James Fallows, the former Carter speechwriter and current Atlantic magazine columnist, has written a couple of recent columns that use Richard Neustadt’s argument in his classic work Presidential Power to analyze Obama’s handling of health care. Fallows’ basic point is that Obama’s success in getting health care passed will increase his influence on subsequent legislative outcomes. I’m currently writing a longer post that responds in part to Fallows’ analysis, which I think overestimates Obama’s ability to influence the legislative process – a mistake that the media makes about presidents in general.
But I wanted to briefly note an interesting aspect of writing a blog in the internet age that became apparent because of Fallows’ column. In his most recent Neustadt-inspired analysis, Fallows cites, among other works, my co-edited volume (with Beth Neustadt) on Neustadt’s role as Guardian of the Presidency. He also links to my blog post dating back to President’s Day when I posted my annual tribute to Neustadt’s influence on the study of the presidency.
Whenever another widely read blog links to mine, I get a temporary uptick in readers, and it’s always interesting to see on which blog posts of mine they click. Not surprisingly, given Fallows’ large viewership, I had a larger than typical surge of hits over the last week. Naturally, I wondered which of my trenchant, incisive political analyses attracted the most attention. Was it my early claim that Obama would bring little change to presidential politics, particularly in foreign policy? My prescient pre-election forecast predicting who would win the presidency? My prediction of a continuation of partisanship, rather than the promise of bipartisanship on which Obama had campaigned?
No. By far the most popular post these first-time readers clicked on was my story about the census bureau “troll”. For reasons that I cannot quite fathom, readers of the UziTalk Forum dealing with – yes – Uzi submachine guns apparently found my post particularly interesting. There were 32 hits from this forum alone in the span of a day. Keep in mind that the typical post on the Uzi Forum goes something like this: “Do any of you guys have experiences with Hi-Desert Dog besides the one in this thread? I’m about to spend some $$$ on him for a Sig conversion with threaded barrel, and want to have some more barrels threaded at the same time. Any input is appreciated.”
The internets is a strange world.
Tomorrow I’ll explain why the media’s analyses of Obama’s role in passing health care legislation perpetuate a common misreading of presidential power.