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Please be aware that this is a student-generated wiki designed for review for my students' AP exams. Come in, look around, and enjoy yourself...just be aware of the nature of this wiki. Even though most everything is correct, I advise caution before citing this as an authoritative source.

The Executive Branch (The Presidency)

Executive branch includes the president's personal staff in the White House Office, the cabinet, agencies in the Executive Office (that report directly to the President), and independent agencies and commissions such as the Federal Reserve Board. The president and vice-president are the only officials elected indirectly by the whole nation.

Fears of the Framers of the Constitution: (Wilson)
  • Lack of balance between executive and legislative branches.
  • Feared military power of the president.
  • Feared Presidential bribery for reelection.
  • They feared anarchy and monarchy about equally.
  • They knew that they had to create a balanced position so that neither congress nor the presidency would become too dominant over one another.
  • They were concerned about the issue of reelection the most.
  • The founders feared that the President could corrupt the Senate.

Consequently, the Founders envisioned the executive branch as a relatively weak functional body of government.

Divided/Unified Governments
Divided government: one party controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of Congress
  • This is possible in the United States because it is possible that the President would not belong to the majority party of Congress(ex: last few years of Clinton administration when the presidency was Democratic but Congress was Republican).
  • Under a Prime Minister, this is impossible because the Prime Minister belongs to the majority party by definition.
  • A common misconception about divided government is that the President and Congress will create political gridlock and not get anything done because of their differing views.
  • However, a president with a differently affiliated Congress can still be just as slow in passing legislation as a President with unified government.
  • Ex: Government shutdown during Obama's administration in 2013 because Congress(Republican) declined to pass a bill meant to delay the Affordable Care Act(created by President Obama[Democratic]) and the two legislative houses did not create a compromise bill which led to a lack in appropriated funds which caused the federal government to shut down for 16 days.
Unified government: The same party controls the White House and both houses of Congress
  • There has been a unified government in the United States only three times in the years from 1969-2001 (Wilson 370).
  • The general populace tends to not favor a divided government because it creates a gridlock in policy, and political stagnation (Wilson 370).
  • Gridlock is the inability of the government to act because rival parties control different parts of the government.
  • However it is unclear if a divided government produces gridlock worse than unified government.
  • Divided governments produced the 1946 Marshall Plan and the 1986 Tax Reform Act (Wilson).
  • Also it is unclear if gridlock is always or even usually a bad thing. It may actually be a good thing for our country. Gridlock is seen as a good thing because people like the idea of being able to block a policy to some degree. However, gridlock is also seen as a bad thing because it causes delays and intensifies deliberations.
  • According to experts, divided and unified governments do equally well in conducting important investigations, passing important laws, and ratifying significant treaties. (Wilson)
  • Unified government is a bit of a myth: just because the president and Congress are from the same party does not mean they share the exact same beliefs. (Wilson) A Republican president and his assent Congress can have the same oppositions about issues the same way a Democrat and a Republican does.
  • In addition, a president and a majority of Congress may be of the same party but still not pass many things as the members do not think is it "liberal enough" or that it is "too liberal," for instance.
  • Another reason for this conflict is that the constitution ensures that the president and Congress will be rivals for power and thus rival for policy making (Wilson 171).

Evolution of the Presidency

Concerns of the Founders
  • Believed the president would use the state militia to overpower the state governments.
    • After being governed by Great Britain, many of the early Americans were worried that the federal government would gain too much power. They did not want any of the three branches of government to have too much power over any of the others so that a monarchy could be avoided.
  • Worried that if the president shared the power to make treaties with the Senate that they would try to control him and make him a "tool of the Senate" (Wilson 372).
  • Their greatest concern was in the possibility in a perpetually-lasting term, where the president was to stay in the commanding position for the rest of his life through bribery, force or intrigue.
    • This concern is misplaced because as the founders believed that almost every election will land in the House of Representatives due to the candidates being unable to receive a majority vote, but since its conception, there has only been two instances of elections decided by the House (1800 and 1824).
  • The Framers initially thought the president should be elected by Congress, however they realized that in some cases either the president could dominate Congress, or the other way around (Wilson 373).
  • The power of the president has increased in foreign affairs and his ability to shape public opinion. He has certain "inherent" powers.
  • The American president was the very first leader of its type.
  • George Washington's decision to serve two terms established a “two term precedent” that was not broken until FDR.
  • After FDR's 4 terms, the 22nd amendment was passed, officially limiting the presidential terms to two.
  • The presidency was also kept simple and modest.
  • At first, many delegates feared that the presidency would become "the fetus of monarchy."

