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The Presidency


1. Explain the differences between the positions of president and prime minister and discuss the approach of the Founders toward executive power.

2. Sketch the evolution of the presidency from 1789 to the present.

3. List and describe the various offices that make up the office of the president.

4. Review discussions of presidential character, and how these relate to the achievements in office of various presidents.

5. Enumerate and discuss the various facets-formal and informal-of presidential power.


Text Outline

I. Presidents and prime ministers

A. Characteristics of parliaments
1. Parliamentary system twice as common

2. Chief executive chosen by legislature

3. Cabinet ministers chosen from among members of parliament

4. Prime minister remains in power as long as his/her party or coalition maintains a majority in the legislature

B. Differences

1. Presidents are often outsiders; prime ministers are always insiders, chosen by party members in parliament

2. Sitting members of Congress cannot simultaneously serve in a president's cabinet; members of parliament are eligible to serve in the prime minister's cabinet

3. Presidents have no guaranteed majority in the legislature; prime ministers always have a majority

4. Presidents and legislature often work at cross-purposes

a. Even when one party controls both branches

b. A consequence of separation of powers, which fosters conflict between the branches

c. Only Roosevelt and Johnson had constructive relations with Congress

C. Divided government common in U.S. but Americans dislike it for creating gridlock

1. But divided government passes as many important laws, conducts as many investigations, and ratifies as many treaties as a unified government

2. Unclear whether gridlock is always bad; it is a necessary consequence of representative democracy

II. The evolution of the presidency

A. Delegates feared both anarchy and monarchy
1. Idea of a plural executive

2. Idea of an executive checked by a council

B. Concerns of the Founders

1. Fear of military power of president who could overpower states

George Washington was the only president who took active control of the military. During the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, Washington requested state governors to provide a force of 12,900 militia troops-and ended up with a volunteer force larger than the one he had commanded during the Revolutionary War.

2. Fear of presidential corruption by Senate

3. Fear of presidential bribery to ensure reelection

4. Concerned to balance power of legislative and executive branches

C. The electoral college

1. Each state to choose own method of selecting electors

2. Electors to meet in own capital to vote for president and vice president

The actual election of the president and vice president does not occur until January 6, when the sitting vice president, in the presence of both houses of Congress, opens the ballots of the electors. Although usually a formality, some electors have deviated from the way they were supposed to vote.

3. If no majority, House would decide

D. The president's term of office

1. Precedent of George Washington and the historical tradition of two terms

2. Twenty-second Amendment in 1951 limits to two terms

3. Problem of establishing the legitimacy of the office

4. Provision for orderly transfer of power

E. The first presidents

1. Office legitimated by men active in independence and Founding politics

2. Minimal activism of early government contributed to lessening fear of the presidency

3. Appointed people of stature in the community (rule of fitness)

4. Relations with Congress were reserved; few vetoes; no advice

F. The Jacksonians

1. Jackson believed in a strong and independent president

2. Vigorous use of veto for policy reasons; none overridden

G. The reemergence of Congress

1. With brief exceptions the next hundred years was a period of congressional dominance

2. Intensely divided public opinion-partisanship, slavery, sectionalism

3. Only Lincoln expanded presidential power

a. Asserted "implied powers" and commander in chief

b. Justified by emergency conditions created by Civil War

The Supreme Court rejected Lincoln's emergency powers rationale for exercising power beyond the president's constitutional authority. In Ex Parte Milligan (1866), the Court declared that "the Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace."

4. President mostly an opposing force to Congress until New Deal

5. Popular conception of president as center of government contradicts reality; Congress often policy leader

III. The powers of the president

A. Formal powers found in Article II
1. Not a large number of explicit powers

2. Potential for power found in ambiguous clauses of the Constitution-e.g., power as commander in chief, duty to "take care that laws be faithfully executed"

B. Greatest source of power lies in politics and public opinion

1. Increase in broad statutory authority, especially since 1930s

2. Expectation of presidential leadership from the public

The public's perception that presidential power is vast should not be exaggerated. In a 1990 survey, 31 percent believed that the Supreme Court was more powerful than the president (21 percent endorsed the opposite position).

