Chapter Study Outline

Establishing the Presidency

  1. The framers thought a unitary executive would be energetic and thus better able to protect the nation’s interests.
  2. Presidents are selected in indirect elections through the electoral college.
  3. The presidency was strengthened by the introduction of the national convention system of nominating presidential candidates.
  4. The development of presidential government as we know it today did not mature until FDR and his “New Deal” of the 1930s. Since then, every president has been strong whether he was committed to the strong presidency or not.

The Constitutional Powers of the Presidency

  1. The president’s expressed powers fall into five categories—military, judicial, diplomatic, executive, and legislative—that are the source of some of the most important powers on which the president can draw.
  2. The position of commander in chief makes the president the highest military authority in the United States, with control of the entire military establishment. Though the president is commander in chief, only Congress can declare war. However, presidents have gone a long way in capturing this power for themselves. In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution as a response to presidential unilateralism, but it has been generally ignored by presidents.
  3. The Constitution delegates to the president, as commander in chief, the obligation to protect every state against invasion and domestic violence.
  4. The presidential power to grant reprieves, pardons, and amnesties allows the president to choose freedom or confinement, and even life or death for all individuals who have violated, or are suspected of having violated, federal laws, including people who directly threaten the security of the United States.
  5. The power to receive representatives of foreign countries allows the president almost unconditional authority to determine whether a new ruling group can indeed commit its country to treaties and other agreements.
  6. The president’s executive power consists of the ability to appoint, remove, and supervise all executive officers, and appoint all federal judges (with Senate approval).
  7. Another component of the president’s power as chief executive is executive privilege—the claim that confidential communications between a president and close advisers should not be revealed without presidential consent.
  8. The president’s legislative power consists of the constitutional requirement to deliver a State of the Union address and the president’s constitutional power to veto any acts of Congress.
  9. Though not explicitly, the constitution also provides the president with the power of legislative initiative, which implies the ability to formulate proposals for important policies.
  10. The president can issue executive orders, which are first and foremost simply normal tools of management: rules-setting procedures, etiquette, chains of command, functional responsibilities, and others. But evolving out of this normal management practice is a recognized presidential power to promulgate rules that have the effect and the formal status of legislation.
  11. Powers given to the president by Congress are called delegated powers. Because of the expansion of government in the last century, Congress has voluntarily delegated a great deal of its own legislative authority to the executive branch.

The Presidency as an Institution

  1. Collectively, the thousands of officials and staffers who work for, assist, or advise the chief executive could be said to make up the institutional presidency and to give the president a capacity for action that no single individual could duplicate.
  2. The Cabinet is the designation for the heads of all the major federal government departments, but it is not a collective body. It meets but makes no decisions as a group.
  3. Some presidents have relied heavily on the National Security Council (NSC), made up of the president, the vice president, the secretaries of state, defense, and the treasury, the attorney general, and other officials invited by the president.
  4. Presidents increasingly have preferred the White House staff to the Cabinet as a tool for managing the gigantic executive branch.
  5. The White House staff, which is composed primarily of analysts and advisers, has grown from an informal group of fewer than a dozen people to a new presidential bureaucracy.
  6. A major part of the institutional presidency is the Executive Office of the President, which is larger than the White House staff, and it comprises the president’s permanent management agencies. The Office of Management and Budget and the Council of Economic Advisers both fall under this category.
  7. As the institutional presidency has grown in size and complexity, most presidents of the past twenty-five years have sought to use their vice presidents as a management resource after the election.
  8. First ladies have traditionally assisted presidents in meeting their responsibilities as head of state, though some first ladies have been more involved in policy aspects of the presidency.
  9. The president, although technically not able to introduce legislation in Congress, nonetheless has a leading role in lawmaking. Congress has come to expect the president to propose the government’s budget, and the nation has come to expect presidential initiatives to deal with major problems.

The Contemporary Bases of Presidential Power

  1. Generally, presidents have expanded their power in three ways: party, popular mobilization, and administration.
  2. Although all presidents rely on the members and leaders of their own party to implement their legislative agendas, the president does not control his own party; party members have considerable autonomy. During periods of divided government, the president’s party is in the minority in Congress.
  3. “Going public” as a source of presidential power has been especially significant in the past fifty years. But popular support for the president can be fickle and tends to decline over the course of a president’s administration.
  4. Contemporary presidents have increased the administrative capabilities and power of their office by enhancing the reach and power of the Executive Office of the President, increasing White House control over the federal bureaucracy, and expanding the role of executive orders and other instruments of direct presidential governance.

Thinking Critically about Presidential Power and Democracy

  1. Since the New Deal, the powers of Congress have waned, whereas those of the presidency have expanded dramatically. Congress has surrendered more and more power to the president.
  2. The decline of voting and other forms of popular involvement in American political life reduces congressional influence and Congress’s ability to check the power of the presidency. Presidents have increasingly asserted the right to govern unilaterally and now appear able to overcome most institutional and political constraints.