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So What Exactly Is a President?

When asked the question “What is a President?”, one might be surprised at the lack of knowledge. Some might say he is “the leader of the country,” others might say, “he’s that guy who gets to live in the White House.” So what exactly does the President do? Well, for one he makes all the decisions, right? Wrong. The President does not hold all of the power, like a King or Queen would, but us Americans know that already. So what else is there to know about the role of the President. Lots. In our government class we discussed several documents about the role of the President, including Article II of the Constitution, Richard white-houseNeustadt’s Presidential Power and Clinton Rossiter’s The American Presidency. These articles helped me to fully understand the true powers, and limitations of the President. Article II of the Constitution describes the official powers of the President, what his official jobs are and what he can and cannot do. Neustadt’s Presidential Power explores the informal powers of the President, along with how these powers are useful in modern life. The American Presidency discusses the modern roles of the President that have been taken on as America grows older. These three articles help define what a President is.

Article II of the Constitution gives the formal duties of the President. In section 2 it 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 … and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States.”  But, there are some catches to all the powers he holds. He “require[s] the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices” so that he does not have complete dominance over every part of the US government. The president shall also “give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union”(Article II section 3). Now this might be something the public knows right? They know that the President gives the State of the Union Address annually and that it is always during prime time television. Although this is the case nowadays, it says nowhere in the Constitution that this update must be in the form of an address, it could just as easily be a letter dropped off at the Congress’ headquarters. These duties and powers of the President do seem a little vague, so what does a President exactly do with these powers? Richard Neustadt explores this in his work, Presidential Power. 

So we know the President has powers, but what exactly does he DO? Presidential Power by Richard Neustadt studies the powers of the President, and explains how being a President really works. One of his main arguments is Presidential Power is “the power to persuade” arguing that one “does not obtain results by PresidentialSealgiving orders.” Basically all of the President’s power stems from his power to persuade and how he is seen by the public. Article II gives the formal powers of the President, but Neustadt explores what the informal powers are. The connection between the president’s constitutional powers and his informal political power originates from his unique job. Each branch of the government shares some of its powers with the president, making him connected to each branch, along with the decisions each branch makes. The president can influence each branch, and the decisions that the branches make influence the American society as a whole, which gives the president informal power over almost all aspects of the government and American life.

Clinton Rossiter’s The American Presidency tackles the question of what role does the President play? Rossiter would argue the President has 10 very important roles, and that each of these roles pertains to a different aspect of his power. The ten roles are Chief of State, Chief Executive, Commander in Chief of Army and Navy, Chief Diplomat, Chief Legislator, Chief of Political Party, Voice of the People, Protector of the Peace, Manager of the Prosperity, and World Leader. These roles play a large part in defining what a President is.

So what is a President? A President is someone who is elected by the people of their country, to preside over the other parts of government, without being able to actually take over their powers. A President is someone who speaks for the benefit of his country, and who advocates the rights of the people. A President has many roles, and is expected to do many things. A President is a leader of the nation.

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