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Chapter 12The President: Leading the Nation

Foundations of the modern presidency

The framers of the Constitution describes the powers of the president in general
Compared with Article I of the Constitution, which contains a precise listing of
Congresss powers, Article II defines the presidents powers in general terms

In Federalists No. 69, Alexander Hamilton wrote that a surprise attack on the US
was the only justification for war by presidential action

Empowers the president to act as diplomatic leader with the authority to appoint
ambassadors and to negotiate treaties with other countries, subject to approval by a
two-thirds vote of the Senate

President gradually took charge of US foreign policy and have even acquired the
power to make treaty-like arrangements with other nations

The Constitution also vests executive power in the president

This power includes the responsibility to execute the laws faithfully and to appoint
major administrators

They have also found their administrative authoritythe power to execute

lawsto be significant, because it enables them to decide ho laws will be

The Constitution provides the president with legislative authority, including use of
the veto and the ability to propose legislation to Congress

Modern presidents have assumed a more action legislative role

They regularly submit proposals to Congress and do not hesitate to veto legislation
they dislike

The changing Conception of the Presidency

The president is a more powerful office than the framers envisioned
But two features of the office in particularnational election and singular
authorityhave enabled
presidents to make use of
changing demands on
government to claim national
policy leadership
The first president to forcefully
assert a broad claim to national
policy leadership was Andrew
In fact, throughout most of the
century, Congress jealously
guarded its constitutional
authority over national policy
The 19th
century conception of
the presidency was expressed in the Whig theory, which holds that the
presidency is a limited or constrained office whose occupant is empowered to
act only within the confines of expressly granted constitutional authority
Upon taking office in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt embraced what he called the
stewardship theory, which calls for a strong presidency that is limited, not
only by what the Constitution allows, but by what it prohibits
The stewardship theory holds that presidents are free to act as they choose, as
long as they do not take actions denied them by law
Roosevelt challenged the power of business monopolies
Theodore Roosevelts conception of a strong presidency was not shared by

most of his immediate successors

Franklin D. Roosevelt (a distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt)s policies such
as the New Deal included unprecedented public works projects, social welfare
programs, and economic regulatory actions
The New Deal effectively marked the end of the limited (Whig) presidency

The Need for a Strong Presidency

Today the presidency is an inherently strong office, made so by the federal
governments increased policy responsibilities
Congress is simply not structured in a way that would enable it to easily and
regularly oversee government activity and develop comprehensive approaches
to policy
The president is structured in a way that enables it to do so
The presidency has also been strengthened by the expanded scope of foreign
The US emerged from WWII as a global superpower, a giant in world trade,
and the recognized leader of the noncommunist worlda development that
had a one-sided effect on Americas institutions
The president, as the sole head of the executive branch, can act quickly and
speak authoritatively for the nation as a whole in its relations with other
Choosing the President

The US in its history has had four systems of presidential selection, each more
democratic than the previous one in the sense that it gave ordinary citizens a
larger role in the presidents election

The delegates to the constitutional convention of 1787 feared that popular election
of the president would make the office too powerful and accordingly devised an
electoral vote system

The president was to be chosen by electors picked by state, with each state entitled
to one elector for each of its members of Congress

This system was modified after the election in 1828 of Andrew Jackson, who
believed that the peoples will had been denied four years earlier when he got most
the most popular votes but failed to receive an electoral majority

The candidate who wins a states popular vote is awarded its electoral votes

Thus the popular vote for the candidates directly affects their electoral vote, and
once candidate is likely to win both forms of the presidential vote

Jackson saw the national conventionwhere each state is represented by delegates

who select the party nomineeas a means of strengthening the link between the
presidency and the people

All presidential nominees have

been formally chose at national
party conventions

Progressives devised the

primary election as a means of
curbing the power of the party

State party leaders had taken

control of the nominating
process by handpicking their
states convention delegates

