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September 15, 2015
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v2.1 Reference

Rethinking the Administrative Presidency

Trust, Intellectual Capital, and Appointee-Careerist Relations in the George W. Bush Administration

Why do presidents face so many seemingly avoidable bureaucratic conflicts? And why do these clashes usually intensify toward the end of presidential administrations, when a commander-in-chief’s administrative goals tend to be more explicit and better aligned with their appointed leadership’s prerogatives? In Rethinking the Administrative Presidency, William G. Resh considers these complicated questions from an empirical perspective.

Relying on data drawn from surveys and interviews, Resh rigorously analyzes the argument that presidents typically start from a premise of distrust when they attempt to control federal agencies. Focusing specifically on the George W. Bush administration, Resh explains how a lack of trust can lead to harmful agency failure. He explores the extent to which the Bush administration was able to increase the reliability—and reduce the cost—of information to achieve its policy goals through administrative means during its second term.

Arguing that President Bush's use of the administrative presidency hindered trust between appointees and career executives to deter knowledge sharing throughout respective agencies, Resh also demonstrates that functional relationships between careerists and appointees help to advance robust policy. He employs a "joists vs. jigsaws" metaphor to stress his main point: that mutual support based on optimistic trust is a more effective managerial strategy than fragmentation founded on unsubstantiated distrust.

About the Author

William G. Resh is an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.


An original and valuable book that extends the literature on the administrative presidency. A must-read.

- Hal G. Rainey, The University of Georgia, author of Understanding and Managing Public Organizations

In this theoretically and empirically sophisticated book, Bill Resh makes important contributions to our understanding of the role of political appointees in advancing presidential policy agendas. His analysis demonstrates that political appointees who approach the career services with distrust will find distrust mirrored back to them. This mutual distrust will undermine the president’s ability to effectively implement administration priorities. Scholars will find Resh’s analysis illuminating, and practitioners will find his insights constructive.

- James P. Pfiffner, George Mason University, author of The Managerial Presidency

William Resh thinks deeply about how politicians try to control the bureaucracy and what effects these efforts have on government performance. In this innovative book, Resh argues that efforts by elected officials to politicize the bureaucracy reduce trust between appointees and career executives, hinder information sharing, and, ultimately, damage performance. There are few topics more central to democratic governance and with Resh’s work we have a fresh new and important take from a scholar with rare expertise and judgment.

- David E. Lewis, Vanderbilt University, author of The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance

Rethinking the Administrative Presidency constitutes a major scholarly contribution to the fields of bureaucratic and executive politics.  It advances a compelling thesis for understanding how public agencies are able to skillfully perform their administrative duties within a highly politicized executive branch environment.  Resh persuasively shows that both coherent and effective bureaucratic action ensues when the natural chasm that exists between political and career executives is occupied by a combination of interpersonal trust and positive organizational incentives.

- George A. Krause, University of Pittsburgh, author of A Two-Way Street: The Institutional Dynamics of the Modern Administrative State
Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins Studies in American Public Policy and Management
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9781421418490 : rethinking-the-administrative-presidency-resh
Paperback / softback
208 Pages
$44.95 USD

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