Imperial President

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‘More imperiled than imperial.’ Discuss this view of the US presidency (30 marks)

Imperial presidency is a term, popularized by the book, written in 1973, by Arthur Schlesinger, a former aide to JFK, called ‘The Imperial Presidency”. It is used to refer to a presidency characterized by the misuse and abuse of the powers of the presidency.. In particular, it refers to the misuse of power and excessive secrecy in dealing with foreign policy. The founding fathers intended the president not to initiate war but be a commander in chief and could only respond to an attack. They intended Congress to be proactive and initiate military action and that the president is reactive and supervises military action. An imperial president would misuse, abuse and ignore these powers. An imperiled presidency is virtually the opposite and is a term used when the president cannot act effectively due to continuous conflict with Congress. At least one of these two terms have been used to describe each modern president, sometimes both have been used for the same presidency, showing the phrase can be used very flexibly, and can often be down to personal opinion. Nixon described it as a façade created by liberals and defensive congressman.

The Development of the Imperial Presidency is often put down to America’s involvement in WW2 after Pearl Harbor in 1941. Before 1941, America had only been to war 11 times, and was often seen to avoid getting involved in foreign disputes and get on with there own business, but this changed obviously changed when they entered the world war. This saw a seismic shift in the importance of foreign policy, and therefore a seismic shift in what the president could do in times of war. In 1941, when Congress declared war, FDR was allowed to break free of his restraints written in the constitution. The time for the Imperial Presidency had arguably begun. Since then, America has nearly been at a constant state of war and “the Imperial presidency”...
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