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Senator Obama – Meet The Big Man: President Obama!

“The notion that as a consequence of that authorization, the president can continue down a failed path without any constraints from Congress whatsoever is wrong and is not warranted by our Constitution,”Remarks in 2007 by Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama criticizing President Bush’s decision to increase U.S. military forces in Iraq based on a 2001 congressional authorization.

If we gauge a president’s success by his ability to achieve campaign promises, there is no doubt that in foreign policy President Obama has fallen far short of the mark. As research by Middlebury College student Danny Zhang of presidential candidate Obama’s public remarks reminds us, Obama’s foreign policy agenda included two fundamental tenets: he would wind down U.S. military involvement in Iraq, and he would return to a more collaborative and bipartisanship conduct of foreign affairs – one more nearly in accord with the Constitution.

Arguably neither tenet has been met. It is now clear that Obama will almost certainly bequeath to his successor an anti-terror military campaign in Iraq and Syria intended to destroy the Islamic State (IS) that even the most optimistic projections suggest will last years, and with uncertain odds of success.  And rather than consult with Congress, Obama has justified his current air campaign against IS on the Bush-era 2001 authorization by Congress to use military force against terrorists who attacked the United States – the very premise he rejected on the presidential campaign trail while a U.S. Senator.

It is tempting to conclude from this record that candidate Obama was naive, if not duplicitous. But I have no doubt that he sincerely believed his rhetoric – as did most of those who voted for him. He likely did believe that, as he indicated to the Boston Globe “[t]he President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” As I have often said, however, governing is far different than campaigning. The reason why President Obama’s foreign policy seems to have largely followed his predecessor’s blueprint is because the nature of the strategic threats to the United States has not changed across the two presidencies. Nor has the president’s constitutionally-based responsibility to protect the nation from attack. That combination of similar threats and a shared vantage point made it almost certain that President Obama’s foreign policy would not deviate markedly from George W. Bush’s – a point some of us have made before.

Indeed, arguably Obama’s biggest foreign policy mistake occurred when he did try to deviate from his predecessor’s blueprint by ordering a full U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq. One can debate what precipitated the U.S. troop pullout; Obama’s supporters insist that Iraqi leader al-Maliki was unwilling to allow U.S. forces to remain under a strategy of force agreement that protected U.S. soldiers. More generally, as Obama argued in his recent 60 Minutes interview, it may be that the decision to withdraw was sound, but that the Iraqis then squandered the opportunity the U.S. left them: “When we left, we had left them a democracy that was intact, a military that was well equipped, and the ability then to chart their own course. And that opportunity was squandered over the course of five years or so because the prime minister, Maliki, was much more interested in consolidating his Shiite base.”

However, Obama’s former CIA director Leon Panetta is the latest ex-administration member to suggest Obama made little effort to overcome al-Maliki’s resistance to retaining a small U.S. military force in Iraq in order to stabilize the regime and provide security against terrorist attacks. In excerpts from his soon to be released book Worthy Fights, Panetta writes, “Those on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.”

Whatever the explanation, the reality now is that the U.S. is once again engaged in a military conflict in Iraq and Syria of indeterminate length and uncertain success. And, like his predecessor’s Iraqi war effort, Obama is trying to create an international “coalition of the willing” to help defeat IS. To date, however, the largely U.S.-led campaign of targeted air strikes has not appeared to have had much success in rolling back IS’s territorial gains. That leaves open the possibility that at some point the U.S. may have to increase its troop commitment beyond the nearly 2,000 now stationed in Iraq if Obama’s war aims are to be reached – a troop increase that many military experts suggest is inevitable.

Nor has President Obama appeared to heed candidate Obama’s advice, as exemplified in the opening quote to this piece, to conduct foreign policy in a more collaborative, bipartisan and constitutionally-acceptable manner. In fact, as noted above, Obama has cited the Bush-era authorization of military force as the legal basis for the current bombing campaign against IS. Critics contend that this smacks of presidential imperialism. In truth, however, Obama’s actions are consistent with those of his predecessors’, almost all of whom have sought to protect the presidency’s ability to fulfill its constitutional prerogative to defend the nation from attack. As Madison argues in Federalist 51, this effort to defend the presidency as an institution is both expected and desirable: “But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.” Under Madison’s reasoning, it is Congress’ role to push back against this assertion by Obama of prerogative power.  However, as I noted in this previous post, many congressional Republicans are applauding Obama’s newfound militarism while most Democrats do not want to take on their own president heading into a midterm election.

