Klein refers to Richard Neustadt, however, and I do want to clarify Neustadt's idea of presidential persuasion. It's not, or at least not primarily, about what Klein describes as Washington's idea of persuasion, which is "taking strong positions, giving speeches, getting out on the campaign trail and forcefully making your case." I think a nice long quote from Neustadt is in order:
The separateness of institutions and the sharing of authority prescribe the terms on which a President persuades. When one man shares authority with another, but does not gain or lose his job upon the other's whim, his willingness to act upon the urging of the other turns on whether he conceives the action right for him. The essence of a President's persuasive task is to convince such men that what the White House wants of them is what they ought to do for their sake and on their authority...OK, what does that all mean? For Neustadt, "persuasion" is about transactions; it's about bargaining, in which the president has considerable advantages. It is not, and certainly not primarily, about what he calls "charm and reasoned argument." It's not, that is, about convincing anyone to agree about some subject; it's about convincing others to agree to do something, generally because he can align their self-interest with doing so. In order to do that, presidents may try using "charm and reasoned argument." They may try using what Neustadt calls status; Newt Gingrich, reportedly, used to go all weak in the knees when he stepped into the Oval Office. But most of all, for Neustadt, a president can use his "vantage points" -- the many, many, bargaining chips that the modern presidency give him.
Persuasive power, thus defined, amounts to more than charm or reasoned argument. These have their uses for a President, but these are not the whole of his resources. For the individuals he would induce to do what he wants done on their responsibility will need or fear some actds by him on his responsibility. If they share in his authority, he has some share in theirs. Presidential "powers" may be inconclusive when a President commands, but always remain relevant as he persuades...
A President's authority and status give him great advantages in dealing with the men he would persuade. Each "power" is a vantage point for him in the degree that other men have use for his authority. From the veto to appointments, from publicity to budgeting, and so down a long list, the White House now controls the most encompassing array of vantage points in the American political system. With hardly an exception, those who share in governing this country are aware that at some time, in some degree, the doing of their jobs, the furthering of their ambitions, may depend on the President of the United States. [His emphasis]
Note too that it's transactions between Washingtonians. Constituents aren't irrelevant; they have interests, and all Washingtonians with constituents must try to represent those interests, and presidents can use that to their advantage. Constituents, too, may like or dislike the president, and if a Member of Congress knows that the president is popular in her district, or an interest group leader knows the president is popular with the membership, she may be more disposed to go along with what he wants (what Neustadt calls "leeway"). Figuring out how to do that in a polarized era, in which many Republican Members believe that their constituents will on principle hate any deal with the Kenyan socialist president, is certainly a challenge that Eisenhower and Truman never had to deal with. There is, to be sure, plenty of room for argument about how well Barack Obama is handling that particular challenge.
But as far as "giving speeches, getting out on the campaign trail and forcefully making your case" is concerned: that's not persuasion as Neustadt understands it. His political system (and he's of course writing in the late 1950s) doesn't feature constituents who pay attention to such things, and if they don't pay attention they aren't going to be convinced of the president's views, and they aren't going to put pressure on their representatives to go along.
Of course, presidents have in fact done what political scientists call "going public" -- trying to win arguments in Washington by enlisting ordinary citizens. There's some evidence that, at least in some circumstances, it can work. In my view, however, it's unlikely to be anything more than, at best, a small additional weapon in a president's arsenal. Which is basically what Klein argued in his post.
Either way, however, I think it is important to remember that Neustadt's "persuasion" wasn't about convincing people who think one thing about public policy to reconsider and decide to think something else. It's about finding ways to maneuver their self-interest so that they'll agree to do what the president wants them to do, with as little cost to the president as possible. Skill in doing so, for Neustadt, both makes a president powerful and, as a side-benefit, produces good public policy. So it's terribly important that presidents realize what game they're playing, and get really good at it.