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Prior to beginning work on this discussion question, read Chapters 5 and 6 in American Government and review Week 3 Instructor Guidance. In addition, read What Are the Arguments Made in Favor—and Against—the Electoral College? (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., Stop Blaming the Electoral College (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., and “Swing States, the Winner-Take-All Electoral College, and Fiscal Federalism.” As the textbook author asserts, the framers intentionally designed a process for selecting presidents that would minimize the president’s political power—the Electoral College. They hoped this institution would insulate the chief executive from the public, because they feared the power of presidents who might be elected by the people. However, the Electoral College has also spawned a long ongoing debate about whether it should be abandoned in favor of new methods, which would ensure that the candidate elected has the most popular votes. The controversy over the Electoral College must be understood to understand better how and why U.S. presidents are elected. Only five times in United States history has the candidate who won the popular vote lost the Electoral College vote. However, this has happened twice in the last 16 years—in the 2000 Bush/Gore election and again in the 2016 Trump/Clinton election. For this discussion, Describe how the Electoral College works, select a presidential election from U.S. history, and discuss the results of the Compare the Electoral College results with the popular vote. Explain your position regarding the Electoral College and whether you are for or against the Electoral College as it is currently. Be sure to elaborate and explain your rationale for your position. Your initial post must be at least 300 words. If you are citing statistics our outside resources, please list the website or the reference entry.
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5
The Presidency
Associated Press/Kyodo
Learning Objectives
By the end of this chapter, you should be able to
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Describe the sources of the president’s power and authority.
Explain the presidential elections process.
Analyze the difference between a domestic and a foreign policy president.
Describe how presidents use their political power.
Describe the organization of the White House.
Evaluate the concept of a wartime president.
Analyze how Congress limits presidential power.
Analyze the role of presidential character in evaluating presidents and presidential candidates.
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?
In March 2011, an alliance of NATO countries, including the United States, launched air strikes
against Libya in a humanitarian mission to assist rebels fighting against Libyan strongman
Moammar Gadhafi. NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is an alliance of
28 countries that agreed to protect each other in case of attack. In justifying U.S. involvement
in Libya, President Barack Obama insisted that the United States was part of a broad coalition.
As military operations reached the 3-month point, questions arose about the legality of American involvement.
The Constitution states that Congress has the authority to declare
war, while it also obligates the
president to serve as commander
in chief of the armed forces. This
obligation has led many presidents
to engage in military acts without
congressional authorization or a
formal declaration of war. President
Obama claimed that his actions
were in accordance with the War
Powers Resolution of 1973, which
requires that the president notify
Congress of the use of force.
Below is an excerpt from the War
Powers Resolution. From Section 2:
© Pete Marovich/ZUMA Press/Corbis
Previous members of President Obama’s administration, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, testified
before the House Armed Services Committee on American military operations in Libya on March 31, 2011.
Some congressional members contend that U.S. involvement in this operation violates the War Powers Act.
The constitutional powers
of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed
Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in
hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a
national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or
possessions, or its armed forces.
From Section 3:
The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before
introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations
where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and after every such introduction shall consult regularly with the
Congress until United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in hostilities or have been removed from such situations.
According to the War Powers Resolution, a president who dispatches military units for any
reason must notify Congress within 48 hours of doing so. Congress then has 90 days to either
authorize the operation or demand that the units come home. In the case of Libya, President
Obama formally notified Congress of the U.S. military’s participation. However, the speaker
of the House, Republican John Boehner, demanded that the president explain the mission
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Presidential Constitutional Authority
Section 5.1
to Congress and obtain its authorization to continue. The president insisted that he had no
obligation to seek authorization before launching the air strikes because these actions were
“hostilities” and not acts of war. This response angered many in Congress.
As the War Powers Resolution placed the ball in Congress’s court, the House of Representatives voted down a bill that would authorize the president to continue American involvement.
The president asserted that the War Powers Resolution was unconstitutional because it interfered with his commander-in-chief power. This episode raises questions about how much
authority the president has to make decisions in the commander-in-chief role as framed by
the Constitution.
In this chapter, we look at the American presidency and how it has evolved over time. The
Constitution grants the president formal authority that is limited by Congress. The extent to
which the president has any real power stems from the relationships that he or she establishes and cultivates. The Framers did not fully address the issue of presidential war power
because they were uncertain of what the president would do and they did not foresee all the
contingencies that might arise that would require the president to exercise war power.
5.1 Presidential Constitutional Authority
The Framers of the Constitution created a presidency that would take direction from Congress. The president is given several formal constitutional powers, most of which are checked
by Congress. Presidential power is intended to be used to preserve and protect the Constitution through the president’s expressed and inherent powers. Expressed powers refers to powers listed explicitly in the U.S. Constitution. Inherent powers refers to powers that have been
inferred from language in the U.S. Constitution. Together, expressed and inherent powers in
the Constitution establish the office of the presidency and give its occupant the authority to
preserve and protect the Constitution.
