A: INTRODUCTION WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT FOR A DAY?
A: INTRODUCTION The underlying assumption of the question is that presidents enjoy extraordinary power and discretion in American politics and that if you were president, then you could do anything. The mythology of American politics holds a special place for the office of the presidency. Certainly when someone is elected to the presidency there is an awareness that the same office was occupied by Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. This realization must make the new occupant marvel at the potential for leadership in the office.
A: INTRODUCTION Just as the presidency holds a special place in American myth making, the presidency holds a special place in contemporary politics. In American politics the president fulfills both the ceremonial functions of head of state as well as official functions of head of government.
A: INTRODUCTION The president is the figurehead of the govt., both internally and in international affairs. But the president is also the most influential policy maker in American politics.
A: INTRODUCTION This dual symbolic and governing role is a great source of power for contemporary presidents who seek to convert their popular appeal, media coverage, and symbolic roles into political advantage. But the presidency – constitutionally speaking – is not an office endowed with a great number of resources. This is a fundamental paradox of the office: there is the potential for strong leadership, but quite frequently presidents find themselves constrained in their actions.
A: INTRODUCTION Those occupants impressed by the examples of Washington, Lincoln and FDR should be reminded of other examples. Not all presidents are great or even good. For every GW, AL or FDR there are: – Buchanan – Hoover – Pierce – Fillmore – Bush (first) – Bush (second) – Grant – **These presidents had largely lost the confidence of many Americans by the end of their presidencies.
A: INTRODUCTION For every one of those great and successful presidents, there are at least as many examples of presidents who despite notable political successes were hampered by scandals that brought some amount of disgrace on themselves and the their office: – Nixon – Reagan – Clinton
A: INTRODUCTION Presidents are constrained by constitutional and political factors as well as personal shortcomings and misjudgements. Despite our mythology, success, failure and scandal are all part of the political history of the American presidency. The opportunities for presidential leadership are great but the potential for failure looms as well.
The promise in and constraints on the presidency were born of an ambivalence among the Founding Fathers regarding executive power. Constraints on presidential action are no accident; they are – rather, they reflect – the experiences that many Americans of the founding period had had with strong executives.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY Colonial experiences with both the king of England and with many of the royally appt. governors of the colonies left many Americans of the founding era with considerable qualms about strong executives.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY Still, the relatively weak executive powers of the critical period under the AofC served as a signal to many of the framers of the Const., that effective governance required a stronger executive.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCT Situated between the revolutionary distrust of executive power and the critical period’s growing understanding that executive power was necessary, came a presidency that the framers intended to be: – Effective but not overpowering – Independent but not out of control – Dependent upon Congress for many actions but not servile to the legislative branch
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY Out of this debate over the presidency arose a number of key questions: – How many people should constitute the executive branch? – For how long should presidents serve? – To what extent would the president be independent of other branches, most notably the Congress – What powers could safely be trusted to the president?
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY Like most of the formal institutions of govt., serious thought regarding these questions are found in the Federalists’ writings in favor of ratification of the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton wrote most of the essays dealing with the presidency/executive branch.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY In The Federalist, No. 70, AH argued: “The ingredients which constitute energy in the executive are unity; duration; an adequate provision for its support; and competent powers.”
B; THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY AH defended the power of the presidency in several essays. He emphasized the importance of presidential “independence” from Congress and providing the president with sufficient powers. To examine the broad outlines of the presidency we should focus in on AH’s concern for “unity in the executive” and proper duration of the presidential term.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY AH’s call for “unity” in the executive branch is reflective of our principle of politics regarding the problems associated with collective action. AH makes the case for unified rather than collective action: “That unity is conducive to energy will not be disputed. Decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number; and in proportion as the number is increased, these qualities will be diminished.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY The Framers wanted an influential chief executive who could make decisions quickly. Still, many of the Framers, AH among them, were uncomfortable with the idea of popular control of the presidency. Thus, they sought to “remove” the president from popular control. AH’s considerations regarding the term of the president is enlightening as to the Framers’ visions of the role the president should play in American politics. AH was passionate in his defense of the undemocratic side of the presidency:
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY “The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they entrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion or to every transient impulse … It is a just observation that the people commonly INTEND the PUBLIC GOOD … They know from experience that they sometimes err … When occasions present themselves in which the interest in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the person whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests to withstand the temporary delusions in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.”
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY The framers hoped to insulate the president from popular control. Thus, they settled in on a four-year term for the presidency believing it provided the right balance of responsiveness to and independence from popular sentiment.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY According to AH, in The Federalist No. 71, “a duration of four years will contribute to the firmness of the executive in a sufficient degree” while “it is not long enough to justify any alarm for the public liberty.”
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY The suspicion of popular control extended to the means of selecting the president. The Const., provided two mechanisms for the selection of the president: – The Electoral College – If no candidate gets the majority of the EC vote, the HofR decides.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY Note that in neither instance do the people have direct agency in the selection of the president. Again these mechanisms reveal a certain skepticism of popular means of selecting the president.
