At the outset of a new administration, every president, whether incumbent or newly elected, faces management challenges unique to the executive branch: selecting and confirming staff, Cabinet members, and agency heads; establishing or renewing relations with Congress; and defining and then acting on an agenda. Newly reelected President Obama is no exception and faces any number of obstacles in his second term. What are the specific impediments to his success, and what might he do both as a leader and as head of the executive branch to move his second term agenda forward? Given that Republicans maintain control of the House and Democrats only have a slight edge in the Senate, what can be done to ensure executive branch effectiveness amid the continued challenges of divided government? What can a president hope to accomplish in an era of hyper-partisanship?
On November 28, Governance Studies at Brookings, as part of its Management and Leadership Initiative, hosted a forum on the various executive branch challenges facing the Obama administration in its second term. Discussion also centered on what defines presidential leadership, and how its manifestations reveal useful lessons for President Obama as he tackles a vast array of difficulties in his next term.