The president today is arguably more of a manager than ever before, overseeing thousands of staffers and millions of bureaucrats. Sure, the president generally sets the White House’s agenda, chooses many of the individuals tasked with achieving it and ultimately serves as what George W. Bush called The Decider. (Or, if you prefer, as Harry Truman suggested, the president remains where the buck stops.) But what they are not is deeply involved in the minutiae of the policy proposals they attempt to get through Congress, or even many of the unilateral policy actions such as executive orders, signing statements and memoranda that the White House routinely issues.
Instead, a great deal of what is included in these bills and actions comes not only from the president’s chosen advisers, but also from relevant government agencies, think tanks, private industry and previous versions of failed legislation.
In fact, research I’ve conducted with José Villalobos and Julia Azari shows that when the president stresses the influence that bureaucrats and policy experts have had on a policy the White House is pushing, the legislation is more likely to pass than if they instead emphasize that a bill is a priority of the president, that it is something popular with the public, or even that the bill is the result of bipartisan cooperation.
A number of think tankers are very concerned about a Trump presidency because it appears that he would not rely as much on think tanks and think tankers compared to past presidents, the current president, and other possible future presidents such as Hillary Clinton.
Richard Reeves, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution expresses those exact concerns here. A scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that everyone is turning to Google to find out about Trump's new team.
As Jack Caravelli recently reminded us, competition for the president's attention is keen, particularly in a city like Washington, DC that is full of think tanks.
Of course, think tanks have been bashing Mr. Trump for months, so it is no surprise that there may be some tension.