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American Government. The Presidency II. The U.S. Presidency: Long & Winding Road. In looking at the presidency, the development of the office may be summarized in one word: aggrandizement (the accumulation of responsibility)

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american government

American Government

The Presidency II

the u s presidency long winding road
The U.S. Presidency: Long & Winding Road
  • In looking at the presidency, the development of the office may be summarized in one word: aggrandizement (the accumulation of responsibility)
  • This, however, has not occurred in a straight line --- progress has been jagged: fits/starts/reversals — but generally aggrandizement has trended upward
  • The presidency has accumulated responsibility at the expense of Congress
  • However, generally, also with the acquiescence of Congress
  • Presidential aggrandizement has resulted from three basic factors:
    • -institutional advantages of the office
    • -strong/active individuals in the office
    • -historical necessity
presidential advantages over congress
Presidential Advantages over Congress

Institutionally, the presidency has several important advantages over Congress

  • The presidency is centralized; therefore
    • a. can act faster when necessary
    • b. can act with greater secrecy
    • c. has higher media visibility (which can be used to rally the public)
  • The president has major legislative muscle --- veto
    • a. in a real sense, the nation's most powerful legislator
    • b. less than 10 percent of vetoes are overridden
advantages con t
Advantages (con’t)
  • Traditionally, the president is preeminent in foreign affairs
    • a. old notion of royal prerogative has benefited presidency
    • b. as has notion that politics ends at the water's edge and that president speaks for the nation
    • --- i.e., we present a unified front to the outside
  • President = only elected official with any claim to a national mandate --- can claim to represent the entire nation
president survivor united states
President: Survivor, United States

Strong leaders have been drawn to the office

  • 1. The office is not for shrinking violets
  • 2. It tends to draw people who have tremendous personal energy, an agenda, significant popular support
  • 3. Especially in 20th century, it has attracted people seeking to leave their mark on the office

In times of crisis, strong leaders have been willing to exercise and expand the office to meet the demands of the moment

  • -NOTE: once the office is expanded, it tends not to shrink back, even after the crisis has passed
  • -subsequent presidents inherent an expanded office, expanded public expectations
presidency historical perspective
Presidency: Historical Perspective

History of the presidency is a history of

  • -strong, driven men
  • -capitalizing on the advantages of the office
  • -capitalizing on historical circumstances/necessities,
  • -Building a larger, more expansive institution

Dates back to the founding, when certain of the men who designed the American system argued for a very strong executive

  • 1. Alexander Hamilton wanted a president for life
    • -figured Washington would be first, and he second
federalist 70
Federalist # 70

"Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.... A feeble executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government."