Article II of the Constitution establishes executive power and who may hold it: “The executive
Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” Article II also establishes
the president’s formal authority, which includes being commander in chief of the U.S. armed
forces and chief executive. The president also has the authority to negotiate treaties, nominate persons for high-level appointed office, veto acts of Congress, and grant reprieves and
pardons. The language of the Constitution gives the president the power to make treaties as
long as two thirds of the Senate concurs. This example of checks and balances is referred to as
“advice and consent” in the U.S. Constitution. The Senate also has the power to confirm presidential nominations to high-level office. The veto power, which is the power of the president
to reject bills passed by Congress, is found in Article I.
Authority as Commander in Chief
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of
the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into
the actual Service of the United States.” This means that the president must authorize any use
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Presidential Constitutional Authority
Section 5.1
of force by the military. It does not mean that he or she will personally lead troops into battle
like a medieval European king. The requirement that presidents authorize the use of force
establishes the sacred principle of civilian control of the armed forces. If the military establishment were equal in power to other institutions, it could easily overthrow the civilian government and thus upend one of the hallmarks of modern democratic governance, the peaceful transfer of power.
Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Civilian control, at least in the early
days of the American republic, was
ensured by the absence of large
standing armies. In fact, the Constitution mentions an army and navy
only because these were the only
two branches of the military that
existed when it was written. They
were separate departments, and
each was equal to the other. The
secretary of war and the secretary
of navy both sat in the president’s
Cabinet.
Today’s Cabinet includes a single
secretary of defense, but that position was not created until after
World War II, with the passage of
the 1947 National Defense Act,
the law that created a unified Defense Department. Until that global conflict, the United States
called state militia—what are known today as National Guard units—into national service.
Much of the American fighting forces are still made up of National Guard units. They were
called up in 2001 when the nation went into Afghanistan, and again in 2003 when it went
into Iraq. Militia members of these units are normally under the command of their respective
governors, but once called, they are under the command of the president.
President Obama speaks to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution specifically
establishes that the president is the commander in
chief of the armed forces.
Use of the state militias for national service was formally adopted with the Militia Act of 1792,
which gave the president the authority, in the event or threat of an invasion, to call into service as many troops from state militia as would be needed to repel the invasion. The president
would be able to call upon those militia companies that would be “most convenient to the
place of danger or scene of action.” This meant that if the country were invaded off the shore
of Maine, the president could call on militia companies in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire,
and Massachusetts. Because they would be close to the place of invasion, they could respond
quickly. This would also give the states a role in defending the nation. Instead of having to
build national bases in all the states to house a standing army, the army would be formed as
needed. Less than a week after the Militia Act was passed, Congress passed a second Militia
Act of 1792, which required each able-bodied white male citizen between the ages of 18 and
45 to enroll in the militia of his respective state.
The organization of the country’s military forces fundamentally changed in the 20th century.
In 1903, Congress passed legislation to organize the various state militias into the current
National Guard system, which was to be administered jointly by the National Guard Bureau
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Presidential Constitutional Authority
Section 5.1
and the U.S. Department of Defense. With passage of the 1916 National Defense Act, approximately one half of the U.S. Army’s available combat forces and approximately one third of its
support organizations were National Guard units.
To call the militia into service during a time of crisis is to rely on civilian defense and to
democratize the sense of sacrifice, a concept that still resonates today. As an example, when
the United States went to war with Iraq in 1991, it amassed around 500,000 troops on Iraq’s
border. Most of these troops were taken from state National Guard units. The United States
certainly could have used its professional national army, but by calling on state units, the
president gave all citizens a stake in the outcome.
Authority to Pardon
Article II, Section 2 also grants the president the authority to issue pardons. The president
“shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except
in cases of Impeachment.” This would seem to suggest that the president can pardon anyone
who has committed a federal crime.
Presidents may pardon convicted criminals who have already served part of their prison sentence. The president might issue a partial pardon, which often amounts to a commutation
of a sentence, or pardon somebody who has long been a fugitive from justice. President Bill
Clinton, for example, pardoned Marc Rich, a financier charged with evading $48 million in
taxes and committing more than 50 counts of fraud. Rich had fled the country and was living
in Switzerland at the time of his indictment.
As another example, in 1974 President Gerald Ford issued a full pardon to Richard Nixon for
Nixon’s role in the Watergate cover-up, which meant that the former president could never be
charged for crimes related to Watergate. The Nixon pardon was viewed as an attempt to heal
a badly divided nation and move forward.
A president does not usually decide on pardons by him- or herself. Most of the time, he or
she does not know the person being pardoned. Rather, somebody may apply for a pardon, in
which case White House lawyers and the Justice Department study the matter and make a
recommendation.
