The presidency of the United States is a subject that is indeed worth talking about. This is because its forms the bedrock of the administration of the country. The presidency gives relevance to all the other organs of the government. Abraham Lincoln was still president when he was assassinated on the fifteenth day of the month of April 1865. This had been preceded by several attempts to end his life, but fortunately he had managed to survive unscathed. Andrew Johnson then took over the realms of power from where Lincoln left. This was in 1865. The office of the presidency still oozed of power even during these formative days. The institution of presidency was highly treasured among the Americans and beyond. However, Johnson’s reign was also cut short by death. In 1869, President Grant also took over. The United States of America has therefore gone through diverse presidential regimes from 1865 to the current one that is still being steered by Barrack Obama who started his second term in 2012. All through the years, the powers and roles of the president have rarely changed. Only minor changes have been made to redefine certain roles and powers that were not clear in the initial constitution. Therefore this paper aims at providing a succinct and detailed account on the presidency of the United States of America from 1865 with regards to the powers and roles of the same. Additionally, the paper will attempt to delve into the highlights of the various presidential regimes. .
The Powers of the President
As mentioned before there are numerous and diverse but can be grouped into a few categories namely: executive powers; powers of appointment; powers related to legislation; executive clemency; executive privilege; emergency powers; and foreign affairs. Coupled with this power are constraints “without which the U.S. Presidency would be more of an imperial presidency rather than democratic” (Harris, 2012, p. 37). The aforementioned categories show the respective classes of the powers and roles of an American president. The presidency is a revered institution in the United States of America. This is because of the relevance and sanity that it injects in the whole country. The powers ensure that the president that not overstep his mandate. Additionally, the same powers ensure that the president acts within the constitutionally mandated confines. The president ought to act within the parameters of the requisite powers. As the principal of the executive government branch, the President is the Head of State and Government and the Chief Commander of the U.S. armed forces. The executive powers are those that are exercisable within the executive branch and are broad in that they encompass the President’s issuance of instructions having the mandatory force of law on federal agencies. Such instructions, regulations and rules issued by the President are known as Executive Orders and do not require approval by Congress. In addition to that, the preparation of the U.S. budget was also under the Office of the President - assisted by the Management and Budget Office though it required congressional approval. This allowed the President to withhold funds as he wished though this was only up to 1974 when Congress passed an act for control and impoundment of the budget as a result of President Richard Nixon exercising the power on a large scale. In 1973, the War Powers Act was passed by congress to greatly restrict the President’s capacity to conduct warfare without approval of Congress (Dobson, 2011). There are certain events that defined the powers of the president during certain periods in the American history. Some decisions that the presidents undertook either won them the public support or reduced their popularity significantly. Benjamin Harrison is regarded as the twenty third presidents of US. However, when he ran against President Grover, he was beaten on the grounds of popular votes. He had become so unpopular because he had hiked taxes imposed in foreign commodities. Consequently, he lost the battle to Grover. William McKinley was the president of the United States from 1897. He went on to rule for an extra one term. The war that he participated in against Spain earned him several accolades. It was during his reign that the USA was first considered as a superpower. This was a milestone to the United States of America because for the first time it had conquered the world under the leadership of President McKinley. However, his promising leadership was cut short through an anarchist. Another president whose role cannot go unnoticed before 1930 was Theodore Roosevelt. He began his term as a president from 1901 and went on to grip on power all through to 1901. His powers were feared even by the neighboring presidents. He is remembered for constructing the Panama Canal that has been of immeasurable benefits ever since. Additionally, President Roosevelt was able to expand the U.S. Navy. This move ensured that the country was better placed to protect and guard its territorial waters that were indeed extremely expansive (Baltzel, 2013). After 1930, several other highlights were noticeable in various regimes that followed. President Richard Nixon was the helm of the country’s administration from 1969 all through to 1974.His leadership was characterized by mending diplomatic ties. As the president of the US, one ought to take utmost care of the diplomatic ties. He became the first sitting president of the US to visit China. That was truly a nice indication that the USA was willing to reach out to as a many countries as possible. Jimmy Carter was president of the United States of America between 1977 and the year 1981. He became famous for negotiating the release of American hostages that had been held in Iran. However, his popularity began to take a dip when he boycotted Olympic games. President Clinton was also found on the wrong side of his moral life during his tenure. This was after he publicly admitted having an affair. This proved injurious to his political life. However, he was lucky to go through an attempt of impeachment. The Senate defended him. The U.S. President has numerous different appointment powers which are exercised even before he takes office. As the President-elect, he has to fill over 6000 federal positions of appointment which include: the members of the U.S. diplomatic corps, the staff of the White House, and top officials in government agencies. Of these appointments, many are done with the advice and approval provided by the U.S. Senate. On top of these powers of appointment, the President can also choose to nominate federal judges, comprising members of the US Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. In addition, the President also appoints the top officers for all federal agencies and the members of the board of directors of state-owned organization. Previously, the President could also appoint any and all members of the U.S. Civil Service which led to a situation where political supporters were rewarded with jobs. But in 1881 after President James Garfield was assassinated by an unsatisfied supporter seeking appointment, Congress established “a merit-based workforce in the Civil Service” (Dobson, 2011, p. 54) which is now managed by the Personnel Management Office.