The Electoral College
  • Each state would select electors in whatever manner it wished, and these electors would meet in each state capital and vote for president and vice president (Wilson).
  • Created in part with Founders worries over presidential reelection
  • House of Representatives make the choice with each state putting down one vote
    • .
    • The House has decided two presidential elections.
      • One election that went to the House in 1824 came to be referred to as the 'Corrupt Bargain'. Andrew Jackson had won the plurality of both electoral and popular votes. John Quincy Adams was, however, chosen by the House as the president. It is believed that Henry Clay, the speaker of the House, helped persuade the House to vote for John Quincy Adams. Adams then appointed Clay as his secretary of state to reciprocate. [1]
      • the second election where this happened was in 1800 where Jefferson and Burr both gained the same amount of votes and after 35 successive ties the house elected Jefferson president on the 36th vote.
  • According to Wilson & Dilulio, the Framers did not foresee the role of political parties in making nationwide support for national candidates as they expected every decision for the presidency to be decided in the House of Reps.
  • In all but two states (Maine and Nebraska), the candidate who wins the most popular votes wins all of the state's electoral votes, these states use a winner-take-all system. (Wilson and Dilulio).
  • There are 538 electors, a presidential candidate needs to win at least 270 votes.
    • Electors are chosen to cast their vote for their state. Sometimes a elector will not even cast the vote for the candidate the majority of their voters chose.
    • All electoral votes of a state (say California with 55) will go to a candidate if he wins just a majority of just the 55 electoral votes.
  • A president can win the popular vote and still not win the presidency by means of electoral vote (eg: Gore vs Bush in the 2000 election)

The President's term of office
  • Washington set the precedent of only serving 2 (4 year) terms
  • He, along with Jefferson and the early presidents, established the office as a modest position, incomparable to the British monarchy they had such distaste for.
    • The two-term tradition didn't change until FDR, who served from 1933-1945
    • In 1951 the 22nd Amendment was ratified and it ensured each president could only serve 2 terms
The First Presidents
  • The first presidents were natural leaders, already very involved (Wilson 374)
    • All were active in either the movement for independence or in the Founding or in both.
  • Washington and Monroe were elected unopposed
  • Presidency was kept modest
    • Washington ended the responsibility of the Senate to advise the president (Wilson 375)
  • When parties first emerged under the first presidents, they drew negative views (Wilson 374)
  • Four out of the first five presidents all served 2 full terms.
  • Some presidents, both early and later on, were involved with the military and/or were war heroes, which garnered large amounts of recognition and support for them for a tenure in office (eg: Jackson, Grant,T. Roosevelt, Eisenhower)
  • In appointing people to federal office, a "rule" emerged that said, "Those appointed should have some standing in their communities and be well though of by their neighbors."
  • Jackson altered the relationship between the Executive Branch and Congress during his time in office (1829-1837).
    • His vetoes were based not on constitutional grounds by on policy ones.
    • Jackson made twelve presidential vetoes, which was more vetoes than any president before him combined. Andrew Johnson was the next president to veto more than twelve laws.
  • He was a believer of a strong and independent presidency, and he despised a strong central federal government.
  • He saw himself as the “Tribune of the People”.
  • Jackson did not make many new policies. He mainly struck down the policies that he believed should not be passed. Out of all of his vetoes, none were overridden.
  • He was extremely popular due to his concern for the “common man”.
  • He proved the advantages and the beginning of the importance of character within a president.
  • Jackson demonstrated what could be done by a popular president. (Wilson 374)
  • He believed and wanted elected over appointed judges.
The Reemergence of Congress
  • The power of the presidency has declined since Jackson's second term. Only 3 presidents since then have demonstrated significant presidential power over congress (Lincoln, Polk, and Cleveland) (Wilson).
  • Excluding the administrations of Roosevelt and Wilson, until the New Deal, the president was a source of opposition to Congress, not a source of leadership (Wilson).
  • Although presidents dominated budget policy-making from the 1920s into the early 1970s, this is no longer the case since congressional leaders have stepped up in their role in the budgetary process (Wilson).
  • "no name" or "forgettable presidents" were presidents elected after Jackson ( Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, B Harrison, and McKinley) shows the decline in presidential power because these presidents did little for the country while in office.