The progressives sought to give voters the power to select the delegates

primary, because the voters are not choosing the nominees directly but rather are

choosing delegates who in turn select the nominees

The progressives were unable to persuade most states to adopt presidential
That arrangement held until 1968 when Democratic Party leaders ignored the
strength of anti-Vietnam War sentiment in the primaries and nominated Vice
President Hubert Humphrey, who had not entered a single primary and was closely
identified with the Johnson administrations Vietnam policy
The new rules gave the partys voters more control by requiring states to select
their delegates through either primary elections or open party caucuses
The nominating Campaign: Primaries and Caucuses
The year before the first contest in Iowa is a critical period, one that has been
called the invisible primary
Although no votes are cast in this period, it is the time when candidates
demonstrate through their fundraising ability, poll standing, and debate
performance that they are serious contenders for the nomination
In almost every nominating race of the past three decades, the winner has
been the candidate who, before a single vote was cast, had raised the most
money or ranked first in the opinion poll
Once the state caucuses and primaries get under the way, a key to success is
momentuma strong showing in the early contests that contributes to voter
support in subsequent ones
The get more attention from the press, more money from contributors, and
more consideration by the voters
Its not surprising that presidential contenders strive to do well in the early
contests, particularly the first caucus in Iowa and the first primary in New
Money is a crucial factor in presidential nominating races

Although primary-election candidates have increasingly declined federal

funding, they are eligible for it if they meet the eligibility criteria

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, the government

matches the first 250 of each private donation received by a primary
election candidate if the candidate raises at least 5000 in individual
contributions of up to 250 in at least twenty states

The provision is designed to restrict matching funds to candidates who

can demonstrate that they have a reasonable level of public support

Any candidate who receives matching funds must agree to limit

expenditures for the nominating phase to a set amount both overall and
in individual state

The limits are adjusted upward each election year to account for inflation

This development would defeat the purpose of the public funding system,
which is to free the nominees from the obligation that come from taking
money from wealthy individuals and groups
The National Party Conventions
Despite the lack of suspense, the convention remains a major event
It brings together the delegates elected in the state caucuses and primaries
It also serves as a time for the party to heal any divisions created by the
nominating race and to persuade the party faithful to rally behind its
presidential candidate
The conventions are a point in the campaign when large numbers of voters
settle on their choice of a candidate, usually the one nominated by their
preferred party

The parties choose their vice-presidential nominees

The General Election Campaign

The major-party presidential nominees have a reservoir of votes
A third-party candidate can create problems for a major party by drawing
votes away from its nominee
Election Strategy

The candidates strategies in the general election are shaped by several

considerations, none more so than the Electoral College

The importance of electoral votes is magnified by the unit rule all states
expect Maine and Nebraska grant all their electoral votes as a unit to the
candidate who wins the states popular vote

For this reason, candidates are concerned with winning the most
populous states

Because of the unit rule, candidates have no incentive to campaign in a

lopsidedly Republican or Democratic state because its electoral votes are
not in doubt

As a result, the fall campaign becomes a fight to win the toss-up states
Media and Money

Candidates rely on the media, particularly the Internet and television

The Internet is used mostly for fundraising and organizing

Television is used mostly as a way to persuade undecided voters

The Republican and Democratic nominees are eligible for federal funding
of their general election campaigns even if they do not accept it during the
The Winners

The Constitution specifies that the president must be at least 35 years old,
be a natural-born US citizen, and have been a US resident for at least 14

Except for four army generals, all presidents to date have served
previously as vice presidents, members of Congress, state governors, or
top executives
Staffing the Presidency

Roughly a thousand of these appointments require Senate approval and, reflecting

the increased level of party polarization in Washington, the confirmation process
has grown more contentious

Senators of the opposing party have sought to slow down and block the
appointment of individuals they see as having unacceptable policy views

Senate Republicans then proceeded to block his appointment, forcing Obama to use
a recess appointment to play Corday in the position (The Constitution permits the
president to fill executive openings
with Senate approval after the Senate
concludes its business at the end of
the year. These recess appointments
expire at the end of the subsequent
Senate session)

The Vice President

The Vice president holds a
separate elective office from the
president but, in practice, is part
of the presidential team
Because the Constitution assigns

no executive authority to the office, the vice presidents duties within the
administration are determined by the president

The Executive Office of the President (EOP)