We should not be surprised, then, that as President, Obama more closely resembles President George W. Bush than he does Senator or candidate Obama. In the modern era, the United States – as the sole superpower – no longer has the luxury of choosing whether to take the lead in foreign affairs. That is a burden that cannot be removed, no matter how much Americans may yearn for – and candidates may promise – a return to normalcy. And the President, as the embodiment of national sovereignty, simply cannot delegate this leadership role to any other political actor.

In his study of American government Woodrow Wilson wrote, “The President is at liberty, both in law and in conscience, to be as big a man as he can.” In the modern era, however, as presidency scholar Richard Neustadt reminds us – and as President Obama has discovered – the president “nowadays cannot be as small as he might like.”

Senator Obama – meet the big man: President Obama.

Bombing ISIS: A New Imperial Presidency?

“The Constitution,” the eminent political scientist Edward Corwin famously declared, “is an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy.” I was reminded of Corwin’s assessment when reading Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman’s recent New York Times op ed piece, in which Ackerman castigates President Obama’s justification for his decision to  initiate military action designed to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State (ISIS). For Ackerman, Obama’s willingness to authorize air strikes without congressional approval smacks of “imperial hubris”, and “marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition.”

It does nothing of the sort, of course. To be sure, Ackerman makes a compelling case that the Obama administration’s use of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as the basis for taking military action against ISIS (and more recently against the Khorasan terrorist group as well) stretches credulity. The 2001 AUMF, you will recall, is the joint resolution passed by Congress in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks that authorized “the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.” As Ackerman persuasively argues, “[I]t’s preposterous to suggest that a congressional vote 13 years ago can be used to legalize new bombings in Syria and additional (noncombat) forces in Iraq…. Not only was ISIS created long after 2001, but Al Qaeda publicly disavowed it earlier this year. It is Al Qaeda’s competitor, not its affiliate.” Presumably Ackerman would also dismiss administration attempts to utilize the 2002 joint congressional resolution that authorized the president to “use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” as an additional justification for bombing ISIS.

But Ackerman’s legal objections miss the point. The question is not whether a close textual reading of the 2001 or 2002 congressional resolutions support their use as the legal basis for airstrikes against ISIS – it is whether the Obama administration has the political support to make the case that they do. In short, the debate is over whether the public, as channeled through their elected representatives, supports Obama’s course of action – bombing ISIS – and not as Ackerman would have it, over Obama’s justification for his course of action. And this is exactly Corwin’s point. In a constitutional system in which foreign policy powers are shared, the relative effective influence exercised by the President and Congress in the foreign policy domain depends on how well each can enlist public support, as channeled through elected officials, for their preferred course of action. The Constitution, and subsequent statutes, only sets the parameters of this debate – it doesn’t determine the winner. This is why the Courts historically have refused to adjudicate conflicts between the two branches regarding the extent of the President’s war making powers, and why the War Powers resolution – beyond its notification requirements – has been of little help in resolving these disputes. Historically, Congress and presidents have differed over when, and whether, the War Powers resolution is applicable but neither side has so far been willing to precipitate a constitutional crisis by pushing their interpretation to the limit.

In determining who has the stronger case, then, regarding whether Obama can unilaterally authorize bombing ISIS, we would do well to spend less time parsing the wording of the Constitution and related texts, and focus instead on the politics of the matter. And politically, at this point, the evidence suggests that Obama’s interpretation will prevail – at least for now. This is because in the wake of the highly-publicized beheadings by ISIS of journalists, opinion polls show broad public support among Democrats, Republicans and Independents for targeted air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Given prevailing public opinion, it is unlikely that many members of Congress who are facing midterm elections in November are going to want an immediate debate regarding Obama’s authority to conduct airstrikes. Indeed, most Republicans who object to Obama’s strategy do so not because they oppose air strikes, but because they believe air strikes alone are not likely to achieve Obama’s stated objectives. Yes, there is some background grumbling among legislators regarding Obama’s willingness to act alone, but that grumbling is likely to remain muted until the results of the midterms are known.

