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The Executive Branch. “No man will ever bring out of that office the reputation which carries him into it. The honeymoon would be as short in that case as in any other, and its moments of ecstasy would be ransomed by years of torment and hatred.” —Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Executive Powers.

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the executive branch

The Executive Branch

“No man will ever bring out of that office the reputation which carries him into it. The honeymoon would be as short in that case as in any other, and its moments of ecstasy would be ransomed by years of torment and hatred.”

—Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

executive powers
Executive Powers
  • The “executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States”
  • Commander-in-Chief
  • Grant reprieves and pardons
  • Make treaties (with the “advice and consent” of the Senate)
  • Nomination power (cabinet members, ambassadors and judges, although many appointments are subject to Senate approval)
  • Give to the Congress information on the State of the Union from “time to time”
  • Power to convene Congress “on extraordinary Occasions”
  • Commissions “all the Officers of the United States,” which implies removal power as well
  • The President is to recite an oath of office that reads “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”

Is this an impressive list?

Does it equal the reality of presidential power in the modern age?

some examples of presidents who expanded the executive power
Some Examples of Presidents Who Expanded the Executive Power
  • 1793 - George Washington and the “Neutrality Proclamation”
  • 1803 - Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase
  • 1846 - James Polk and the Mexican War
  • 1861 - Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War
  • 2001 - George W. Bush and the war on terror
the emancipation proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three… order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons…

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

president bush and the war on terror
President Bush and the War on Terror

“The modern presidency, as expressed in the policies of the administration of George W. Bush, provides the strongest piece of evidence that we are governed by a fundamentally different Constitution from that of the framers.”

— Noah Feldman “Who Can Check the President” (2006)

  • The president authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans without warrants, bypassing the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
  • Does the president, as Commander in Chief, have the right to override our country's laws in the interests of national security?
the 1996 schlesinger poll on presidential greatness
The 1996 Schlesinger Poll on “Presidential Greatness”
  • GREAT: Lincoln, F. Roosevelt, Washington
  • NEAR GREAT: Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, T. Roosevelt, Truman, Polk
  • AVERAGE: Eisenhower, L. Johnson, Kennedy, J. Adams, Cleveland, McKinley, Madison, Monroe, Reagan, J.Q. Adams, Carter, Clinton, Van Buren, G.H.W. Bush, Taft, Hayes, Arthur, B. Harrison, Ford
  • BELOW AVERAGE: Coolidge, Tyler, Taylor, Fillmore
  • FAILURE: Hoover, Nixon, Pierce, A. Johnson, Grant, Buchanan, Harding

According to the Schlesinger poll, we have been wallowing in mediocrity for years. Why?

Where do our most recent presidents fall on this list?

trends in president george w bush s job approval 2001 2008
Trends in President George W. Bush’s Job Approval, 2001-2008

September 11 terrorist attacks

Start of Iraq War

Capture of Saddam Hussein

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

the 1996 schlesinger poll on presidential greatness1
The 1996 Schlesinger Poll on “Presidential Greatness”
  • GREAT: Lincoln, F. Roosevelt, Washington
  • NEAR GREAT: Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, T. Roosevelt, Truman, Polk
  • AVERAGE: Eisenhower, L. Johnson, Kennedy, J. Adams, Cleveland, McKinley, Madison, Monroe, Reagan, J.Q. Adams, Carter, Clinton, Van Buren, G.H.W. Bush, Taft, Hayes, Arthur, B. Harrison, Ford
  • BELOW AVERAGE: Coolidge, Tyler, Taylor, Fillmore
  • FAILURE: Hoover, Nixon, Pierce, A. Johnson, Grant, Buchanan, Harding

According to the Schlesinger poll, we have been wallowing in mediocrity for years. Why?

why great men are not chosen presidents
Why Great Men are Not Chosen Presidents

“Europeans often ask, and Americans do not always explain how it happens that his great office, the greatest in the world, unless we except the papacy, to which anyone can rise by his own merits, is not more frequently filled by great and striking men….”

The safe candidate may not draw in quite so many votes from the moderate men of the other side as the brilliant one would, but he will not lose nearly so many from his own ranks. Even those who admit his mediocrity will vote straight when the moment for voting comes. Besides, the ordinary American voters does not object to mediocrity. He has a lower conception of the qualities requisite to make a statesmen than those who have direct public opinion in Europe have. He likes his candidate to be sensible, vigorous, and above all, what he calls ‘magnetic,’ and does not value, because he sees no need for, originality or profundity, a fine culture or a wide knowledge.”

James Bryce, The American Commonwealth (1888)

why great men are not chosen presidents1
Why Great Men are Not Chosen Presidents

“It must also be remembered that the merits of a president are one thing and those of a candidate are another thing….”

—James Bryce, The American Commonwealth (1888)

are electors bound by law to cast their vote for a specific candidate
Are electors bound by law to cast their vote for a specific candidate?
  • Yes in these states: AL, AK, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, HI, ME, MD, MA, MI, MS, MT, NE, NV, NM, NC, OH, OK, OR, SC, VT, VA, WA, WI, WY. (those in yellow are bound by “party pledges”)
  • No in these states: AZ, AR, DE, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NY, ND, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV.
arguments against the electoral college
Arguments Against the Electoral College
  • The possibility of electing president receiving a minority of the popular vote;
  • The risk of so-called “faithless” electors;
  • The possible role of the Electoral College in depressing voter turnout;
  • Failure to accurately reflect the popular will;
reforming the electoral college
Reforming the Electoral College
  • Do nothing—maintain the status quo.
  • Abolish the electoral college outright and use a direct popular vote to determine outcomes—weigh individual votes equally everywhere: one person, one vote.
  • Retain the apportionment of the electoral college but allow for a proportional allocation of electoral votes.
  • Retain the apportionment of the electoral college but allocate one electoral vote for every congressional district a presidential candidate carries plus two more for each state.
  • Adopt a national bonus plan that would maintain the Electoral College but add 102 electoral votes to the existing total of 538 and award all of the bonus votes to the national popular-vote winner.
formal powers of congress during times of war
Formal powers of Congress during times of war
  • To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
  • To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
  • To provide and maintain a navy;
  • To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
  • To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

An “invitation to struggle…”

informal sources of presidential power
Informal Sources of Presidential Power
  • POSITION - appointment power, control of national security apparatus
  • PRESTIGE -bully pulpit, agenda-setting, national interests vs. parochial interests
  • POPULARITY - “going public,” rally-’round-the flag
the role of commander in chief
The Role of Commander-in-Chief

“If you interpret the Constitution’s saying that the president is commander in chief to mean that the president can do anything he wants and can ignore the laws you don't have a constitution: you have a king… They're not trying to change the law; they're saying that they're above the law and in the case of the NSA wiretaps they break it.”

—Grover Norquist

The “war on terror” is open-ended, with no time limit on expanded presidential powers.