The Presidency: Dictating the Agenda

"That's 85% indigestion," one Congressman japed as the mess boys carried trays of drinks and hors d'oeuvres through the White House State Dining Room. But none of the Republicans and Southern Democrats present could find fault with the host's mood. Richard Nixon could barely contain his exuberance. "It's great," the President said. "I'm glad there are so many members [of the House] who think the welfare of the country comes first."

It was a rare festivity. Presidents have been known to celebrate the passage of a cherished piece of legislation; Nixon celebrated a...

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