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The Presidency. And the Executive Branch. Electing a president. U.S. election process produces a 2-party system: Democrats & Republicans. U.S. parties are generally not strongly ideological, although they can be at times.

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the presidency

The Presidency

And the Executive Branch

electing a president
Electing a president
  • U.S. election process produces a 2-party system: Democrats & Republicans.
  • U.S. parties are generally not strongly ideological, although they can be at times.
  • Presidential candidates need their parties’ endorsement & support but increasingly run their own campaigns. Some independence from the party.
electing a president the nomination
Electing a president: the nomination

First stage: running in primary elections in the states to win the party’s nomination. The first contests are in January of the election year (next is 2012).

Culminates in a party convention that summer, where party’s nominees for president & vice president are selected and the party’s platform is drafted.

electing a president the general race
Electing a president: the general race

General Election Stage: campaigning against the other party’s nominee. Lasts from mid-summer to election day in early November.

Electoral College: each state has the same number of electors as it has members of Congress (House + Senate seats). All but 2 states are winner-take-all. Possible for the winner not to have won the popular vote, as in 1876, 1888, and 2000.

obama s race for the white house
Obama’s race for the White House
  • 270 votes needed to win.
  • Obama:
    • 365 electoral votes
  • McCain
    • : 173 electoral votes
the 2012 presidential election
The 2012 presidential election
  • Predicting the outcome:
brief history of the office
Brief history of the office
  • Textbook provides an overview [see incumbents on p. 54]
  • Key point: the expansion of presidential responsibilities and powers, often in response to a crisis (such as war or economic collapse).
  • Franklin Roosevelt (1933 – 1945) is considered the first modern president.
types of presidents
Types of presidents
  • Buchanan: custodial view – Congress dominant
  • Lincoln: stewardship view – President dominant
  • Eisenhower: hidden hand leadership – President exercises authority but not visibly
expanded role of v p
Expanded role of V.P.
  • Vice Presidency has two functions:
    • Presides over Senate in case of tie vote
    • Assumes office on death or incapacitation of president

Presidents now delegate more duties: Carter/Mondale; Reagan/Bush; Clinton/Gore, Bush/Cheney, Obama/Biden

presidential roles
Presidential roles
  • Chief of State
  • Chief Executive
  • Chief Diplomat
  • Commander-in-Chief
  • Chief Legislator
  • Party Leader
chief of state
Chief of State

Ceremonial head of state. The symbolic role of the presidency is important:

  • Creates strong psychological ties with the citizenry (going to scenes of disasters, etc.)
  • Represents American interests to other nations (meeting foreign leaders in ceremonial settings)
  • Related to diplomacy but not the same.
chief executive
Chief Executive

Head of government, a role explicitly assigned in Article II of the Constitution.

  • Executes the law
  • Implements programs passed by Congress
  • Enforces policies
  • Manages the federal bureaucracy of 2 million civilian workers.
chief diplomat
Chief Diplomat

Key player in international affairs

  • Nominating U.S. ambassadors with Senate ratification
  • Negotiating treaties with Senate ratification.
  • Accepting credentials of foreign ambassadors.
  • Extending or removing diplomatic recognition of another state.
  • Terminating treaties.
commander in chief

Head of the military under the Constitution. Since the Truman administration, presidents have claimed a broad power to act militarily without congressional authorization.

Lyndon Johnson, president from

1963-1968; expanded US role in

the Vietnam War

chief legislator
Chief Legislator
  • Constitutional powers:
    • State of the Union address every January
    • Veto and threat of a veto
    • Call Congress into session or adjourn Congress in extraordinary circumstances
  • Informal powers:
    • Working through party leaders in Congress to pass bills

Ronald Reagan, State

of the Union address

party leader
Party Leader
  • Party Leader: Head of the party; names the party’s national chairman; the chief campaigner and fundraiser for fellow party members in Congress.
  • The president’s party provides the link between the White House and Congress, and to governors.
the public the press the executive
The public, the press & the executive
  • How do presidents accomplish their policy goals?
        • Lyndon Johnson

meeting with

Martin Luther King

on civil rights


president public opinion
President & public opinion
  • Presidents want to set the national agenda and lead public opinion, so they conduct campaigns to advance their policy positions.
  • They use the “bully pulpit” of their office, as Theodore Roosevelt called it. Today it is called “going public.”
  • See evidence on the White House home page:
president public opinion1
President & public opinion
  • White House staff helps the president frame the message and win public support, especially:
    • Press Secretary
    • Communications Director
    • Speechwriters
    • Legislative liaison
    • Pollsters

Outside the White House, cabinet secretaries also can help the president.

president public opinion2
President & public opinion

The president’s symbolic role as head of state can strengthen the psychological attachment people feel toward the office.