IV. The office of the president

A. The White House Office
1. Contains the president's closest assistants

2. Three types of structure, often used in combination

a. Pyramid

b. Circular

c. Ad hoc

3. Staff typically worked on the campaign; a few are experts

B . Executive Office of the President

1. Composed of agencies that report directly to the president

2. Appointments must receive Senate confirmation

3. Office of Management and Budget among the most important

a. Assembles the budget

b. Develops reorganization plans

c. Reviews legislative proposals of agencies

C. The cabinet

1. Not explicitly mentioned in Constitution

The term "cabinet" was coined by a journalist during the administration of George Washington.

2. President can appoint fewer than 1 percent of employees in most departments

3. Secretaries become preoccupied and defensive about their own departments

D. Independent agencies, commissions, and judgeships

1. President appoints members of agencies that have a quasi-independent status

2. In general, independent agency heads can be removed only "for cause" and serve fixed term; executive agency heads serve at the president's pleasure, though their appointments must be confirmed by the Senate

3. Judges can be removed only by impeachment

V. Who gets appointed

A. President knows few appointees personally

B. Most appointees have had federal experience

1."In-and-outers"-alternate federal and private sector jobs

C. Need to consider groups, regions, and organizations when making appointments

D. Rivalry between department heads and White House staff

VI. Presidential Character

A. Eisenhower-orderly

B. Kennedy-improviser

C. Johnson-deal maker

D. Nixon--mistrustful

E. Ford-genial

F. Carter-outsider

G. Reagan-communicator

H. Bush-hands-on manager

I . Clinton-focus on details

VII. The power to persuade

A. Formal opportunities for persuasion

B. The three audiences

1. Fellow politicians and leaders in Washington, D.C.-reputation very important

2. Party activists and officials outside Washington

3. The various publics

C. Popularity and influence

Presidents usually enjoy a temporary surge in popularity following a national crisis, even disasters like the Bay of Pigs (President Kennedy) and the hostage rescue mission in Iran (President Carter). This phenomenon is known as the rally-round-the-flag syndrome. However, recent scholarship has identified numerous exceptions to this rule.

1. Presidents try to transform popularity into congressional support for their programs

2. Members of Congress believe it is politically risky to challenge a popular president

3. Little effect of presidential coattails

D. The decline in popularity

1. Popularity highest immediately after an election

2. Declines by midterm

VIII. The power to say no

A. Veto
1. Veto message

2. Pocket veto (only before Congress adjourns at the end of its second session)

3. Congress rarely overrides vetoes; no line-item veto

4. 1996 reform permits enhanced recissions, though its constitutionality is uncertain

B. Executive privilege

Wide variations exist in the use of executive privilege. President Eisenhower asserted the claim forty-four times, whereas Kennedy and Johnson did so only twice each. Nixon cited privledge in refusing to hand over the Watergate tapes and recently the Supreme Court ruled against Bill Clinton. Clinton has claimed that he did not have to go before a Federal Grand Jury while sitting as President.

1. Confidential communications between president and advisers

2. Justification

a. Separation of powers

b. Need for candid advice

3. U.S. v. Nixon (1973) rejected claim of absolute executive privilege

C. Impoundment of funds

1 . Defined: presidential refusal to spend funds appropriated by Congress

2. Countered by Budget Reform Act of 1974

a. Requires president to notify Congress of funds he does not intend to spend

b. Congress must agree in 45 days to delete item

c. Requires president to notify Congress of delays in spending

d. Congress may pass a resolution requiring the immediate release of funds

IX. The president's program

A. Putting together a program

The preparation of a presidential program was not institutionalized until the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. When Eisenhower assumed office, he failed to submit a program in the belief that initiating legislation was a congressional responsibility. Congress finally requested the president to forward his policies for action.

