Or, in this week's big story, the Department of Defense. DADT repeal may have majority support out there in the country, and Obama wields unusually strong Constitutional powers with respect to the Pentagon (being Commander in Chief is a lot less useful when it comes to Justice or Agriculture). Still, the way Obama has handled repeal appears to be a perfect example of what Neustadtian persuasion, with the payoff being, first, the hearing yesterday, and then today's perfectly choreographed announcement by Colin Powell. Here's Andrew Sullivan and one of his readers, summarizing (and here's Mark Kleiman, all over this for some time now -- but he's wrong about Sullivan!). Time to quote Richard Neustadt, from Presidential Power:
Not only are these "last" resorts [i.e. governing by command] less than conclusive, but they are also costly. Even though the order is assured of execution, drastic action rarely comes at bargain rates. It can be costly to the aims in whose defense it is employed. It can be costly, also, to objectives far afield.Obama could have moved quickly to implement DADT repeal, using his Commander in Chief powers to push through statutory DADT. He probably had the authority to do so. But it would have been costly. It would have been costly to the rest of his goals for equality in those areas, such as the hate laws extension and the end of the HIV ban (..."in whose defense it is employed"). And it would have increased friction between the president and the Pentagon, probably making it harder to achieve goals such as his preferred Afghanistan policy, and procurement reform. And defeat on any of these items would have made the president look weak to Washingtonians, hurting him in each of the battles he will have to or will choose to fight (..."far afield").
Of course, DADT repeal isn't yet a fact, so we don't yet know whether Obama will emerge victorious on this one or not. But from what's been reported and from how things look so far, I think Richard Neustadt would be impressed at how the new president has handled this one.