Qualifications and Benefits
  • Natural born citizen
  • Thirty-five years of age
  • Resident of the United States for at least fourteen consecutive years before the election
  • Though not official qualifications, many presidents have shared some of these characteristics: political/military experience, married, white male, protestant
  • Nice house
  • A taxable salary of $400,000 per year
  • Expense account of $50,000 per year, not taxable
  • Travel expenses of $100,000 per year, not taxable
  • Pension equal to that of a cabinet member
  • Staff support and Secret service protection during the presidency, and for all presidents after Clinton for 10 years; all presidents Clinton and earlier will have the protection for life.
  • White house staff of 400-500 persons
  • A place in the country-Camp David
  • A personal airplane- Air Force One
  • A personal helicopter - Marine One
  • A fine chef
  • Fame
  • Will be marked down in history
  • The opportunity to make the changes they may have wanted in the past

Presidential Character:
  • Active-positive: takes pleasure in the work of office, easily adjusts to different situations, confident FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Ford, Carter, Bush)
  • Active-negative: hard worker, doesn't enjoy work, insecure in position, possibly antagonistic (Wilson, Hoover, LBJ, Nixon)
    • The way the white house is run mirrors the personality of the president. Not only is the president judged by what he has done for his country but also in terms of perception of his character.
    • Every president has had greater admiration in certain focuses such as military (Eg. Eisenhower for military or foreign policy such as Nixon did).
    • People seek trust and hope in their presidents and once an event reveals an unfavorable act of the president, his popularity is immediately at stake.

Presidents and Prime Ministers

  • Popularly elected president
    • this is largely an American invention, with only about 16 of 60 countries with party competition have directly elected presidents
    • most of the countries directly selecting presidents are in the Americas while Western Europe practices the selection of a prime minister by a parliament
  • Presidents are often outsiders
    • To become President a person has to win elections, while Prime Ministers are selected from among people already in parliament.
    • Presidential candidates find much success in alienating themselves from the "mess in Washington" - in order to gain more popularity, they must prove themselves to be promising of change in the status quo of government.
  • Presidents choose cabinet members from outside congress
    • Most president's cabinet are made up of close personal friends or campaign aides, representatives of important constituencies, experts on various policy issues, or some combination of all three (Wilson).
    • No sitting member of Congress can hold office in the executive branch under the Constitution
  • Presidents have no guaranteed majority in legislature. This is why divided government is so common in the American system
    • Usually Congress is controlled by the opposite party causing a divided government.
      • Even if one party controls both the presidency and Congress, there is no guarantee that the party will act in accordance to what the president wants, due to separation of powers (Wilson).
    • Prime minister's party always has a majority in Parliament (or else he wouldn't be prime minister)
      • Increased chance of gridlock ( the inability of the government to act because rival parties control different parts of the government - Wilson 371).
        • The only time there really is unified government is when not just the same party but the same ideological wing of that party is in effective control of both branches of government
  • Prime Ministers pick their cabinet members from among members of Parliament (Wilson 369).
  • Prime Ministers are chosen by the legislature not by voters (Wilson 369).

