The Failure of Foreign Policy Entrepreneurs in the Trump Administration

Research output: Non-textual / digital / web - outputsWeb publication/siteAcademic


One of the most important decisions a president will make soon after an election is what kind of relationship he/she will have with cabinet secretaries and agency heads. Will the president control weaker secretaries and agency supervisors or will the president give them greater autonomy, making them in effect policy entrepreneurs? For example, George H. W. Bush created a contractor presidency, one that subcontracted management to important officials, giving them considerable freedom. Yet when it came time to support initiatives, Bush did not spend any political capital in backing his policy entrepreneurs, which ultimately led to policy failure. Bush’s approach to government is informative because of its similarities with Donald J. Trump’s strategy in policy-making. Trump also created a contractor presidency, which handed over major policy making to important officials in his cabinet. Yet, at the same time, Trump prevented those same executives from building their own teams and further gave equivocal or even contradictory responses to their policy initiatives. Just as Bush’s unsupportive relationship with his policy entrepreneurs led to policy defeat, Trump’s contradicting connection with his policy entrepreneurs also resulted in policy failure.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAmerican Political Science Association Preprints
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2019


  • Donald J. Trump presidency, American Foreign Policy, contractor presidency, policy entrepreneurs, administrative presidency


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