The key staff organization is the Executive
Office of the President (EOP), created by
Congress in 1939 to provide the president
with the staff necessary to coordinate the
activities of the executive branch
Of the EOPs organizational units, the White
House Office (WHO) serves the president
most directly
The WHO includes the Communication
Office, the Office of the Press Secretary, the
Office of the Counsel to the President, and
the Office of Legislative Affairs
They tend to be skilled at developing
political strategy and communicating with
the public, the media, and other officials
They are among the most powerful
individuals in Washington because of their
closeness to the president

Cabinet and Agency Appointees

The heads of the fifteen executives
departments, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of
Agriculture, constitute the presidents cabinet
They are appointed by the president, subject to confirmation by the Senate
As issues have increased in complexity, presidents have relied more heavily on
presidential advisors and individual cabinet members rather than on the
cabinet as a whole
The president selects them for their prominence in politics, business,
government, or the professions
The president appoints the heads and top deputies of federal agencies and
commissions, as well as the nearly two hundred ambassadors
They are more than 2000 full-time presidential appointees, a much larger
number than are appointed by the chief executive of any other democracy

The problem of control

Although the presidents appointees are a major asset, their large number
poses a control problem for the president
The presidents problem is most severe in the case of appointees who work in
the departments and agencies
Their offices are located outside the White House, and their loyalty is
sometimes split between a desire to promote the presidents goals and an
interest in promoting themselves or the agencies they lead
Lower-level appointees within the departments and agencies pose a different
type of problem
The president rarely, if ever, sees them, and many of them are political novices
Factors in Presidential Leadership

All presidents are expected to provide national leadership, but not all presidents are
equally adept at it

Strong presidents have usually had a strategic vision of where they want to lead the
country, as well as a clear sense of how their ideas intersect with Americans

As a result, they have been able to communicate their goals in a way that generates
public support and confidence
Although effective leadership is a key to presidential success, it is only one
The president operates within a system of separate institutions that share power
Significant presidential action typically depends on the approval of Congress, the
cooperation of the bureaucracy, and sometimes the acceptance of the judiciary
The Force of Circumstance
A decisive election victory that gave added force to the presidents leadership,
a compelling national problem that convinced Congress and the public that
bold presidential action was needed, and a president who was mindful of what
was expected and championed policies consistent with expectations
The problem with most presidents is that they serve at a time when conditions
are not conducive to ambitious goals
The Stage of the Presidents Term
If conditions conducive to great accomplishments occur irregularly, it is
nonetheless the case that nearly every president has favorable moments
Most newly elected presidents enjoy a honeymoon period during which
Congress, the press, and the public anticipate initiatives from the Oval Office
and are more predisposed than usual to support them
Later in their terms, presidents may have run out of good ideas or depleted
their political resources; meanwhile, the momentum of their election is gone,
and the sources of opposition have emerged
Presidents are often most powerful when they are least experiencesduring
their first months of office
These months can be time of risk as well as times of opportunity
The Nature of the Issue: Foreign or Domestic
In the 1960s, political scientists Aaron Wildavsky wrote that the nation has
only one president but two presidencies: one domestic and one foreign
Wildavsky was referring to Congresss greater deference to presidential
leadership on foreign policy than on domestic policy
Presidents still have an edge when the issue is foreign policy, because they
have more authority to act on their own and are more likely to have
congressional support
In some cases, presidents can literally dictate the direction of foreign policy
Presidents also acquire leverage in foreign and defense policy because of their
special relationship with the defense, diplomatic, and intelligence agencies
The defense, diplomatic, and intelligence agencies are a different matter, their
missions closely parallel the presidents constitutional authority as
commander in chief and chief diplomat
A presidents domestic policy initiatives usually encounter stiffer opposition
than their foreign policy efforts
Attempts at significant action ins the domestic policy realm invariable activate
contending forces
Relations with Congress
Although the power of the presidency is not nearly as substantial as some
Americans assume, the presidents ability to set the national agenda is
Seeking cooperation from Congress

As the center of national attention, presidents can start to believe that

their ideas should prevail over those of Congress

This reasoning invariably gets the president into trouble

To get the help of members of Congress, the president must respond to

their interests

The most basic fact about presidentical leadership is that it takes place in
the context of a system of divided powers

Although the presidents gets most of the attention, Congress has

lawmaking authority, and presidents need its cooperation to achieve their
legislative goals