Powers of the President (Wilson)
  • Only for the President (wields the executive power)
    • Commander in chief of the armed forces
    • Can declare war
    • Commission officers and appoint officials to lesser offices
    • Grant reprieves and pardons for federal offenses except for impeachment
    • Receive ambassadors
    • Convene Congress in special sessions
    • Wield the "executive power" (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • Appoint officials to lesser offices (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • Article II: "take care that laws be faithfully executed" (Lincoln used this as support for his suspension of habeas corpus, and his deployment of troops without congressional consent)
    • Initiate foreign policy
      • Executive agreements: agreements between heads of countries; under international and US law they are as binding as a treaty (Meltzer)
  • Must be approved by the Senate
    • Ratify treaties
    • Appoint ambassadors, judges, and high officials
  • President shared with Congress
    • Approve legislation (e.g Veto or not veto a bill).
  • The powers listed above may not seem that impressive only since the Founders viewed the work of the president as "usually not much above routine," but they did not consider the influence they have over their informal powers.
  • Informal Powers
    • act as morale builders
    • legislative leaders and coalition builders
    • policy persuader and communicator to Congress and the American people
  • The greatest source of presidential power is not in the Constitution, but instead in politics and public opinion. For example, congress has passed laws that gives the executive branch authority to achieve general goals by defining regulations and programs that will be put into effect. (Wilson 380).

How the president puts programs together
  • Interests groups:
    • Strength: Will have specific plans and ideas
    • Weakness: Will have narrow view of the public interest.
  • Aides and campaign advisers
    • Strength: Will test new ideas for their political soundness
    • Weakness: Will not have many ideas to test, being inexperienced in government
  • Federal Bureaus and agencies
    • Strength: Will know what is feasible in terms of governmental realities.
    • Weakness: Will propose plans that promote own agencies and will not have good info on whether plans will work
  • Outside, academic, and other specialists and experts
    • Strength: Will have many general ideas and criticisms of existing programs.
    • Weakness: Will not know the details of policy or have good judgment as to what is feasible.
  • Two essential ways a president develops a program:
    • Carter and Clinton had policy on almost everything. Reagan concentrated on three of four major initiatives or themes and leave everything else to subordinates.

The 22nd Amendment

  • States that no person may be elected to be President of the United States more than twice, however, if they have held two years of office to a term where another president was elected, this person can only be elected as president once. (So no more then 6 years)
    • If less than two full years were served because of succession then the candidate may be elected for two full terms
  • created after FDR was elected for a 4th term and served 3 full terms

The 25th Amendment

The 25th Amendment was added to the Constitution as a result of the JFK assassination.
  • vice president serves as acting president if president is disabled.
    • After Vice-President is the speaker of the house followed by President Pro-Tempore
  • illness or disability of president decided by either: the president, vice president, and the cabinet, OR by a two-thirds vote by Congress.
  • the NEW vice president must be confirmed by a majority vote of both the House of Reps. and the Senate.
    • An example of this would include the Nixon resignation.
  • Following from the 1947 Presidential Succession Act, after the vice-president, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate president pro-tempore are next.


  • is one method by which presidents can be removed from office before their term expires
  • impeachment is defined as bringing charges against a president approved by a majority of the House of Representatives
  • 2/3 of Senate votes are needed to convict a president and the Chief Justice makes the decision to remove him from office
  • Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton are the only presidents that have been impeached but none were convicted
  • The reason for Johnson's impeachment was entirely political. His policies towards the South after the Civil War were though to be soft.
  • "Some founders may have thought that impeachment would be used frequently...but as a practical matter it is so complex..that we can expect it to be reserved..for the gravest...misconduct" (Wilson and Dilulio 404)

Presidents In Action
    • U.S. Budget: Budget proposals for Congress are put together by the Office of Management and Budget and by the President's staff. If the president ignores the agency proposals from the final budget, that was proposed to Congress, he is saying "no."
    • Veto: Within 10 days of a bill being passed, the president has the choice to veto that bill. A vetoed bill can still be passed if there is a 2/3 vote from each house.An unsigned or vetoed bill automatically becomes law after the president's 10 days are up if Congress is still in session. A pocket veto is when Congress has adjourned within the 10 days that the president had to veto or sign a bill that doesn't become law. Presidential vetoes are rarely overridden by Congress.The line-item veto act of, that only approves of certain section of a bill, was declared unconstitutional in 1996 by the Supreme Court.
  • Historically there have been over 1454 regular vetoes and fewer than 200 have been overridden by Congress.
    • Presidents who want to accomplish things should do it in their 1st term
    • Many states also extend the power to veto legislation to their respective state governors. A governor can line-item veto a legislature, unlike the president.