u s presidents top 10
U.S. Presidents Top 10
  • The office of the president has been expanded by a succession of strong presidents (10), from the very beginning.
1 george washington 1789 1797
#1: George Washington (1789-1797)
  • Put flesh and bones on the office;
  • Operationalized what was only words on a page
  • Domestic Policy:
    • Initiated legislative proposals (used Cabinet to develop initiatives)
  • Foreign Policy:
    • Did not involve Senate in negotiations of treaties; “advise and consent” becomes merely “consent”
    • Received ambassadors without Senate approval - effectively gave president power to recognize other countries
    • Declared U.S. neutral in war between England and France; appropriated for president right to declare peace
2 thomas jefferson 1801 1809
#2 Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
  • Had previously been a staunch supporter of legislative prerogative
  • First president to serve as party leader
    • used his position as head of Democratic- Republicans to run a unified government
    • coordinated Congress from the White House
  • Also expanded foreign policy powers of president:
    • bought Louisiana Purchase without consulting Congress; fait accomplice
    • imposed an embargo on all foreign commerce
3 andrew jackson 1829 1837
#3 Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
  • first president to utilize public opinion and work with a true popular mandate
  • made the presidency a popular office
  • Democratic philosophy -->
    • limited government with president as the principal leader, holder of public trust
4 abraham lincoln 1861 1865
#4 Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
  • Assumed extraordinary powers during a time of crisis to save the union
  • Vastly expanded the conception of commander-in-chief
    • in essence, not only directed the armies, but assumed control of the economy to fight a total war
  • Undertook actions in the absence of Congress that he thought Congress would approve of (but didn't convene the Congress)
    • -blockade of southern ports (act of war)
    • -expanded army/navy by using funds appropriated for other purposes
    • -suspended habeus corpus; declared martial law
5 theodore roosevelt 1901 1909
#5 Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
  • Arguably the first modern president (first known by initials: TR)
  • A young, energetic, populist reformer
    • -wanted to use the office aggressively
    • -stewardship theory provided the rationale: prez = steward of the people; able to do anything not explicitly forbidden in the
  • Public Opinion
    • understood that presidential power rested on public support
    • -developed snappy slogan --- "square deal"
    • -cultivated the media (first press secretary)
    • -highly visible --- "bully pulpit"
    • -went over the heads of Congress, appealed directly to the people (whistle-stop tours)
tr con t
TR (con’t)
  • Domestically, without the consent of Congress, he:
    • -started national parks system
    • -threatened to seize coal mines to end strike
    • -pursued anti-trust action against monopolies
  • Internationally, flexed U.S. power around the globe:
    • -interfered in Columbian uprising, aided Panamanian rebels, built canal (first president to travel abroad)
    • -sent Great White Fleet around the world
    • -negotiated end to Russo-Japanese War (Nobel Prize)
    • -asserted Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine (made Caribbean, Latin America a virtual U.S. protectorate)
6 woodrow wilson 1913 1921
#6: Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
  • A political scientist by profession, who was energized by TR and came to believe that strong presidential leadership was possible
  • Domestically, progressive (like TR)
    • -wanted to use power of federal government to help people
    • -“New Freedom”
    • -Federal Reserve
    • -income tax amendment (1913)
  • Like Lincoln, used national emergency --- WWI — to expand the presidency
    • used his powers to get us involved in WWI
    • -make the world “safe for democracy”
    • after armistice, he was the principal architect of the peace plan
    • -in tradition of TR, president becomes major international power broker
interlude congressional acquiescence
Interlude: Congressional Acquiescence
  • Meanwhile, back in Congress, bills are passed that rubber stamp the aggrandizement of presidential power.
  • Budget and Accounting Act of 1921
    • WWI created large deficits
    • Congress could not/would not deal with them
    • collected estimates individually from agencies; no presidential oversight/control
    • this act made the president responsible for compiling a budget, reconciling it, and therefore made president the manager of national fiscal policy
7 franklin d roosevelt 1932 1945
#7 Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932-1945)
  • Changed the nature of government in the U.S. and institutionalized the presidency
  • Developed programs to combat the depression — via counter-cyclical spending
    • -Social Security
    • -unemployment
    • -agricultural subsidies
    • -government work programs
  • Led Congress as well as any president
    • -fabled 100 days in 1933
  • Expanded powers internationally in days leading to WWII
    • -like Wilson, observed neutrality in name only
    • Lend-Lease by executive order
fdr con t
FDR (con’t)
  • Institutionalized changes in the presidency
    • -Brownlow Commission concluded "president needs help"
    • -Executive Office of the President is expanded
    • -president given the staff to run the executive branch and expand its function on an ongoing basis
interlude 2 congress acts again
Interlude 2: Congress Acts Again
  • Employment Act of 1946
    • built upon Budget and Accounting Act of 1921
    • By law, gave president responsibility for managing the national economy (called upon president to make recommendations for maximum employment)
8 harry s truman 1945 1953
#8 Harry S Truman (1945-1953)
  • Expanded president's role in foreign policy
    • based upon membership in United Nations, waged undeclared war in Korea
    • U.S. becoming policeman for the world
9 john f kennedy 1961 1963
#9 John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
  • Undertook ambitious New Frontier program
  • Like the Roosevelts, took advantage of the media
    • contributed to the personalization of the presidency
  • President and his extra-legal advisors controlled policy
  • President becomes personally responsible for success/failure of policy
10 lyndon baines johnson 1963 1969
#10 Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-1969)
  • Takes over ambitious legislative program from JFK
  • Combines ambitious program with best legislative leadership skills since FDR
  • War on Poverty, Great Society, civil rights
  • In legacy of Truman, also escalates undeclared war in Vietnam
    • -continues war via the veto
presidency to the present
Presidency to the Present
  • More recent presidents (especially Nixon, Reagan) have had an impact on the development of the office
    • -but we need more historical distance to evaluate them
  • General tendency is for strong presidents to build the office based on
    • 1. office's intrinsic advantages
    • 2. historical circumstances, especially crises
    • 3. advances of their predecessors
wrapping it up
Wrapping it Up

In conclusion, the modern presidency is the creation of:

  • Strong individuals who have wanted power and known how to use it
  • growth of government and the demands placed upon government --- required the kind of assertive leadership that a Prez can provide
  • Congressional acquiescence --- Congress has asked the prez to do more in the 20th century
  • Media --- a powerful tool that charismatic individuals have used politically
    • -able to appeal directly to the people
    • -a two-edged sword --- familiarity breeds contempt
  • Growth of foreign commitments, an area where president has strong constitutional powers and a strong claim to unfettered leadership