Even the presidents most direct legislative tool, the veto, has limits

Congress can seldom muster the two-thirds majority in each chamber

required to override a presidential veto, so the threat of a veto can make
Congress bend to the presidents demands

Yet, as the presidential scholar argued, the veto is as much a sign of

presidential weakness as it is a sign of strength, because it arises when
Congress refuses to accept the presidents ideas

Congress is a constituency that all presidents must serve if they expect to

have its support

Neustadt concluded that presidential power, at base, is the power to


Like any singular notion of presidential power, Neustadts has limitations

Presidents at times have the power to command and to threaten, they can
also appeal directly to the American people as a means of pressuring
Congress, but Congress can never be taken for granted
Benefiting from Partisan Support in Congress

For most presidents, the next best thing to being Congress, too is to
have a Congress filled with members of their own party

The sources of division within Congress are many

To obtain majority support in Congress, the presidents must find ways to

overcome the divisions

No source of unity is more important to presidential success than


Presidents are more likely to succeed when their own party controls

Few recent policy issues illustrate the importance of partisan support

more than does President Obamas ability, and then his inability, to
convince Congress to enact spending legislation aimed at stimulating the
Colliding with Congress

On rare occasions, presidents have pursued their goals so zealously that

Congress has taken steps to curb their use of power

Congress ultimate sanction is its constitutional authority to impeach and

remove the president from office

The House of Representatives decides by majority vote whether the

president should be impeached, and the Senate conducts the trial and
then votes on the presidents case, with a two-thirds vote required for
removal from office

The gravity of impeachment action makes it an unsuitable basis for

curbing presidential action expect in rare instances

More often, Congress has responded legislatively to what it sees as

unwarranted assertions of executive power

Congresss most ambitious effort to curb presidential power is the War

Powers Act

During the Vietnam War, Presidents Johnson and Nixon misled Congress,
supplying it with intelligence estimates that painted a falsely optimistic
picture of the military situation

Believing the war was being won, Congress regularly voted to provide the
money to keep it going

However, congressional support changed abruptly in 1971 with publican

in the New York Times of classified documents that revealed the Vietnam
situation to be more perilous than Johnson and Nixon claimed

In an effort to prevent future presidential wars, Congress in 1973 passed

the War Powers Act

The Act does not prohibit the president from sending troops into combat,
but it does require the president to consult with Congress whenever
feasible before doing so and requires the president to inform Congress
within 48 hours of the reason for the military action

The War Powers Act also requires hostilities to end within 60 days unless
Congress extends the period

The act gives the president an additional 30 days to withdraw the troops
from hostile territory, although Congress can shorten the 30 day period

Presidents have claimed that the War Powers Act infringes on their
constitutional power as commander in chief, but the Supreme Court has
not ruled on the issue, leaving open the question of whether it constrains
the presidents war-making powers

Public Support
Presidential power rests in part on a claim to national leadership, and the
strength of that claim is roughly proportional to the presidents public support
Presidential approval ratings are predictably high at the start of the presidents
time in office
With public backing, the presidents leadership cannot be dismissed easily by
other Washington officials
When the presidents public support sinks, however, officials are less inclined
to accept that leadership
Events and Issues

Public support for the president is conditioned by developments at home

and abroad

International crises tend to produce a patriotic rally round the flag

reaction that builds support for the president

Virtually every foreign policy crisis of the pat four decades has followed
this pattern

Economic conditions play a large part in the presidents public support

Economic downturns invariable reduce public confidence in the president

The Televised Presidency

An advantage that presidents have in their efforts to nurture public

support is their access to the media, particularly television

Only the president can expect the networks to provide free airtime to
address the nation, and in terms of the amount of news coverage, the
president receives twice as much news coverage as Congress
The Illusion of Presidential Government

Presidents have no choice but to try to counter negative press portrayals by putting
their own spin on developments

Such efforts can carry a president only so far, however

No president can fully control his communicated image, and national conditions
ultimately have the largest impact on a presidents public support
No amount of public relations can disguise adverse developments at home or
Indeed, presidents run rusk building up their images through public relations
Because the publics expectations are high, presidents get too much credit when
things go well and too much blame with things go badly