  • Bully pulpit: according to Wilson, this is the president's use of his prestige and visibility to guide or enthuse the American public
    • Term was originally coined by President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt
    • This can come in various forms such as news broadcasts, weekly presidential radio addresses, debates-speeches, overseas trips, etc.
      • Older presidents relied more on prepared speeches to avoid error, however now most presidents deliver formal speeches.
      • Recent presidents have begun to use the internet and different social networks to appeal to the younger generation of Americans.
      • FDR used "fireside chats" to talk with the public so his new recommended policies and executive orders would be in turn passed in Congress or accepted, because of pressure from the Public.

The Three Audiences (Wilson 390)
  • Washington DC Audience: the most important and is the president's audience of fellow politicians and leaders
  • Party Activists and officeholders outside of Washington DC - the partisan grassroots: want the president to exemplify their principles, trumpet their slogans, appeal to their fears and hopes and get them reelected.
  • "The Public": composed of many publics, each with a different view or set of interests.
    • While campaigning, a president speaks highly of what he will accomplish once in office. Once in office, the president keeps quiet about the problem at hand.
    • To keep a good reputation, presidents must be precise on what to say to the public given so many risks. President make fewer mistakes since FDR mainly because they rely on prepared speeches to avoid problems.
Popularity and influence
  • The popularity of the president directly affects government.
  • Presidents try to transfer their popularity into support for them in Congress but it usually has little effect.
  • But, Members of Congress believe it is politically risky to challenge a popular president.
  • A president’s popularity cannot be predicted and is usually influenced by factors beyond the president's control.
  • The president's popularity is usually at its highest during the "honeymoon period" which is right after election. After that, popularity tends to decrease unless events such as September 11 occur rising the popularity level once again. The "honeymoon period" allows for the president to propose more things and it wont be as difficult to get approved as it becomes later on in their presidency.
    • Positive media coverage, foreign policy successes, foreign crises that spark American patriotism, and strong economic growth and low unemployment increase presidential approval ratings as well (Krieger 104).
    • Negative factors such as scandals involving the presidents or his aides decrease presidential approval ratings.
  • Usually if there happens to be an economic downfall during a presidents 1st term, the reelection for the second will not be as promising as if could be if there was no economic issues.

Veto Power
Veto Message: a message from the president to Congress stating that he will not sign a bill it has passed. Presidents must produce this veto within ten days after Congress passes a bill otherwise the bill becomes law
Pocket-Veto: occurs when the president doesn't sign a bill within ten days before Congress adjourns
  • Congress can override president's veto if two-thirds of each house in Congress votes to do so, sometimes occurs more often with a divided government which happens when one party is in the White House and the opposing party has the majority in Congress (Wilson).
  • A bill that has received a pocket veto cannot be brought back to life by Congress or carried over to the next session of Congress.
  • Presidents does not have right to a line-item veto (the ability to block a particular provision in a bill passed by Congress).
  • Congress easily takes advantage of the president's inability to line-item veto by adding provisions that the president finds unfavorable to a bill the president supports and wants passed
  • In 1996, Congress passed a bill giving the president "enhanced rescission", meaning he could cancel parts of spending bills passed by Congress without having to veto the entire bill. The decision could be overturned by 2/3 vote of Congress. The Supreme Court, however, decided that this law was unconstitutional (Wilson and Dilulio).
  • A lame duck is a politician whose power has diminished because he or she lost their bid for reelection and is about to leave office. This happens because Congress becomes much less willing to appease a president who will be out of office in a few months and they'd rather try to do things favored by the new future president to start off on good terms with him.
    • A notable example would be when John Adams try to appoint 59 judges (midnight appointments) just before Jefferson came into office, for Adams feared that Jefferson would diminish the power of the federal government.

Executive Privilege
  • Confidential conversations between the President and his advisers do not have to be disclosed.
  • This justification is drawn from the Separation of Powers and the need a president for candid advice. (Benson and Waples)
  • Executive agreements are also informal powers of the President to make foreign policy agreements without the consultation of the Senate.
  • Supreme Court ruled that there was sound basis for the practice especially in military and diplomatic matters, but did not provide immunity against the judicial process.

