The Power of the Presidency
* I believe that most significant of the powers at the hands of the President are those that are considered ?informal?, especially those that allow him to persuade and gain loyalty of many people.
The Presidency of the United States is said to be the most powerful office in the world. Taking a closer look at this statement presents the questions of how and why the president so powerful. It might shock some people to learn that a significant amount of his powers are not prescribed to him or written in the Constitution, but are gained in other ways. I believe that the most significant of the powers at the hands of the President are those that are considered ?informal?, especially those that allow him to persuade and gain loyalty of many people.
The President is usually more powerful during his ?honeymoon period? or first hundred or so days in office. This mostly stems from his recent approval of the voters and serves as a notice to Congress that he deserves to be in office because the citizens like what he has to offer. As an effect, Congress is more accepting of his legislative ideas and proposals. This gives him an edge to get some legislation passed right off the bat and show the country that he is performing his duties skillfully. His success or failure as the President will be primarily judged on how well he was able to get his legislation passed.
The President’s power and approval rating is greatly boosted in times of war or foreign troubles. This is called ?rallying around the flag.? Citizens feel more loyalty towards their President when he is acting on behalf of the country in a serious matter such as war or other serious foreign policy. The President even gains higher approval, and therefore more power to influence the public, by surviving an assassination attempt.
A huge tool to gain power at the fingertips of the Presidency is the media. Not only does the President address the nation during the State of the Union Address, he is able to call press conferences whenever he wishes to reach the citizens. He is, almost without a doubt, the only government official that has this power. As long as this tool is used sparingly, it can cause a huge response among citizens. The President can persuade the American people see issues his way and to take action in any way that he suggests. It is rumored that during a Presidential broadcast in which the President asked the country to turn down their thermostats in order to save gas that the monitoring utility companies immediately saw a major drop in the amount of gas being consumed for heating all across the country. President Lyndon Johnson used this tool to create support for his decision to send troops to Vietnam. With strong public speaking skills , a likeable personality, and a an assertive demeanor, the President can convince citizens, including other government officials, that his agenda is in their best interest.
Winning the Presidency also confirms the President’s status as the leader of his political party. The President has a great amount of control over his subordinate party members and their decisions on his policy proposals. This comes from his ability to encourage loyalty to the party and the their need for his support during their elections. The President will obviously have more power when his party controls a majority of the House or Senate.
My argument that these ?informal? powers are the most important is based on the idea that they also help him to more effectively perform his formal or prescribed powers. His effectiveness in using these persuasion powers will help him in order to produce approval for his Executive Orders, use of Executive Privilege, Judicial appointments, vetoes, treaties, and many other things. These powers are extremely important and can be subject to great scrutiny depending on their seriousness. With appropriate use of all ?informal? powers, ?formal? powers can be wielded with ease and a higher rate of approval among the citizens in which our President has been elected to serve.
The close election fiasco that is going on right now will most definitely affect the president-elect, whoever it may be. If George W. Bush wins, their will be a great amount of citizens who refuse to accept him as the legitimate President because of his extremely small margin of victory that may or may not be accurate. If Al Gore turns out to be the winner, most Republican supporters will see him as the guy who stole the Presidency and will refuse to see him as the legitimate winner. Either way, the tight election will probably hurt the elected President’s credibility, ability to pass legislation, and use his informal powers. This coming President will be known as the one who won only after weeks of re-counts, legal battles, and a handful of votes. The ?honeymoon period? for this President will probably be a time of lower approval depending on the how much longer the re-counts and court cases continue to flood the media and the minds of the voting citizens. The President’s relationship with the Judicial branch could suffer from the presence of a resentful attitude of opposing party members regarding his Justice/Judge appointments and the credibility of his achieved authority to do so.
The country will benefit from a President who will convince citizens that he is fully qualified to take on the job and restores dignity and honor to the office to make Americans proud.