“The US President is effectively unrestrained in the exercise of political power within the US system of government”. How far do you agree with this statement? (30 marks)
The power of the President has evolved since the constitution was ratified in 1788. It can be said that the President enjoys a more exercised form of power as American politics has developed and adapted but they are not “effectively unrestrained” due to the many checks are balances that a President must regard when asserting their power. The constitution sets out formal powers of the President in article II. These include chief administrator, commander-in-chief, chief lawmaker and head of state. However, there has been a growth of informal powers that include chief legislator, party leader, world leader and chief diplomat. It is with these informal powers that President is able to have more freedom with exercising and asserting their power. Following this is Neustadt’s theory of “persuader in chief”. This can be expressed through the State of Union address. On the 25th January 2011, Barack Obama gave his state of the union address focusing on his views on the issues in America. Furthermore, Barack Obama gave a speech to Congress in September 2011 about his proposed American Jobs Act. This supports the “persuader in chief” theory because the speech was televised to the American nation and therefore Obama was not only trying to appeal to Congress but also the American public. This is significant in exercising power because if Obama can win over the public then Congress would be more likely to pass the act. Aaron Wildavsky came up with the “two presidencies” thesis that claimed there are two faces of the President; domestic and foreign. When it comes to foreign policy, it can be said that the President enjoys a large amount of exercised power which may not be restrained. This is because in times of crisis such as war or terrorist attacks, the President can “wrap himself in the flag” and have emergency power on these extraordinary occasions because the President will have the nation’s best interests at heart. Congress is too willing to allow the President to make decisions when it seems they may be unpopular because they are not willing to take blame. As Truman proclaimed “the buck stops here” implying that it is the President who is scrutinized by the public when policies become unpopular. This can be said for Lyndon Johnson who, despite congress passing the Golf on Tonkin resolution in 1964 which was essentially a blank cheque for the war in Vietnam, received thorough unpopularity having rhymes such as “hey, hey, LBJ how many kids have you killed today?” chanted at him. However, Congress was more than willing to provide Johnson with whatever was required to win the war. Furthermore, the same can be said for George W Bush and the War on Terror following the 9/11 attack. This plays with the idea that the President is a “world leader” and can be seen as the world’s police officer as they are the ones making critical decisions even when it comes to situations that can affect politics globally. The Supreme Court, which is supposed to be a faction to the checks and balances of the President, have also increased the President’s unrestrained power to an extent because they have failed to make decisions on critical areas like Vietnam and even the New Deal Industrial Recovery Act under Roosevelt. This is significant because if the Supreme Court isn’t participating in decision making then they are not effectively restraining the President because they are having no input towards the President’s actions. Furthermore, we have the increased use of veto. This can be interpreted in two ways. Some may say that the veto is detrimental to a President’s power because they shouldn’t have to use this act as a last resort because Congress should want to cooperate with the President and not force him/her to use a veto. However some may see a veto as an exacerbating power...
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