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The American Presidency Essay, Research Paper

The Power Of the American Presidency

The office of the American President is unquestionably a democratically ruled

position. The checks and balances of the Legislative and Judicial branches, known as

Separation of Powers, keep the presidency one of the most important duties in the

world, but at the same time, the checks and balances do not let the president have too

much power.

Separation of power was very effective; The three branches of government

(executive, legislative, and judicial) are kept separate, and each has different powers.

Congress has legislative, or law making, powers; the President has the power to carry

out, or execute, the laws; and the Judicial branch had the judging power, used to

interpret the laws. In addition, each branch is able to restrain or balance the powers of

the other two branches upon power abuse. If the President is suspected of unlawful

acts, he can be impeached, or tried by the House and Senate for misusing his power. If

he is found guilty, he can be thrown out of office, unless two thirds of Congress agrees

with a treaty he proposes. Furthermore, if the President wants to spend money, his

request must pass through Congress, since it has control over spending. Lastly,

Congress can re-pass a vetoed bill. Congress also has checks and balances against

itself. The president can veto a bill from Congress, and although Congress can

override a veto, obtaining a two-thirds vote is very difficult. Public speeches by the

President may also concern the public with an issue, putting pressure on Congress to

act upon it.

The American President is one of the most important persons on earth. The

president, however, cannot pass a single bill without the approval of the House and the

Senate. The president can propose bills, and he often deals with many short, yet

unthinkably important questions concerning various factors throughout the world.

Although the president ultimately has the power to suggest just about anything on our

society, our government does not grant him total power over the decisions made

politically throughout the course of his four years.

Michael Genovese, author of The Power of the American President argues

that while as Commander-in-Chief, the President bears incredible pressures and

responsibilities, the President not only has power in the United States, but also

tremendous influence throughout the world. Genovese realizes the tremendous burden

that this incredible position entails, as he notes that many presidents publicly admit that

the office of the president is a miserable one, even though so many lobby and work so

hard to become the president1.

In any system which claims to be democratic, a question of its legitimacy

remains. A truly democratic political system has certain characteristics which prove its

legitimacy with their existence. One essential characteristic of a legitimate democracy

is that it allows people to freely make choices without government intervention.

Another necessary characteristic which legitimates government is that every vote must

count equally: one vote for every person. For this equality to occur, all people must be

subject to the same laws, have equal civil rights, and be allowed to freely express their

ideas. Minority rights are also crucial in a legitimate democracy. No matter how

unpopular their views, all people should enjoy the freedoms of speech, press and

assembly. Public policy should be made publicly, not secretly, and regularly scheduled

elections should be held. Since “legitimacy” may be defined as “the feeling or opinion

the people have that government is based upon morally defensible principles and that

they should therefore obey it,” then there must necessarily be a connection between

what the people want and what the government is doing if legitimacy is to take place.

While circumstances may dictate what a President must deal with, it does not

necessarily explain how he comes to a position on issues and deals with problems. The

behavior of a President can only be explained as a combination of many factors. His

personal politics and approach to the power of the Presidency will explain if he will try

to lead the whole government and beyond that the whole nation, or if he will act as a

clerk, putting into action the orders of Congress. A Presidents character and style of

leadership are an important factor in his approach to leadership. The size and duty of

the Federal Government also effect a President’s behavior and the priorities of his

office. Finally a President must react to events at home and abroad which are out of his

control. The pressures that these events and the public reaction to them probably have

the greatest influence over his behavior and decisions. Actions and behavior of a

President are the result of a complex set of circumstances. No one criteria can be used

to explain the behavior of the president in any event.

Democracy, a noble idea, is based in the belief that people can govern

themselves without a monarchy or ruling class. People can choose, and by that power

of choice, decide the direction and quality of their lives. Athenian democracy,

destroyed before it had time to flourish, planted this notion in mankind. American

democracy extended their ideas and has since kept on refining the notion that all men

are created equal and should have a voice in their destiny. This distinction, however,

appears to be a tainted view of an unrealistic world, sought after by most Americans.

An example of this claim can be seen by viewing the current president of an example

of our democracy. In a democracy, the majority decide the outcome of political

matters, such as the position of president, but in our most recent election, the majority

voted for Al Gore, yet George Bush was elected due to a rule that was made to keep

slave states from having too much power that decides votes by states rather than

individuals.


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