THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF POWER: Toward a Responsible Presidency by Walter F. Mondale

THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF POWER: Toward a Responsible Presidency

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A survey of desirable procedural reforms in the electoral process as well as needed structural reforms of the executive branch. Mondale, senior Senator from Minnesota, begins with the obstacles of running for the presidency which he discovered in his own aborted effort; he also observes that the kind of campaign laws he himself supported at the time make it harder, not easier, for third-party candidates, and promote a presidential aspirant's independence from his party. One of the book's strongest points is its emphasis on the undesirability of such independence, and the need to form party policy councils so that the other side can present a coherent opposition. On the subject of presidential accountability per se, Mondale says ""we should do everything possible to make the presidential lifestyle less isolating and less monarchical."" The hypertrophy of the presidential staff must be challenged, the Cabinet--traditionally bound by congressional approval and consultation--must regain ascendancy over and above that staff. Bodies like the Domestic Council which undermine elected officials' authority should be dissolved. In general, Congress should become more active in supervising and shaping foreign policy. In particular, Congress cannot permit presidential impoundment of funds appropriated by Congress in the Nixon manner which mocked the legislators' most fundamental role. Mondale's book has its moments of unintentional humor (""In our satisfaction over the presence in the White House of an individual who seems to have a healthy personality, we cannot forget the need to continue the institutional changes begun in recent years""). Most of all, he refrains from taking positions on matters of substance, as opposed to procedure; structural reforms cannot honestly be discussed without reference to the grave issues at hand. Yet this is a suggestive sketch and there can be no harm in reiterating the need for revived congressional responsibility.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1975
Publisher: McKay