Symbolic activities can include lighting the White

House Christmas tree, congratulating winning sports

teams, and comforting victims of disaster.

The public evaluates president both on specific policies and on handling the job of president.

president public opinion3
President & public opinion
  • Public support is important. It can translate into political capital and enhance a president’s ability to lead. It’s an important element of persuasion, creating an incentive for Congress to cooperate.
  • Loss of public support undermines presidential leadership.
    • Examples from the Nixon and Bush II administrations demonstrate this
president public opinion5
President & public opinion
  • George W. Bush job approval ratings (CBS News/New York Times polls, taken February 2001 to December 2007.
      • Blue approve; Red disapprove; Green unsure.
president the news media
President & the news media

Relationship is often confrontational:

  • The White House wants the press to report stories that promote their policies. This is their view of the public good.
  • Journalists want a good story. They are suspicious of spin (see text, p.60). They see themselves as watchdogs of government, part of checks & balances.
president the news media1
President & the news media

The White House provides services to help journalists and encourage positive coverage:

1. Press Secretary – serves as a liaison

2. Specific services for the press:

  • press releases, background briefings, transcripts of speeches, arranging interviews with president or officials, organizing press conferences and photo opportunities, arranging travel with the president
president the news media2
President & the news media

The White House seeks to control news coverage by:

1. Timing press releases to maximize good news & minimize bad.

2. Cultivating journalists, both Washington press corps and outside reporters.

3. Using selective news leaks to test public opinion, send signals in foreign affairs, favor a particular reporter.

the white house1
The White House
  • Presidents have increasingly relied on the White House staff since the 1960s.
  • Staff has grown in number & influence.
  • Senior aides have key roles in advising and making policy.
  • Power has shifted to the White House from the cabinet departments.
the white house2
The White House

General tasks for staff aides

  • 1. Coordination: ensuring policy-making & budget proposals consistent with president’s preferences.
  • 2. Gatekeeping: controlling access to president because otherwise he/she would be overwhelmed.
  • 3. Promotion: promoting president’s agenda in Congress & public, including maintaining a positive public image.
executive office of the president
Executive Office of the President
  • Created in 1939 and essential for modern presidents to fulfill their extensive duties.
  • EOP agencies do not administer programs but give advice, information and help with oversight of government. In practice, the line between advice & administration often is blurred.

For the offices in the EOP:

executive office of the president1
Executive Office of the President


  • Office of Management & Budget
  • National Security Council
  • National Economic Council
  • Domestic Policy Council
  • Council of Economic Advisers
  • U.S. Trade Representative
cabinet departments
Cabinet departments
  • 15 executive departments, headed by a Secretary (except Justice, headed by the Attorney General)
  • In order of creation:
    • State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing & Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security
cabinet departments1
Cabinet departments
  • Seldom meet as a group. Meetings used now for ceremonial photo opportunities.

President Obama

in cabinet meeting,


cabinet departments2
Cabinet departments

Presidential challenges:

  • Cabinet secretaries may define their department’s interest as the national interest.
  • Cabinet secretaries may feel divided loyalties: to president, Congress and the department’s clientele.
  • Competitive environment vis-à-vis the other department heads, especially with declining resources.
regulatory commissions
Regulatory commissions
  • Quasi-independent; bipartisan membership.
  • Purpose: to remove from political control.
  • Result: less public oversight.
      • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
      • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
      • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
      • Federal Reserve Board (the Fed)
      • Securities & Exchange Commission (the SEC)
      • Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC)

President is the head of the bureaucracy, through the ‘take care’ clause of the Constitution.

  • 2 million civilian workers, most who work outside of D.C. area.
  • All but 5,000 are civil service, not appointees
  • Bound by standard operating procedures (SOPs) to minimize arbitrary decision-making
obstacles to controlling bureaucracy
Obstacles to controlling bureaucracy
  • Different viewpoints & organizational interests than the president
  • Bureaucratic structure itself leads to duplication and lack of coordination
  • Interagency rivalries and feuds
  • Lack of adequate resources from Congress
  • Lack of presidential interest
case study responding to 9 11
Case Study: Responding to 9/11
  • Which of these factors did you see in the case study examining the American response to 9/11 in your readings?