At that point, however, if Republicans regain control of the Senate in November, and pad their current House majority, I have little doubt that they will use those political gains as leverage in order to force Obama to seek congressional support for continued military action – particularly if air strikes alone have not achieved their objectives. However, current polling suggests that any post-midterm Republican efforts to push Obama to widen U.S. involvement, including introducing “boots on the ground” against ISIS – an action that, so far, Obama has vowed not to take – may lack public backing. This may set up an interesting public debate regarding how much military involvement the public is willing to support in order to achieve Obama’s stated military objective of defeating ISIS.  Again, that debate is likely to turn on the politics of the issues – not legal interpretations of the President’s war-making authority.

My broader point is that too often pundits, and some of my political science colleagues as well, view unilateral presidential action as evidence of presidential imperialism or an imbalance of constitutional and statutory powers, when in truth it reflects congressional acquiescence, or even tacit support, for the president’s actions. Typically Congress does not acquiesce because its members have been cowed, or lack the requisite political authority to block the President. Members acquiesce because they think the President has the better argument, politically speaking. Moreover, despite all the talk about his predecessor’s allegedly imperial conduct, the fact is that George W. Bush sought, and received, congressional authorization for both the wars he initiated in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Rather than “a devastating setback for our constitutional order”, as Ackerman claims, Obama’s decision to move forward with military strikes while asking for Congressional support is in perfect keeping with our system of shared powers, and it reaffirms Corwin’s basic point. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, but when it comes to foreign policy the interpretation of that law is ultimately determined not by a close parsing of the constitutional text, or related statute, but by the effort of elected representatives to muster public support for their preferred foreign policy objective. In that ongoing struggle, the President, as a single actor, has certain advantages, including the ability, as Hamilton noted long ago, to act with “secrecy and despatch”. But history shows that Congress, if it musters the political will, has more than enough powers to bring any president to heel. Whether it will do so in this case depends in large part on what legislators hear from voters come November.

Pardon Me, Mr. President

In this week’s trip on the Wayback Machine, we commemorate an anniversary that went largely unnoticed last week in the media focus on Obama’s foreign policy: Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon. Forty years ago from last Monday, Ford issued the following proclamation granting a “full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed” during his time as President:

As Ford noted in his proclamation, he believed developing a case against the former President and bringing him to trial on civil charges would prove to be a prolonged and divisive spectacle that would delay the nation’s ability to heal the wounds inflicted by the Watergate scandal. Ford also thought Nixon, by being forced to resign, had already paid a steep price for his crimes. In his aptly titled memoir A Time To Heal, Ford recalls that he was surprised that the first question at his initial press conference as President “dealt with whether or not I thought Nixon should have immunity from prosecution.” Follow up questions were variations on the same theme. Ford, expressing disappointment that the reporters seemed uninterested in anything else, quickly realized that Nixon’s legal status would be front and center until it was resolved and that adjudicating Nixon’s guilt in a civil trial would likely be a very lengthy process lasting more than a year. “The story,” Ford concluded, “would overshadow everything else. No other issue could compete with the drama of a former president trying to stay out of jail.” And so, after consulting with five of his closest aides, Ford decided to issue the pardon. “The hate had to be drained and the healing begun.” Here is his address explaining the pardon decision:

Not everyone accepted Ford’s explanation. His press secretary Jerry terHorst resigned in protest, the most visible symbol of a vehement public backlash that Ford confessed he failed to fully anticipate. Most notably, critics suggested there was a secret deal in which Nixon agreed to resign on Ford’s promise to issue the pardon. And, in fact, Nixon aide Alexander Haig had presented Ford with a document describing the pardon power and another blank pardon form.  Both later denied that any discussion of a deal took place, but the perception that one occurred damaged Ford’s political standing.  His approval rating, as measured in Gallup polls, dropped from 71% before the pardon to 49% after it was granted.

