Some political leadership styles are of a piece. Jimmy Carter's is a case in point. Both in the comments he privately jotted on the margins of memos from his aides and in his public discourse, Carter exhibited a common concern for detail and insistence on the correctness of his own positions. Other styles are layered, as in that of Dwight Eisenhower, whose apoliltical public demeanor concealed an analytically detached political sophisticate who obtained results by indirection (Greenstein 1982).
The political style of President Bill Clinton is neither unitary nor layered. It alternates. The tempest over whether Clinton was involved in a dalliance with a White House intern is a reminder of his tendency to oscillate between an uninhibited, anything-goes approach to leadership and a more measured operating mode in which he sets attainable goals and proceeds skillfully in his efforts to realize them.
The pattern is recurrent. After his election as governor of Arkansas in 1978, Clinton instituted a substantial increase in automobile licensing fees, peopled his administration with bearded political activists, and otherwise failed to conform to the political mores of his state. As a result, he was voted out of office two years later. He then spent the next two years stumping the state and promising to remedy his ways. He was returned to office, serving from 1983 to 1993 and establishing a reputation as a pragmatic and effective state executive (Maraniss 1995).