Good Advice
Information and Policy Making in the White House
Presidential Studies - Political Science
6.125 x 9.25, 264 pp.
1 table.
Pub Date: 04/01/2000
Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership
  cloth
Price:        $39.95 s

978-0-89096-913-7

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Good Advice

Information and Policy Making in the White House

By Daniel E. Ponder

The U.S. president has to make difficult, important, and very public decisions every day. We don't expect one person to be an expert in all the areas in which the president has to make decisions. So how do presidents do it? They rely on their staffs to give information and advice.

Good Advice is a systematic study of Jimmy Carter's reign and those who advised him. Daniel E. Ponder discusses the president's policies, the advisors behind each, and how much of that advice ultimately became incorporated into the president's official proposals.

The book's central thesis is that although presidents have tended to centralize policy-making authority in the White House staff, the dynamics of staff participation and consequent policy success vary from issue to issue, consistent with a theoretical framework Ponder calls staff shift. Ponder further analyzes how presidents decide whose advice to take and whose to ignore and the politics behind those decisions.

Ponder examines each of the three major roles of staff advisory—policy directors, facilitators, and monitors—and discusses a "successful" and unsuccessful policy in each. He focuses on the six policy areas of education, youth employment, welfare reform, energy, national health insurance, and civil service reform.

Ponder draws from myriad theoretical and methodological traditions to construct a sophisticated foundation upon which his analysis builds. His development of theoretical insights, backed with exhaustive documentation, contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature of the presidency in its organizational and institutional environments.

For those interested in presidential studies and American politics, this innovative study takes you into the Oval Office as it explains the process from information- and advice-giving to policy making in the presidency.

Daniel E. Ponder, who received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt in 1994, is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He teaches and writes about American politics with special emphasis on institutions and has published several articles on the presidency and Congress.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Ponder shows that presidents are influenced by the advisory processes that they create, thus illustrating the importance of both the president, as an individual, and the institution of the presidency. He breaks new ground in revealing that effective policymaking comes when the White House and the executive departments cooperate regardless of the amount of centralization or delegation of responsibility. He has created a new trail for others to follow and establish himself as a fine presidential scholar.”--Erwin C. Hargrove, Vanderbilt University

“Ponder shows that presidents are influenced by the advisory processes that they create, thus illustrating the importance of both the president, as an individual, and the institution of the presidency. He breaks new ground in revealing that effective policymaking comes when the White House and the executive departments cooperate regardless of the amount of centralization or delegation of responsibility. He has created a new trail for others to follow and establish himself as a fine presidential scholar.” --Erwin C. Hargrove, Vanderbilt University

Good Advice is among the best of the most recent studies of the institutional presidency. Ponder’s analysis of Jimmy Carter’s domestic policy staff avoids the extremes of either excessive reductionism or a-theoretical description. Instead, he steers a middle course, crafting an empirically based yet conceptually lucid theory of ‘staff shift’ in which presidents’ use advisers varies in predictable fashion according to the interplay of presidential policy and political interests as well as the resources and constraints impinging on the presidency. Well researched, cogently argued, and clearly written, Ponder’s work will be required reading for anyone interested in understanding the staff dynamics of the modern presidency.” --Matthew J. Dickinson, Harvard University

Ponder’s rich case studies and thoughtful analysis make this one of our most valuable studies of presidential advisory processes. The book tells us a great deal not only about Jimmy Carter’s decision making in the White House. It will be read by students of the presidency for many years to come. --Paul J. Quirk, Author of “Presidential Competence,” a chapter in Micha

“The greatest of this study is Ponder’s ability to develop theoretical constructs and then test and implement them. His analysis is further strengthened with examples of both successful and failed policy efforts.” --CHOICE

“Ponder identifies a systematic method for understanding the increasing institutionalization of the presidency and the varying roles that individual presidents and advisers can exercise in that process. His detailed an well-researched analysis provides an impressive theoretical base for future scholarship on the presidency.” --Political Science Quarterly

“. . . a helpful synthesis of several different approaches to White House studies. . . . an ambitious work. Its analysis is conducted at three levels, which are interwoven throughout the entire book. It draws on the theoretical insights of rational choice, new institutionalism, and behavioral theories, and develops a new interpretation of presidential advising systems. At the same time, it offers a richly descriptive analysis of information, communication, and coordination strategies within a single administration, contributing to our understanding of presidential staff and organizational design. And, it surveys a wide range of domestic policies–employment, education, welfare reform, energy, health, and civil service reform–from a substantive and procedural perspective. . . . Ponder leaves the reader with ideas to consider and questions to investigate, encouraging a more thoughtful and nuanced approach to the presidential office and the presidency.” --Congress & the Presidency

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