Impoundment of Funds
  • When the President has refused to spend money that Congress appropriated
  • In 1974 the Budget Reform Act was passed in response to Presidents Nixon's impoundments in 1972
  • The act requires that the President to notify Congress on what they do not plan to spend on, Congress must agrees in 45 days to delete the item. It also requires presidents to notify Congress of delays in spending.
  • This requirement essentially removed the impoundment power and congress has since ignored the vast majority of presidential requests.
  • If Congress doesn't agree the President is required to spend the money.
Executive Office of the President:**
  • Chief of Staff
    • Responsible for managing the Executive Office and can control what information the president gives and receives
  • National Security Council
    • Function is to advise and assist the president's principal foreign and military advisers (Krieger 98).
    • Headed by the National Security Advisor
    • Consists of such public officials as the Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, director of the CIA, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the attorney general.
    • According to the Princeton Review, the NSC has been involved since the late 1940s in the decision-making process during national emergencies
      • President Kennedy- during the Cuban missile crisis
      • President Reagan- during the Iran-Contra affair
      • President Bush- during the Gulf War
  • Domestic Policy Council
      • Established by Executive Order in 1993
      • Coordinates the domestic policy-making process in the White house, ensures that the domestic policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President's stated goals, and monitors implementation of the President's domestic policy agenda.
  • Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
    • Prepares the budget and can be used to control/manage the executive agencies for the president
    • According to Wilson, this agency is perhaps the most important in terms of the president's need for assistance in administering the federal government
  • Director of National Intelligence (DNI)
    • Goal is to integrate the intelligence gathering and analysis functions preformed across the intelligence community in order to provide the best intelligence in the timeliest manner to decision makers.
  • Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)
    • Helps the president make economic policies
  • Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
    • recruit, interview, and oversee their bureaucracy's merit pay and retirement programs along with overseeing all its employees and applicants are treated fairly and according to law
  • Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    • makes trade and tariff negotiations for the president

The Cabinet

  • Cabinet:The heads of the fifteen executive branch departments of the federal government (Wilson). The Cabinet was not outlined in the Constitution, but is seen as an important part of the Executive branch.
    • Departments: State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.
    • The Cabinet is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, though according to Wilson and Dilulio, the 25th Amendment calls the cabinet "the principle offices of the executive offices."
    • President's cabinet members are some of his or her trusted advisers as well.
    • According to Wilson and Dilulio the president appoints or directly controls more members of his cabinet departments than does the British prime minister
      • "Presidents get more appointments than do prime ministers to make up for what the separation of power denies them"(Wilson and Dilulio).
  • The president appoints and directly controls more members of his cabinet than the Prime Minister (Wilson).
  • Cabinet members usually have had some federal experience, and come from "think tanks" such as private businesses, universities, law firms, etc (Wilson).
  • Presidential control over departments remains uncertain- Secretaries become advocates for their departments. (Wilson)
  • The greatest Cabinet department, in terms of employment size, is Defense, followed by Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Treasury, and Justice.
  • President makes these appointments that allow him to reward his political supporters and friends.
  • The president assigns members to many agencies that are not considered a connected with his cabinets. These are referred to as independent agencies.
  • The distinction between executive and independent agencies is based on whether the appointed measures work directly for the president and can be dismissed from the agency by him, or whether the members assigned can be dismissed form the agency on the basis of misbehavior or a justifiable reason. The former conditions define an executive agency, while the latter are more representative of independent agencies.
  • Recently, residents have more frequently begun to utilize acting appointments to office. A member assigned though an “acting” appointment is not confirmed by the Senate. The presidents, believe this is useful, because confirmations by Senate can take a while. The Senate complains this is an unjustifiable way to bypass the confirmation process of the Senate.
    • The Vacancies Act of 1868 in part addresses this matter. An acting appointee is allowed to work for a maximum of 120 days in the position. However, if Senate does not issue a confirmation or denial, the acting appointee may continue to work till the Senate makes a decision. [2]
    • A Divided Government where the Senate and the President are from different parties, causes appointment confirmations to become slower.