1 . President can try to have a policy on everything (Carter)

2. President can concentrate on a small number of initiatives (Reagan)

3. Constraints

a. Public and congressional reaction may be adverse

b. Limited time and attention span of the president

c. Unexpected crises

d. Programs can be changed only marginally

B. Attempts to reorganize

When Congress rebuffed President Nixon's proposal to streamline executive departments, Nixon attempted to institute the reorganization by establishing a few "superdepartments" and having certain secretaries assume supervision over several departments. Watergate intervened.

1. Reasons for reorganizing
a. Large number of agencies

b. Easier to change policy through reorganization

2. Reorganization outside the White House staff must be by law

X. Presidential succession

A. Only fourteen of forty-one presidents have served two terms

B. The vice president

1. Eight vice presidents have succeeded to office on president's death

To avoid a succession calamity, the Secret Service insists that one member of the cabinet should be absent when the president delivers the State of the Union message. Since all high-ranking members of the administration attend, the possibility exists that the entire line of presidential succession could be wiped out by an act of terrorism.

2. Rarely are vice presidents elected president

a. Unless they first took over for a president who died

b. Only five instances otherwise: Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Nixon, Bush

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were vice presidents prior to the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment, which provided for the election of a single ticket to the top executive offices (president and vice president). Adams and Jefferson, therefore, had no official party connection to the president.

3. "A rather empty job"

a. Candidates still pursue it

b. Vice president presides over Senate and votes in case of tie

c. Leadership powers in Senate are weak

C. Problems of succession

1. What if president falls ill?
a. Examples: Garfield, Wilson, Eisenhower, Reagan

2. If vice president steps up, who becomes new vice president?

a. Succession Act (1886): designated secretary of state as next in line

b. Amended in 1947 to designate Speaker of the House

3. Twenty-fifth Amendment (1967) resolved both issues

a. Allows vice president to serve as acting president if president is disabled
(1) Decided by president, by vice president and cabinet, or by two thirds vote of Congress

President Reagan was the first president to use the incapacity provision of the Twenty fifth Amendment. While in the hospital to have an intestinal tumor removed, Reagan signed a statement allowing the then vice president, George Bush, to exercise power "in my stead commencing with the administration of anesthesia to me in this instance." However, Reagan never formally mentioned compliance with the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

b. Requires vice president who ascends to office on death or resignation of president to name a vice president
(1) Must be confirmed by majority vote of both houses

(2) Examples: Agnew's and Nixon's resignations

D. Impeachment

1. Judges, not presidents, most frequent objects of impeachment

2. Indictment by the House, conviction by the Senate

a. Examples: Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon (pre-empted by resignation), Clinton

XI. How powerful is the president?

A. Both president and Congress are more constrained

B . Reasons for constraints

1. Complexity of issues

2. Scrutiny of the media

3. Greater number and power of interest groups

Important Terms

ad hoc structure A method in which the president organizes his personal staff that employs task forces, committees, and informal groups of friends dealing directly with him.

Budget Reform Act of 1974 A congressional effort to control presidential impoundments. It requires, among other things, that the president spend all appropriated funds unless he first tells Congress which funds he wishes not to spend and Congress, within forty-five days, agrees to delete the items. If he wishes simply to delay spending money, he need only inform Congress, but Congress in turn can refuse the delay by passing a resolution requiring immediate release of the funds.

cabinet By custom, the heads of the fourteen major executive departments who meet to discuss matters with the president. These "secretaries" receive their positions by presidential nomination and confirmation by the Senate. They can be removed at the will of the president.

circular structure A method in which the president organizes his personal staff that has cabinet secretaries and assistants reporting directly to the president.

direct democracy A form of democracy in which the people legislate for themselves.

divided government A government in which one party controls the White House and a different party controls one or both houses of Congress.

electoral college The body that formally selects the president. Each state is allotted electoral votes equal to the number of its representatives and senators in Congress. It can decide how its electors are to be chosen and under what method they cast their votes for president. The candidate for the presidency who receives a majority of these votes wins. If no candidate obtains a majority, the House of Representatives chooses from the top three in electoral votes.

executive agencies Federal agencies that are part of the executive branch but outside the structure of cabinet departments. Their heads typically serve at the pleasure of the president and can be removed at the president's discretion.

