Andrew Rudalevige

Mar 17, 2022

By Executive Order

Bureaucratic Management and the Limits of Presidential Power

Princeton University Press 2021

Andrew Rudalevige, the Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government at Bowdoin College, has a new book that examines the processes that transpires in the generation of executive orders—noting that the process itself is not simply done with the stroke of a pen. Rudalevige, an expert on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Executive Branch, started to pursue this particular research project as a result of some archival work he was doing at OMB. Because executive orders go through OMB, Rudalevige came upon decades of files of different proposed executive orders in his work on the Office of Management and Budget; and what seemed like a kind of side project became an extensive, quantitative, and qualitative study of the process that gives birth to an executive order or that may eventually kill an executive order. 

By Executive Order: Bureaucratic Management and the Limits of Presidential Power (Princeton UP, 2021) traces the process that brings together different voices from within the Executive Branch on the substance that becomes the executive order itself. The research is also situated in the context of a more and more gridlocked Congress, with one president after another finding themselves frustrated in their efforts to implement their agendas.

One in five executive orders are not issued. Those that are not issued are generally not random. But the process of advocating or pushing back on a potential order is complex and often involves a host of different agencies bargaining with teach other and with OMB and the president. This window into the process gives us significant insight into bureaucratic politics at the national level. This is also a reflection on how the White House and the bureaucracy work—can a president get something done from his perch in the Oval Office, or do particular agencies have jurisdiction and the capacity to move policy and ideas forward within the scope of established law and regulation? This is all explored in By Executive Order: Bureaucratic Management and the Limits of Presidential Power, which is a fascinating look behind the scenes at how presidents and the bureaucracy interact.

Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). Email her comments at lgoren@carrollu.edu or tweet to @gorenlj.

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Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI.

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