Presidential power as related to the Legislation is in the signing of Bills passed from Congress to make them law. The President must approve of all of a Bill or none of it, that is, he cannot approve part of it and veto (forbid) the rest. A bill though, does not depend entirely on the President signing it for it to become law. Congress could make it law if for ten business days following the bill’s presentation to the President, it remains in session. If it adjourns at all within the ten days of business following the bill’s presentation to the President, and the President does not sign it, the bill dies and Congress will be unable to override the President. Aside from the power to forbid enactment of a bill, the President can attach a signing statement to a signed bill which declares that “provisions which intrude into executive power” (Grant, 2005, p. 37) are not enforced. In an effort to improve the operational association with Congress, a Legislative Affairs office was setup wherein Presidential aides monitor all essential legislative undertakings. Powers of clemency granted to the President by the U.S. Constitution include pardon and commutation. Pardon is the official forgiveness for a crime acknowledged by the forgiven party and involves exemption from all punishment administered for the crime. Commutation is the decrease in severity of the punishment; specifically the length of to be time served. This power alters punishment for crimes and thus can intrude into the judicial and legislative branches. In addition to this, the President can also grant blanket amnesty to a group of persons which exempts them from all punishment for a committed crime. Executive privilege is the power given to the President to permit him to hold back information from the Courts, the public and Congress when issues pertaining to national security are brought up. In the past, Presidents such as Nixon have tried to invoke this power but in other matters and the courts always overrule this privilege. The President’s emergency power is most commonly invoked in the declaration of a state of emergency in the event of natural calamities such as hurricanes which result in massive losses of both life and property. This power can also be denied by the court, just like the executive privilege, in a case where the decision for such declaration is not valid. In matters of foreign affairs, the President acts as the Chief Diplomat and is therefore “the primary federal official responsible for international relations with foreign nations” (Grant, 2005, p. 13). The President appoints ambassadors, ministers, and consuls – which the Senate confirms – and also receives foreign ambassadors and other foreign public officials. The President is assisted by the State Secretary in management of all foreign governments’ official contacts. The President is accountable for the security of Americans overseas and foreign nationals residing in the U.S., through the Departments of Defense and of State. The resolve to acknowledge new nations and governments is by the President who also negotiates treaties with other countries, which when ratified by a majority of two-thirds in the Senate, become obligatory on the U.S. The executive branch is still able to carry out most foreign policy despite the constraints placed on the U.S. President’s power by Congress through laws. Furthermore, as Commander in Chief, the power to command and direct the military is still quite significant. This is in contrast to the War Powers Act which was enacted in 1973 to ensure limited individual command of the military by the President. The Roles of the President
The roles of the president are intertwined with his power since “great power involves great responsibility” (Roosevelt, 1945). The roles he plays include but are not limited to: Commander in Chief, Head of State, Diplomat, and Lawmaker. This shows clearly how the power allotted to him by the constitution, comes coupled with roles and duties. The chief among them being protection of the constitution to which the president swears during inauguration. Soft Power and Implied Power of the U.S. President
Soft power refers to the ability of the President to attract international support due to how highly regard his position is. Soft power is a result of perception rather than facts or anything tangible therefore it is not explicitly mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. On the other hand, implied power is refers to the abilities the President can exercise which are not enumerated in the Constitution but rather implied by those that are already explicitly stated in the Constitution. An example of implied power use is the removal of administrators from office by the President who has power over executive government branch officers except in cases where such removal is restricted by public law. Conclusion
Inasmuch as it has taken more than two hundred years since the office of the presidency was established, insignificant changes have been made regarding the powers and roles of the same office. This affirms that the presidency is held with immeasurable esteem. However, there have been attempts by individual presidents to surpass their constitutional mandate, but the constitution has always reigned supreme in such cases. The presidency can have certain changes made to it, but all that cannot be done casually. There exists a formal and constitutional way of handling all these uncertainties. The office of the presidency in the United States of America has a series of functions that it performs solely. There are certain tasks that can only be performed by the president himself. Additionally, there are tasks that are performed by the president in liaison with other bodies or affiliates. These roles highlight the supremacy and superiority of the office of the presidency since 1865 (Amar, 2005). Through all those years, there have been structural and administrative changes in the manner in which things are operated in the office of the presidency. The powers of the president of the United States of America ought to be treated with the respect, authority, and sanctity that come with them. In conclusion, the president of the United States of America plays an exceedingly pivotal role in the unity of all citizens and non-citizens in the country. The historical background of the presidency elucidates on this issues and events that have defined presidency over the years.
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