How much of a long-term political price Ford paid for the pardon remains a matter of speculation. In the aftermath of Watergate, and with a poor economy, he was already facing a stiff headwind as he sought reelection in 1976. Early polls showed Ford trailing his opponent, Jimmy Carter, by more than 20%, and Carter was quick to bring up the Nixon pardon during their presidential debates. Polls suggested that the pardon remained an important issue for many voters – but so did an economy plagued by both slow growth and inflation. In the end, although Ford was able to close the gap with Carter (a final Gallup poll actually showed Ford ahead 47%-46%), he lost a very closely contested contest; Carter won 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 240 and took the popular vote by 50%-48%.

In his memoirs, Ford begins his post-election chapter by asking, “What if I hadn’t pardoned Nixon?” – the first, and probably most significant, of several “what ifs” he lists that might have turned the election. However, throughout his post-presidential life he steadfastly refused to express any regret over his decision. And, over time, many who first criticized the decision came to agree with Ford that the pardon was the right thing to do.

In 2001, a bipartisan panel awarded Ford the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for his decision to pardon Nixon. In his acceptance speech Ford noted, “President Kennedy understood that courage is not something to be gauged in a poll or located in a focus group. No advisor can spin it. No historian can backdate it. For, in the age-old contest between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity’s approval.” When deciding to pardon Nixon, it is clear Ford thought it was the right thing to do for the health of the nation. But, while he understood he would pay a political price, it is not clear to me that he fully grasped the potential impact of pardoning Nixon on his presidential reelection chances. Would Ford have pardoned Nixon if he knew with certainty that it would cost him reelection?  When he was sworn in as Nixon’s Vice President, Ford famously remarked, “I am a Ford. Not a Lincoln.” But I am not sure even Lincoln, in a similar situation, could answer that question.

It is fitting, I think, that we give Ford the last word – here is his speech (click here) accepting the Profile in Courage Award and once again defending his decision to pardon Nixon.

 

About Those Senate Forecasts

I’m up today at U.S News (see here) trying to make sense of the variation in the more quantitatively-driven Senate forecasts that are popping up.  At first glance they seem all over the map, running the gamut from the Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang’s optimistic 75% probability that Democrats will retain a majority on November 4th to the more pessimistic mid-30% probabilities projected by the New York Times and FiveThirtyEight.  Here are the projections at six of the sites as of last Friday – the percentage is their assessment of the probability that Democrats will retain control of the Senate:

DailyKos 56%
Five Thirty Eight 36%
Huffington Post 55%
New York Times 38%
Princeton Election Consortium 75%
Washington Post 47%

As I argue in my US News post, however, there is an underlying pattern to this seemingly disparate set of projections.  The projections that are purely poll driven (the bold-faced forecasters above) are much more optimistic regarding the Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate than are those forecasts that include some structural component into their model, such as Obama’s approval ratings, or a measure of economic performance or a generic party preference.   It’s too early to say which type of forecast model will prove more accurate – my guess is that they will converge as we get closer to election day.  See my US News post for a more detailed discussion.

As I noted to those of you who are on my email distribution list, with classes starting today, the frequency of my posting is likely to go down a bit.  Moreover, I’ll be depending a bit more on you to flag interesting items about which you will want me to post.  So keep those suggestions coming!

 

 

Obama, Carter and the Problem of National Security Leaks

This weekend the WayBack machine takes us to 1979 and an inside look at archival documents from Jimmy Carter’s White House during a particularly volatile time in his presidency, when he struggled to deal with the fall of the Iranian government under the Shah Pahlevi – a situation not dissimilar to what President Obama is confronting in Syria and Iraq today. As you will see in the document below, Carter’s difficulties were exacerbated by divisions within his own administration regarding the proper strategy to follow in dealing with the Iranian Revolution – and the willingness of his Iranian experts, particularly in the State Department, to use media leaks to force policy in their preferred direction.