Veto Authority
As a check on the power of the legislative branch, the Constitution gives the president the
authority to veto bills passed by Congress. One potential consequence of vetoes is that they
might invite Congress to respond, if Congress has the votes, by overriding the veto. An override is often seen as a political defeat for a president. Overrides are rare; only 7% of all vetoes
have been overridden since the beginning of the republic.
When the president vetoes a bill, the president must veto the entire bill and not parts of it; the
U.S. Constitution does not provide for what is called a line-item veto. Congress gave President Bill Clinton the line-item veto with the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. The law was soon
overturned by the Supreme Court in Clinton v. City of New York (1998). The Supreme Court
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Presidential Elections
Section 5.2
struck down the law because the act violates the Presentment Clause (Article I, Section 7),
which requires that bills passed by both houses of Congress be presented to the president
for his or her signature. In essence, the Presentment Clause outlines the legislative process,
which the Supreme Court argued was violated by giving the president the line-item veto.
Treaty Making and Effective War-Making Authority
Section 2 also says that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of
the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” This means
that the president can make treaties with other countries, but they are not binding on future
governments unless they are ratified by the U.S. Senate. A president may negotiate a treaty to
end a war, but the Senate may opt not to ratify it.
In the aftermath of World War I
(1914–1918), President Woodrow
Wilson sought to make the United
States a signatory to the Versailles
Treaty, which was the agreement
that effectively ended the war. Part
of the treaty was a call for the formation of a new League of Nations,
an intergovernmental organization that would foster peace and
international disarmament. Wilson
wanted the United States to join
this league, but some members of
Congress believed that it could lead
Associated Press/Andrew Harnik
to U.S. involvement in conflicts that Members of anti-war group Code Pink show support
did not concern the country. When for President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which
Wilson refused to compromise on was negotiated in the summer of 2015. The deal was
any parts of the treaty, the Senate controversial because Republican lawmakers felt the
failed to ratify it, and Wilson never Obama administration had withheld information about
recovered politically. When the the deal in an attempt to circumvent the Senate’s treaty
Senate refuses to ratify a treaty, it authority.
puts the president and the nation
in a vulnerable position because it can be construed as a sign of weakness. Another country,
sensing that weakness, may view it as an opportunity to wage war against the United States.
5.2 Presidential Elections
In addition to stipulating presidential powers, Article II also sets forth guidelines for presidential elections. For example, it states that the president “shall hold office during the term
of four years.” Presidential elections take place in two distinct phases. The first phase is the
nomination phase, which normally begins in January of presidential election years. Through a
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Presidential Elections
Section 5.2
series of primaries and caucuses run on a state-by-state basis, delegates are chosen to attend
party-nominating conventions. Following the conventions, the party nominees begin campaigning for the general election that is held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday
in November.
Presidential Primaries
Although the nomination season begins in January, those seeking the presidency often begin
their quest as early as 2 years before a national election. Candidates may declare their intentions to run a year in advance of the nomination season. During this time, they travel around
the country and meet voters, state party chairs, and potential donors. Running for office
entails a lot of retail politics, which involves candidates interacting with voters one on one,
such as by taking part in local events.
The season begins in earnest with the Iowa caucuses. During a caucus, individuals gather
for a few hours at a local meeting place and move to a section of the room designated for
their favorite candidate’s supporters. During this process, they can be challenged by another
candidate’s supporters. At the end of the exercise, the number of delegates apportioned to a
candidate is based on the percentage of support each receives.
Iowa does not produce many delegates, but, as the first state in the nomination season, it provides momentum going into bigger contests as an indicator of party support. The next contest
is the New Hampshire primary. Primaries are like elections in that polling places are open
for at least 12 hours and registered voters come to the polling place and vote as individuals.
There are two types of primaries. Closed primaries require that voters be registered with the
political party of the primary in which they are voting. Closed primaries exclude registered
independents. Open primaries allow registered voters, including registered independents, to
choose the party’s primary in which they would like to vote regardless of their party registration. As with caucuses, delegates are apportioned based on the percentage of the vote that
each candidate receives.
Candidates who win the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary are often advantaged
in the early weeks of the nomination season because money follows winners. Candidates
who win either of these contests are able to draw significant contributions and media attention, which in turn help them to spend money on advertising in bigger contests that produce
more delegates. Those who do not fare well early in the season usually find it difficult to
raise money and will likely drop out. Raising funds is critical because a successful candidate
can spend more than $500 million. Voters living in states holding their primaries late in the
season will likely choose between just two candidates unless all but one candidate has withdrawn from the race.
Each political party finishes the first part of the presidential election season during the summer of the election year with its nominating conventions. Each party nominates a president/
vice-president ticket based on the number of delegates received by the presidential candidates. The presidential nominee is the person receiving the most delegates, and the presumed
nominee selects the vice-presidential candidate. The official campaign for president then
begins in September.
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