B: THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENCY As George Mason said, it – “would be as unnatural to refer the choice of a proper character for chief Magistrate to the people, as it would, to refer a trial of colours to a blind man.”
CONSTITUTIONAL QUALIFICATIONS Article II Section 5 establishes the Constitutional qualifications to be president: – Must be at least 35 years old – 14 years resident in USA – Natural born citizen of the USA INFORMAL QUALIFICATIONS Have governing experience Governor of a state Foreign policy experience Married/Family Religious Military experience Have a vision for America Any others?
C: QUALIFICATIONS AND POWERS CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS Article II establishes the written powers of the Presidency: – Commander-in-chief of the armed forces – Treaty making – Appointments – Recess Appointments – State of the Union Address – Take care clause – Recommend legislation – Can convene Congress into special session – Veto – Adjourn Congress – Pardons (impeachment) – Laws faithfully executed Unwritten Powers Executive agreements Executive orders Executive privilege Chief of State Head of Party Agenda Setting Morale builder Crisis Manager
The formal powers of the president have not changed for more than 200 years. But the influence of modern presidents is considerably greater today than it was two centuries ago. The power and influence of any given president are partly the consequences: – The president’s character and energy combined with the needs of the time – The party balance in Congress – The values of the citizenry – The challenges to the nation’s survival.
D: THE EVOLUTION OF PRESIDENTIAL POWERS By and large, the history of presidential powers is one of steady, if uneven growth. Of the individuals who have filled the office, about one-third have enlarged its powers. Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example, redefined both the institution and many of its powers by the way they set priorities and responded to crises. Two centuries of national expansion and crises have increased the influence of the president beyond the Framers design.
The power of the presidency has greatly expanded from the 19 th to the 21 st century. Presidential history and the historical development of the institution of the presidency provide a context to judge presidential greatness. Presidents represent a “common history” by which we can understand American politics. The historical context – the tenor of the times and the opportunities for strong leadership – greatly contour/shape the possibilities for leadership.
E: THE PRESIDENCY IN HISTORY In the 19 th century presidents tended to be weak. Weak connections to the public and a lack of institutional strength constrained presidential opportunities for leadership. To the extent that the 19 th century had great presidents – these presidents brought strength to the office rather than derived it from the public. How do we rank the 19 th century presidents in terms of weak and strong presidents?
E: THE PRESIDENCY IN HISTORY WEAK 19 TH CENTURY PRESIDENTS James Madison James Monroe John Quincy Adams Martin Van Buren William Henry Harrison Zachary Taylor Franklin Pierce James Buchanan Ulysses S. Grant Rutherford B. Hayes James A. Garfield Grover Cleveland (2) Benjamin Harrison William McKinley STRONG 19 TH CENTURY PRESIDENTS Thomas Jefferson Andrew Jackson James K. Polk Abraham Lincoln
E: THE PRESIDENCY IN HISTORY Throughout the 20 th century, presidential power increased as presidents developed strong connections to the people. Presidential connections to the public were enhanced in the 20 th century. The advent of popular campaigning and the use if primary elections as a means of selecting presidential nominees brought presidents closer to the people. Changing conceptions of the president’s role in policy making have led to an increase in presidential power. The president has played a more significant role in setting the domestic agenda. The immediacy of modern war making and the near-premanence of foreign policy crisis throughout the 20 th century has increased presidential strength. How do we rank 20 th century presidents in terms of weak and strong presidents?
E: THE PRESIDENCY IN HISTORY WEAK 20 TH CENTURY PRESIDENTS William McKinley William H. Taft Warren G. Harding Calvin Coolidge Herbert Hoover Lyndon B. Johnson Richard m. Nixon Jimmy Carter George H. Bush STRONG 20 TH CENTURY PRESIDENTS Theodore Roosevelt Woodrow Wilson Franklin Delano Roosevelt Harry S. Truman Dwight D. Eisenhower John F. Kennedy Lyndon B. Johnson Richard M. Nixon Ronald Reagan Bill Clinton
E: THE PRESIDENCY IN HISTORY In the 21 st century, presidential power has increased as presidents have developed greater institutional power. The WH staff and the executive office have grown to aid the rise of presidential leadership – presidential staff has grown from fewer than 50 under FDR to over 500 in today’s WH. In addition to this growth, the WH has become organized into different units that provide presidents with specialized services such as congressional relations and media outreach.
E: THE PRESIDENCY IN HISTORY Simultaneous executive expansions in the broader executive branch have empowered the “chief executive” as well. The sheer growth of the executive branch has offered presidents opportunities to influence policy simply through control of the administration. Presidents use appointment powers, executive reorganization plans, executive orders, and the means of approving (or disapproving) administrative actions to gain such leverage of the executive. How do we rank 21 st century presidents in terms of weak and strong?
E: THE PRESIDENCY IN HISTORY WEAK 21 ST CENTURY PRESIDENTS GEORGE W. BUSH STRONG 21 ST CENTURY PRESIDENT BARAK H. OBAMA