As always, some background is in order. Beginning in late 1978 into 1979, Iran was in the throes of revolution against the repressive regime of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlevi. Although Carter had taken office in 1977 promising to push human rights on a global basis, for geopolitical reasons the President valued the Shah’s leadership despite his authoritarian ways. Iran generally had good relation with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and it had provided oil to Israel at a time of the Arab boycott. And, not least, Iran shared a 1,500-mile border with the Soviet Union which appeared increasingly willing to flex its foreign policy muscles. (Recall that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan at the end of 1979).

For all these reasons, despite growing civil unrest in Iran, Carter was initially eager to see the Shah remain in power, backed by the Iranian military. In a trip to Iran at the end of 1977, Carter toasted the Shah, and called Iran “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” But as it became clear a year later that the Shah was losing control, and that some of the opposition to his regime was beginning to coalesce behind the radical exiled cleric the Ayatollah Khomeini, Carter faced a dilemma – one not dissimilar to what Obama faces today in Syria and Iran – regarding how deeply to become involved in Iranian domestic affairs. Should he go all in to prop up the Shah in the hope that the autocratic leader, with military support, could lead a transition to a more moderate and democratic government? Should he allow (or even implicitly suggest to) the Shah to crack down on the dissidents? Or should he leave Iran to its own affairs, and risk watching the strategically-situated nation fall under the control of Khomeini and his clerical supporters, with uncertain consequences?

It didn’t help that his advisers were split on the issue. William Sullivan was Carter’s Ambassador to Iran at the time, and although he initially advocated backing the Shah, by November 1978 he was pushing Carter to force the Shah to negotiate with opposition leaders. By the end of the year, despite the Shah’s effort to mollify the opposition by establishing a civilian government that actually had some power, it was increasingly clear that he had to step down. The Shah was reluctant to do so, however, and at the end of 1978 he appointed a relative moderate, Shahpour Bakhtiar, as Prime Minister. Bakhtiar, hoping to shore up his support with the opposition, immediately called for the Shah to leave Iran. The Shah argued that he should do so on his own timetable and Carter agreed, hoping to gain time for Bakhtiar, backed by the Iranian military, to solidify his position. However, at this point Ambassador Sullivan advocated a more complete break with the Shah, and an effort to open up a direct dialogue with the exiled Khomeini.

Carter began suspecting, as he notes in his memoirs Keeping Faith, “deviations within the State Department from my policy of backing the Shah while he struggled to establish a successor government.” As a result, and with the backing of his Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, Carter sent a military envoy, General Robert Huyser to Iran, ostensibly to keep Carter informed regarding Iran’s military needs. Eventually Carter asked his Secretary of State Cy Vance to remove Sullivan, but Vance convinced him Sullivan’s withdrawal would further destabilize the situation in Iran. However, Carter no longer trusted Sullivan to support the President’s policies and he increasingly relied on Huyser as his source of information and conduit to the Iranian government. Moreover, he was backed in his efforts to prop up the Shah by his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski (you know – Mika’s dad). In his memoirs Power and Principle, Brzezinki argues that once the Iranian crisis “had become a contest of will and power, advocacy of compromise and conciliation simply played into the hands of those determined to effect a complete revolution.” This hard-line message, he suggests, was not adequately conveyed by the State Department.

At this point, with unrest growing, the Shah finally left Iran and, on February 1, Khomeini flew into Teheran, while Bakhtier struggled – ultimately unsuccessfully – to retain some authority. With the country seemingly on the brink of civil war Carter brought Huyser back to the White House to brief him on the situation, where Huyser informed the President that Sullivan’s interpretation of American policy differed greatly from Huyser’s. In his memoirs, Carter writes that after meeting with Huyser, “I became even more disturbed at the apparent reluctance in the State Department to carry out my directives fully and with enthusiasm.”