Executive Office of the President Executive agencies that report directly to the president and whose purpose is to perform staff services for the president. Top positions are filled by presidential nomination with Senate confirmation.

executive privilege A claim by the president entitling him to withhold information from the courts or Congress. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that such a claim is valid when sensitive military or diplomatic matters are involved, but it refused to recognize an "absolute unqualified" presidential privilege of immunity.

impeachment A form of indictment voted on by the House of Representatives. It can be brought against the president, the vice president, and all "civil officers" of the federal government. To be removed from his or her position, the impeached officer must be convicted by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

impoundment The refusal of the president to spend money appropriated by Congress. The Constitution is silent on this power, but the Budget Reform Act of 1974 limits the president's ability to impound funds.

independent agencies Federal agencies that are part of the executive branch but outside the structure of cabinet departments. Their heads typically serve fixed terms of office and can be removed only for cause.

inherent powers Powers not specified in the Constitution which the president claims. These powers are asserted by virtue of office.

lame duck A politician whose power has been diminished because he or she is about to leave office as a result of electoral defeat or statutory limitation.

legislative veto A method by which Congress in a law allows either one or both houses to block a proposed executive action. It is frequently used for presidential reorganization plans of the executive branch. These vetoes were declared unconstitutional in 1981.

Office of Management and Budget Created as the Bureau of the Budget in 1921, the OMB was reorganized in 1970. It assembles and analyzes the national budget submitted to Congress by the president. Additional duties include studying the organization and operation of the executive branch, devising plans for reorganizing departments and agencies, developing ways of getting better information about government programs, and reviewing proposals that cabinet departments want included in the president's legislative program.

perks A short form of the term "perquisites," meaning the fringe benefits of office.

pocket veto One of two ways for a president to disapprove a bill sent to him by Congress. If the president does not sign the bill within ten days of receiving it, and Congress has adjourned within that time, the bill does not become law.

presidential coattails The charismatic power of a president which enables congressional candidates of the same party to ride into office on the strength of his popularity. This influence has declined in recent elections.

prime minister The head of government in a parliamentary system. Chosen by the legislature, this official selects the other ministers of government from among the members of parliament and remains in power as long as his or her party has a majority of seats in the legislature, as long as the assembled coalition holds together, or until the next scheduled election.

pyramid structure A method in which the president organizes his personal staff that has most assistants reporting through a hierarchy to a chief of staff.

recissions Presidential recommendations to cut parts of appropriations bills; a 1996 law allows the president's recissions to go into effect unless they are overridden by a two-thirds vote in Congress.

representative democracy A form of government in which the people elect representatives to act on their behalf.

Twenty-fifth Amendment A constitutional amendment ratified in 1967 which deals with presidential disability. It provides that the vice president is to serve as acting president whenever the president declares he is unable to discharge the duties of office or whenever the vice president and a majority of the cabinet declare the president incapacitated. If the president disagrees, a two-thirds vote of Congress is needed to confirm that the president is unable to execute his duties. The amendment also deals with a vacancy in the vice presidency by allowing the president to nominate a new vice president subject to confirmation by a majority vote of both houses.

Twenty-second Amendment A constitutional amendment ratified in 1951 which limits presidents to two terms of office.

unified government A government in which the same party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress.

veto message A statement the president sends to Congress accompanying a refusal to sign a bill passed by both houses. It indicates the president's reasons for the veto. A two-thirds vote of both houses overrides the veto.

White House Office Personal assistants to the president with offices in the White House. These aides oversee the political and policy interests of the president and do not require Senate confirmation for appointment. They can be removed at the discretion of the president.

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