HGov: Presidential Power

10 US-President-Seal
The constitutional powers of the president include commander in chief, head of the executive branch, making treaties and appointing ambassadors, appointing federal court judges, pardoning people convicted of federal crimes, and executing the laws that Congress passes. The President has seven key duties, and five are specified in the Constitution: serving as head of state, chief executive, chief legislator, chief diplomat, and commander in chief. Two other duties, economic planner and political party leader, are not implied in the Constitution but have developed over time. As head of state, the president represents the nation and performs many ceremonial roles.

As the nation’s chief executive, the president uses several tools to see that the laws of Congress are carried out. One tool is the ability to issue executive orders. Other tools are the power to appoint people to important offices in the executive branch, to fire appointed officials, and to appoint officials to the judiciary. However, the Senate must confirm a president’s appointees. As chief legislator, the executive branch is expected to propose legislation to Congress that it wishes to see enacted. The president has a large staff to help write legislation, and the staff also presents to Congress a suggested budget and an annual economic report. As party leader, presidents are expected to appoint members of their party to government jobs. As chief diplomat, the president directs the foreign policy of the United States which include negotiating treaties, making executive agreements, and recognizing foreign governments. As commander in chief, the president shares with Congress the power to make war. The president may also use the military to control serious turmoil in the nation caused by riots or natural disasters. Every president has a unique style of leadership. The most successful presidents have a genuine feel for the hopes, fears, and moods of the nation. Failure to understand the public can prove disastrous for an administration.

Successful presidents must be able to communicate effectively and to present their ideas in a way that inspires public support. Sometimes presidents demonstrate leadership by introducing bold new policies at the right time. Good leadership also requires the capacity to be flexible, open to new ideas, and able to compromise. Successful presidents need political courage to go against public opinion to do what they think is best.

12.1 Foundations of Modern Presidency (read pp.373-391)


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