He was not the only one. On February 6, 1979, Carter’s chief White House aide Hamilton Jordan drafted this confidential “eyes only” memorandum for the President. As you can see, Jordan expresses his anger, particularly at State Department officials, for “this malicious leaking [that] continues at great cost to our country and to your administration.” Jordan goes on to recommend that Carter meet directly with State Department officials to warn them that unless the leaking stops, there will be repercussions. Toward this end Jordan concludes the memo with this: “[Y]ou should avoid saying anything that is positive—the entire focus of the meeting should be on your displeasure with them collectively, leaving the strong impression that their jobs are at stake.”

jordan leaks(1)

jordan leaks(2)

Carter took Jordan’s advice. In his memoirs he recalls asking the State Department Iranian desk officers and others to come to the White House. There Carter “laid down the law to them as strongly as I knew how…There had been a stream of news stories in Washington, seeming to originate with those who opposed my judgment that we should give our support to the Shah, to the military leaders, and later to Bakhtiar. I told them that if they could not support what I decided, their only alternative was to resign….I….repeated that they would have to be loyal to me or resign.”

The dispute of how to deal with the Shah was just one clash of many between Carter’s State Department under Cy Vance and Brzezinski’s  national security team. Vance eventually resigned in protest over Carter’s decision to attempt a secret mission to rescue Americans held hostage by the Khomeini-led Iranian government – a mission that Brzezinski not only backed, but which he wanted combined with a retaliatory military strike.

In Carter’s diary entry from Feb. 7 (as reprinted in his memoirs) the President placed part of the blame for the differences between State Department and NSC officials on the news media which “constantly aggravate the inevitable differences and competition between the two groups.” But the differences run deeper than a media-driven effort to fan the flames of controversy. They reflect an ongoing tension between a president’s need for expertise and his desire for loyalty. To fully reap the benefits of aides’ expertise, presidents must give those specialists the freedom to disagree, and to propose and actively argue for policies that a president may oppose. Of course, it is the case that many specialists well-versed in their field and who truly believe that their advice is in the best interests of the nation are going use multiple tactics to make sure that message is heard by decisionmakers – including selective leaking via the press. And just as inevitably, presidents and their closest White House advisers are going to see these leaks as signs of disloyalty. In the end, when faced with dueling recommendations, presidents typically choose loyalty over expertise. It is one reason why, as I’ve discussed previously in this post regarding Hillary Clinton’s nomination as Secretary of State, that over time presidents tend to rely more on their NSC staff, and often grow increasingly skeptical of the advice they get from State.  For presidents, the foreign policy establishment often seems more sympathetic to the interests of the countries in which they are stationed than they are to the president’s perspective.

However, to the extent that efforts to stifle leaks and close ranks cuts presidents off from contrary advice, it is a tendency that should be resisted – even if it means tolerating public reports of internal dissension. I have no doubt that we are seeing this type of selective leaking by foreign policy experts within the Obama administration now, as Obama struggles to fashion a policy for fighting the Islamic State and for dealing with civil unrest and war in both Iraq and Syria. And Obama appears no happier about it than Carter did.  Of course, journalists have been complaining for some time that the Obama administration’s efforts to prosecute leakers is having a chilling effect on investigative journalism. Such arguments, coming from journalists, are unlikely to exercise much sway with the President, particularly when the administration feels these national security leaks break the law.

I would argue, however, that even efforts like Carter’s that fall short of legal prosecution, but nonetheless are designed to tamp down dissent, are potentially costly for the President.  The reason is that they run the risk of reducing the willingness of specialists to convey advice that the President and his closest aides are not initially inclined to hear.  Sometimes those specialists can’t be sure that their advice is reaching the President, and hence they use alternative channels, including the media, to make certain their views are known and to encourage a more robust debate regarding policy options.  Understandably, the President hopes to keep that dissent in house, in order to provide a united front to the public and other audiences who are watching for signs regarding what the President will do. Just as understandably, specialists – particularly those who feel cut out of the decisionmaking process – may choose to make their views known through alternative means.

No president likes dissent, particularly when it is expressed through media leaks. In his memo to the President, Jordan asserts, “I … doubt if any President has ever had more people in policy positions at the State Department whose views differ from yours on critical issues and who feel free to fight their policy battles through the media.”  I’m willing to guess that, contrary to Jordan’s claim, almost every president in the modern era feels they confront the most damaging leaks.  But those leaks are the inevitable byproduct of governing in a system in which political actors, responding to their own incentives and from different vantage points, must collaborate to make policy, and presidents should accept them as the cost for encouraging productive debate.