Date of Degree

2-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Political Science

Advisor(s)

Stanley Renshon

Subject Categories

Communication | Political Science | Public Administration

Keywords

civil servants, government spokespeople, government transparency, permanent campaign, political appointees, Treasury Department

Abstract

"The People Behind the Presidential Bully Pulpit" argues that civil servants best serve the interests of both the President of the United States and the American people as public affairs officers in the Department of the Treasury. Using interviews conducted with political appointees who served as Treasury spokespeople during the administrations of Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, civil servants who served in public affairs for the Treasury, and Treasury reporters who interacted frequently with the government officials, the study finds that civil servants better advance the goals of the President in the press than the political appointees personally selected by the President. This is the case because civil servants have greater knowledge of the policies they advocate and because reporters apply greater skepticism to the arguments of political appointees because reporters assume that appointees are always attempting to advance political agendas - a phenomenon this study calls the "appointee discount." While scholars have previously argued that presidents accept the lower competence of appointees in order to attain their greater loyalty, this study suggests that no such tradeoff exists. It finds that political appointees and civil servants leak information to the press that does not serve the interests of the President with roughly the same frequency. The study also finds that civil servants better serve the interests of the American people in such roles. The study finds that neither political appointees nor civil servants in the Treasury's public affairs department are conducting the "permanent campaign" to build support for the President that White House aides have been accused of practicing, by governing based upon public opinion polls and appealing to the emotions, as opposed to the reason, of the American people. However, political appointees are significantly more likely to withhold information requested by reporters than civil servants.

 
 

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