Independent Agencies and Commissions
  • The president also appoints members of agencies that have semi-independent status
  • Heads of independent agencies serve for a fixed term and can be removed only by cause (i.e. Chairman of the Fed).
  • Examples of these agencies and commissions are the Consumer Safety Product Commission and the Postal Service

The White House Office
  • Rule of Propinquity: power is wielded by people who are in the room when a decision is made.
    • Example: An example of this would be different people in different chairs discussing an issue when the president is present.
  • Pyramid structure: A president's subordinates report to him through a clear chain of command headed by a chief of staff.
    • Advantage: provides for an orderly flow of information
    • Disadvantage: risk of isolating or misinforming the president
    • Ex: Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan administrations are examples of this (Benson and Waples), though the Clinton administration was an example as well during the later years (Wilson).
  • Circular Structure: Several of the president's assistants report directly to him. This is also called a wheel-and-spokes structure.
    • Advantage: virtue of giving the president a great deal of information
    • Disadvantage: the the information comes to a price of confusion and conflict among cabinet secretaries and assistants
    • Used by Carter
  • Ad hoc structure: Several subordinates, cabinet officers, and committees report directly to the president on different matters
    • Advantages: allows great flexibility, minimizes bureaucratic inertia, and generates ideas and information from fundamentally different channels
    • Disadvantage: risks cutting the president off from government officials who are responsible for translating presidential decisions into policy proposals and administrative action
    • Used for a while by Clinton before his administration switched to the pyramid structure (Wilson).

  • All presidents claim that are open to all sources of advice. Some adopt the circular method of staff organization to show their openness, but it's common for presidents to mix methods.
    • Example: President Carter tried using a circular method and described his office like a wheel, him at the hub and the assistants as spokes. He later found out that managing the White House is extremely difficult.
  • Budget Reform Act of 1974-"requires the president to spend all appropriated funds unless he first tells Congress what funds he wishes not to spend and Congress, within 45 days deletes the items" (Wilson and Dilulio). The courts however have said that the president must spend the money that Congress has appropriated.

Constraints on the President

Both the president and the Congress are more constrained today due to:
  • Complexity of issues
  • Scrutiny of media (less of a worry for Congress)
  • Greater number and power of interest groups
  • What the President can't do:
    • The President cannot make treaties with other nations without the approval of the Senate. The Senate MUST approve treaties before they can be enacted. The President can only propose treaties to Congress
    • The President also cannot declare war on another nation. According to Article 1 Section 8 only Congress has the power to declare war.
    • The President cannot propose legislation. Only Congress has this power, although Presidents do tell members of Congress to put forth legislation

Congress initiated the War Powers Act of 1973, passed through a veto, which ordered the President to seek congressional approval before committing troops or making war. Limits the president to 10,000 troops for 60 days, with 30 additional days to withdraw the troop, unless Congress grants extension or declares war. No President has ever acknowledged the constitutionality of the War Powers Act, however.

The President's Program
President puts together a group that helps him develop policies under short notice
  • There are several sources a President looks towards to put together a program such as:
    • Interest Groups: An interest group would have a specific plan however would most likely not represent the views of other interest groups (Wilson, 397).
    • Campaign advisors: They would see if a specific idea in politics would be practical. However, they may not be as experienced or have many ideas to test at all (Wilson, 397).
    • Federal bureaus and agencies: They are aware of what is and what isn’t possible to achieve with the Government’s state in mind. However, they’re inclined to promote plans for their own agencies solely (Wilson, 397).
    • Outside, academic, and other specialists and experts: they have a lot of input of existing programs, both general and criticism. However, they will not really know the details of policy or how that could be employed. (Wilson 397).
  • Two ways for a president to develop a program
    • Have a policy on everything
    • Concentrate on three or four major initiatives and leave everything else to subordinates
  • Constraints
    • Time and attention span
    • Unexpected crisis wherein the president must respond quickly

How Powerful Is the President?
To deal with potential political issues, there have been "certain rules" that presidents should take into account for:
  • When his political influence is at its highest, presidents should get what they want done within their first term (Wilson 406).
  • Presidents should have a few main priorities and not spread themselves thin, like how Carter's lieutenants tried to do too much (Wilson 406).
  • Presidents should give some White House subordinates well-defined responsibility, and keep a close eye on them (Wilson 406).

  1. ^ http://www.ushistory.org/us/23d.asp
  2. ^ American Government: Institutions and Policies 10th Edition, Wilson and Dilulio, pg, 385