Monday, November 26, 2012

Roles of Modern Presidents

In his landmark book, The American Presidency, political scientist Clinton Rossiter has identified at least ten roles that modern Presidents juggle each and every day that they serve. At the conclusion of his first chapter, Professor Rossiter writes about putting the pieces of the job back together into a "seamless unity." He explains:

"The Presidency is... a whole greater than and different from the sum of its parts, an office whose power and presige are something more than the arithmetical total of all its functions. The President is not one kind of official during one part of the day, another kind during another part - administrator in the morning, legislator at lunch, king in the afternoon, commander before dinner, and politician at odd moments that come his weary way. He is all these things all the time, and any one of his functions feeds upon and into all the others. ...

Mr. Truman, it is said, used to keep a sign on his desk that read: "The buck stops here."That, in the end, is the essence of the Presidency. It is the one office in all the land whose occupant is forbidden to pass the buck."

Do we expect too much from modern presidents? If so, is there any way to shift some of the roles and responsibilities to others or to other parts of government? How would that work?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Models of Presidential Power

"The fact that the Constitution allows for a powerful president does not mean that it mandates one."         - Professor Daniel Shea

During much of the 19th century, most presidents held to the more conservative "whig model" of presidential power, meaning that they were limited to the powers expressly granted in the Constitution. beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, and continuing with his cousin Frankiln D. Roosevelt, the more activist "stewardship model" took hold. In addition, a host of institutional changes broadened presidential powers, including the development of the Executive Office of the President, the addition of more presidential advisors, and, more recently, an expanded role for the vice president. Today there is little question that the presidency is at the very center of our political system.

Is the modern, institutional presidency too powerful - changing the nature of American democracy in ways that endanger the Founders' vision for our country?