The President Article II of the US Constitution grants the president numerous powers and responsibilities, but the the authority granted to the modern presidency far exceeds the constitutional definition of office. And through the years, a variety of presidential roles have evolved that were not originally or specifically outlined in the Article. Some of these roles were legislated by congress, the courts granted some, and powerful presidents assumed others. The presidents first role is as chief executive, the head of the executive branch and most of its workers. He is responsible for the ethics, loyalty, efficiency, and responsiveness of the federal government and its employees.
The evolution of the chief executives primary role provides a useful example of how the presidential power has developed through the years. At the outset, the Constitution granted the chief executive the power to appoint all officials in the executive branch, but after George Washingtons term. Custom gave the chief executive power to remove appointees. Finally, legislation granted him the power to reorganize agencies and to prepare the budgets. In the role of chief of state, the president acts as a ceremonial head of the federal government.
This is an extremely important role, for in this capacity, the president must greet distinguished visitors, bestow medals, and host state dinners. The impression he gives others while performing these duties can help him gain support, lift his reputation, and help towards reelection. President William Howard Taft once said the president must act as the personal embodiment and representative of the dignity and majesty of the people, the government, and the laws of the United States. The president also serves as commander in chief of the nations armed forces, which makes him ultimately responsible for the nations defense. He appoints and removes generals, makes key military decisions (such as when and where to wage war), and negotiates armistice terms.
During wartime emergencies, the president is also entitled to restrict civil liberties, to exert greater control over the economy, to seize industries, to fix wages and prices, and to settle labor disputes. Finally the commander in chief alone decides when and if the nation will use its atomic weapons. This role is extremely important because in acting out his decisions, the president is deciding the future of the nation, and we the people are putting extreme powers in the hands of one man. Though he is influenced by his associates and generals about the proper actions in times of political crisis, the last decision is up to the president. People who are not supporters of the president or his decisions te! nd to panic in times of war, and thus it is extremely important that the president makes the impression to the nation as a competent and capable man who one can have faith in. Another extremely important role that the president takes on is that of the nations chief diplomat. Although the Constitution attempted to divide diplomatic affairs between the president and congress, these affairs have become primarily a presidential responsibility. He negotiates treaties and executive agreements, manages foreign alliances, recognizes new governments, appoints and supervises diplomatic personnel, and receives foreign ambassadors.
The Constitution accords the president the power to veto congressional bills and recommend legislation to congress. This means that if the president disapproves of a bill (this usually happens when a bill contradicts the presidents political group or personal beliefs), he can respond with a message veto and return the bill to Congress with a message stating the reasons he has for not signing it. This helps Congress edit the bill in such a way that the president will pass it, though many times it looks completely different than the original bill that they began with. If Congress is about to adjourn, the president can also respond with a pocket veto and refuse to sign the bill within ten days. If Congress adjourns within that time, the bill will not become law.
In modern times, the president also has a responsibility to the legislature: he must annually address Congress on the state of the Union. The roles of chief executive, chief of state, commander in chief, chief diplomat, and a key legislator originated in the Constitution. But over time, the presidency has acquired many other roles that the Constitutions framers never imagined. One of these roles if party chief. Today, a candidate must have his political partys full support in order to become president.
Once elected, a president must then become a skillful party leader. This way he can use the partys power to achieve his goals. Therefore, presidents court the favor of party members in Congress and place fellow party members in important government posts. The presidents role as national spokesman also evolved greatly through the years. This job makes sure that at home the president speaks for the nations ideals; overseas, he embodies American beliefs. He must sell America and its image, ideas, and goals, around the world to help economy, trade, and countless other advantages.
Modern presidents have been especially effective in this role because they have had almost unlimited access to the mass media. Some presidents have written columns, held weekly radio shows, spoken several times on national television, and used every form of communication to ensure the fact that the most powerful man in the country is still working for them. First ladies have also used this method to not only help their image, but to help that of their husband. The media has commanded a huge government information network, covering political conventions, following candidates all the way to the White House, and readily agrees to let themselves be used to! carry the presidents messages far and wide. Foreign trade is controlled by the president meaning that he can affect the world economy through this power. In addition to his extensive formal powers over tariff rates and quotas, he has a variety of informal powers.
He can generate adverse publicity against nations and their industries. He can even instruct the Justice Department to enforce economic laws against those nations and industries that do not cooperate with his policies. Most modern presidents have also assumed the role of peacemaker. At home, the president can employ federal marshals to protect the peace and, in the case of riots or disasters or even mass hysteria, he can call out the National Guard or the Army. A classic example of this power (or moral decision as some prefer to call it) was in the LA riots when George Bush readily called the National Guard to California to stop looting, beatings, and other chaos.
Abroad, the president can use American troops to enforce the peace in war-torn countries, such as whats happening today in Sarajevo. At home and abroad he can always call on various government organizations, such as The Red Cross or The Salvation Army to alleviate suffering and prevent crime after natural disasters. And finally, the president functions as a world leader. In discussions with Communist nations, he acts not only as Americas chief executive but also as the leader of nations belonging to NATO. Many of his other functions, such as controller of Americas atomic arsenal, give him great powers over many other people in the world.
The Constitution and federal laws serve to keep the presidential powers in check. There are however, limits on the president, keeping him from becoming too powerful and making serious decisions without consulting others. In addition to direct constitutional restraints, various judicial and legislative actions indirectly check the presidential powers. For example, the courts have restricted the presidents authority to abridge civil rights and to seize industries during national emergencies. Congress can use a number of formal and informal tools to recapture power from the president. Legislators can investigate alleged wrongdoing by a president or his administration or refuse to approve presidential legislation. They can also legislate specific qualifications for some presidential appointees, and they have imposed laws forbidding a president to remove appointees from office arbitrarily. In addition, Congress can deny funds for presidential programs.
The Senate can halt the legislative process with filibusters (nonstop speech-making that delays congressional business). Congressional leaders can also challenge the president by voting to override a presidential veto of a bill. If at least two-thirds of the members of each house vote to override the veto, the bill becomes law. Other groups have the power to hinder presidential plans. Government agencies and bureaus can frustrate executive power by neglecting to support or execute presidential programs.
State and local governments can thwart the spirit of federal guidelines. When the people choose a president, they first tend to look at which man supports most of their own rights and beliefs and interests. A man speaking the values and morals and that presents himself as a good and capable man is likely to be elected. What starts out a s a popularity contest turns to a more serious decision, however, when it comes down to two candidates. Then the people remember the presidential rights, powers, and responsibilities, and are faced with the decision of giving the most powerful position in the world to the right man. We see lawyers and doctors become politicians and presidents because these professions scream hard work, discipline, and stability.
While the people know what they look for in a president, the president knows that he has no limits or powers other than what has been granted to him by the American people. He has to be firm yet flexible, and know his way around the country and the world. He has to be a voice for the people and never abuse ! the powers given to him. Every president wants to be remembered in history, but he knows that is he overuses his power, he can easily be remembered as the first American dictator, which the people and the president surely dont want to have happen. Sources Tugwell, Rexford G. How They Became President.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1964 White, Theodore H. America In Search of Itself: The Making of the President, 1956-1980. New York: Harper &Row, 1982 Koeing, Louis W. The Chief Executive. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1964.