

'You can't look at what's happening in Gaza and say that it fits the definition of genocide,' Kirby said

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby pushed back on Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., accusing President Joe Biden of supporting " genocide " in Gaza, calling her choice of words "irresponsible."

"You can't look at what's happening in Gaza and say that it fits the definition of genocide," Kirby told Fox News on Monday in response to Tlaib's controversial comments.

Kirby said "genocide" is a "irresponsible way of describing this."

"We don't associate ourselves with this," he added.

Tlaib shared a video on social media last week that accused Biden of supporting Palestinian "genocide" by backing Israel's strikes on Gaza in the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack.

Kirby and other officials have argued civilian casualties in Gaza have in part been a consequence of Hamas strategically placing them in harm's way.

Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Bejanmin Netanyahu discussed humanitarian pauses in Gaza on Monday to help evacuate civilians.

Tlaib has received pushback for her comments on the Israel-Hamas war. She has called for a ceasefire and said Israel was an "apartheid" government.

She also blamed a hospital blast in Gaza last month on an Israeli air strike, despite Biden and other officials insisting intelligence showed a Palestinian militant group was responsible.

White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer also pushed back on Tlaib's "genocide" comment on Sunday, saying the White House "strongly disagrees" with the congresswoman's choice of words.

<p>Karine Jean-Pierre and John Kirby take questions during the daily press briefing at the White House October 11, 2023 in Washington, DC</p>

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Meaning of assignation in English

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  • acquaintance
  • bump into someone
  • counter-rally
  • cross someone's path/cross paths with someone idiom
  • make yourself known idiom
  • paths cross idiom
  • pay your respects idiom
  • power lunch
  • re-encounter
  • town meeting

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something that people say when you may not or cannot do something

Have you come far? Chatting to someone you don’t know (2)

Have you come far? Chatting to someone you don’t know (2)

assignation definition politics

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  1. Etymology of Politics

    assignation definition politics

  2. Meaning of Politics and Governmant

    assignation definition politics

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    assignation definition politics

  4. L'assignation en justice : définition et procédure

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  1. Assignation Definition & Meaning

    assignation: [noun] the act of assigning or the assignment made.


    assignation meaning: 1. a meeting that is secret or not allowed, especially one between two people having a romantic…. Learn more.

  3. 13.2 How Presidents Get Things Done

    Presidents try to set the political agenda. They call attention to issues and solutions, using constitutional powers such as calling Congress into session, recommending bills, and informing its members about the state of the union, as well as giving speeches and making news (Hoffman & Howard, 2006). Figure 13.3.

  4. ASSIGNATION Definition & Usage Examples

    Assignation definition: . See examples of ASSIGNATION used in a sentence.

  5. Assignation

    1. a. The act of assigning: assignation of blame. b. Something assigned, especially an allotment. 2. a. An appointment to meet in secret, especially between lovers. See Synonyms at engagement. b. The meeting made by such an appointment. as′sig·na′tion·al adj. American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.

  6. ASSIGNATION definition and meaning

    ASSIGNATION definition: An assignation is a secret meeting with someone, especially with a lover. | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples

  7. Assignation Definition & Meaning

    assignation /ˌæsɪg ˈ neɪʃən/ noun. plural assignations. Britannica Dictionary definition of ASSIGNATION. [count] formal. : a meeting between lovers. a secret assignation [= tryst] ASSIGNATION meaning: a meeting between lovers.

  8. Assignation

    An assignation is a secret meeting. You might have an assignation with your new girlfriend if the two of you were keeping your relationship private.

  9. assignation

    assignation From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English assignation as‧sig‧na‧tion / ˌæsɪɡˈneɪʃ ə n / noun [ countable ] formal RELATIONSHIP a secret meeting, especially with someone you are having a romantic relationship with - often used humorously Examples from the Corpus assignation • Whatever he thought he was doing ...

  10. assignation

    assignation ( countable and uncountable, plural assignations ) An appointment for a meeting, generally of a romantic or sexual nature. Synonym: tryst. 1714, Alexander Pope, " The Rape of the Lock ", in The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope, volume I, London: [ …] W [ illiam] Bowyer, for Bernard Lintot, [ …], published 1717, →OCLC, canto III ...

  11. Assassination Definition & Meaning

    as· sas· si· na· tion ə-ˌsa-sə-ˈnā-shən plural assassinations Synonyms of assassination 1 : murder by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons : the act or an instance of assassinating someone (such as a prominent political leader) the assassination of Abraham Lincoln an assassination attempt

  12. ASSIGNATION definition in American English

    assignation in American English. (ˌæsɪgˈneɪʃən ) noun. 1. an assigning or being assigned. 2. anything assigned. 3. an appointment to meet, esp. one made secretly by lovers, or the meeting itself; tryst; rendezvous.

  13. 1.1 Defining Politics: Who Gets What, When, Where, How, and Why?

    Introduction 1.1Defining Politics: Who Gets What, When, Where, How, and Why? 1.2Public Policy, Public Interest, and Power 1.3Political Science: The Systematic Study of Politics 1.4Normative Political Science 1.5Empirical Political Science 1.6Individuals, Groups, Institutions, and International Relations Summary Key Terms Review Questions

  14. Assignation Definition & Meaning

    Assignation definition, an appointment for a meeting, especially a lover's secret rendezvous. See more.

  15. Assignation Definition & Meaning

    Assignation definition: The act of assigning. Their au pair, Philip's business partner and his wife all see the empty flat as an ideal place for a secret assignation.

  16. Politics Definition & Meaning

    politics: [noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction] the art or science of government. the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy. the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government.

  17. ASSIGNATION Synonyms: 13 Similar Words

    Synonyms for ASSIGNATION: appointment, date, rendezvous, tryst, engagement, meeting, arrangement, invitation, interview, visit

  18. Assassination

    Assassination is the willful killing, by a sudden, secret, or planned attack, of a person—especially if prominent or important. It may be prompted by grievances, notoriety, financial, military, political or other motives.Many times governments, corporations, organized crime or their agents order assassinations. Acts of assassination have been performed since ancient times.


    politics definition: 1. the activities of the government, members of law-making organizations, or people who try to…. Learn more.

  20. Assignation legal definition of assignation

    assignation: noun application , arrogation , assignment , attribution , blame , charge , imputation , placement See also: alienation , allotment , arrogation ...

  21. White House's John Kirby Pushes Back on Tlaib Accusing Biden of ...

    White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby pushed back on Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., accusing President Joe Biden of supporting "genocide" in Gaza, calling her choice of words ...

  22. White Christian evangelicals: What it would take for them to ...

    Author Jon Ward details how he left his evangelical church, his growing alarm over how some Christian conservatives have attacked truth, and what it would take for White evangelicals to abandon ...

  23. House of assignation

    House of assignation is an older term, used in nineteenth-century English to refer to what today might be called rooms by the hour, meaning an establishment that is either or both of the below: . Love hotel; Brothel; In the U.S. in the post-Civil War era, the term seems to have been applied to establishments where married women could arrange for private encounters with lovers, rather than take ...

  24. Blackpink's Lisa, Angelababy Banned on Weibo After Risque Show

    Carol Massar and Tim Stenovec bring together the latest news from the world of business and finance and the interesting stories of global technology, politics, economics and more by harnessing the ...

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    Uruguay's Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo resigned Wednesday after leaked phone calls to the local press suggested he tried to obstruct an investigation into the issuance of a passport to a ...


    assignation definition: 1. a meeting that is secret or not allowed, especially one between two people having a romantic…. Learn more.