Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration


Public Administration

Major Advisor

Jen Schneider, Ph.D.


Les Alm, Ph.D.


Luke Fowler, Ph.D.


In its broadest sense, presidential control encompasses all the actions, in both word and deed, whereby presidents “go it alone” to adopt policies in the absence of congressional will to do so, and sometimes directly contrary to it. This dissertation studies how President Obama used rhetorical and administrative tools of presidential control to address the “wicked problem” of climate change. The “administrative presidency” and the “rhetorical presidency” are familiar political science terms, but in the case of climate change policy, they appear to be moving policymaking in a new and perhaps profound direction, which this study refers to as “post-deliberative policymaking.” Applying these two areas of scholarship together to the wicked problem of climate change creates a helpful window through which to study how President Obama utilized administrative and rhetorical strategies and tools during his presidency. In particular, the study examines how he rhetorically constructed and rationalized his use of the Environmental Protection Agency to implement federal climate change regulations via the federal Clean Power Plan. Among the insights revealed by this analysis are how President Obama, in an age of acute political partisanship and polarization, positioned the role of the bureaucracy, how he invoked executive power, and what his actions reveal and may portend about executive views of democratic institutions and norms. This dissertation analyzes President Obama’s rhetoric through a study of his speeches from 2009 through 2015 that explicitly or implicitly reference climate change, greenhouse gases, and the Clean Power Plan, but also related topics, such as energy policy and climate agreements.