Presidential Powers In every government there is a ceremonial head of the government who is the symbol of all the people in the nation. As Howard Taft put it, “The personal embodiment and representative of their dignity and majesty” (McClenaghan, pg. 316). That person is the Chief of State or more commonly known as the President. One of the main factors that cause the presidents to be viewed as a symbol of the American community is the president’s ceremonial duties which are named in the Constitution. The Constitution states several ceremonial duties that the presidents are “obliged” to perform.
They are required to take an oath of office, periodically inform Congress of the State of Union, negotiate with foreign powers, and receive “Ambassadors and other Public Ministers”. “These Constitutional ceremonial duties supported the assumption of the Chief of State role by George Washington and his successors because they made the president appear as the leader of the entire nation”(The Presidents A-Z, Pg. 68). Castro 2 Both, the Oath of Office ceremony, the Inauguration, and the State of Union address physically place the President out in front of other government officials. Also, the President’s duty to receive Ambassadors shows that foreign governments view and regard the president as the official representative of the United States, and since the rest of the world sees our president as being the Chief of State, then the “domestic responsibilities of the Chief of State could not be assumed more gracefully than anyone but the President” (The Presidents A-Z, pg.
69). In the 18th century, when the Framers designed the U.S. president’s job, monarchy was the style of government throughout most of the world. But, since they wanted to avoid any suggestion of a monarchy, the Framers of the constitution made the Chief of State the Chief Executive as well. They called this person the President. But, like monarchs, the U.S.
Presidents are the living symbol of the nation. They symbolize the country’s history, liberty and strength. The President can appoint ceremonial representatives, but while they are still in office they cannot escape their role as Chief of State. At every moment they represent the United States at home and overseas. Castro 3 When the President, or shall I say “the Chief of state, is not occupied with functions that pertain to government he would attend and participate in such as lighting the national Christmas tree, deliver a patriotic address during the Fourth of July, lay a wreath on the graves of soldiers that died for their country (such as the Tomb of the Unknowns) on Memorial day, lead us special holidays (such as Thanksgiving, bless fund raising drives, and on numerous occasions in the past he would throw the first ball to open the baseball season in the Spring.
Many of these functions mean something and are significant especially when the President is involved. “But consequently, the duties of the Chief of State are seldom described as a power and are sometimes denounced as a waste of the President’s time.” (The Presidency, Pg. 69) Although the President’s right to dedicate a monument or congratulate an astronaut may mean little, The symbolism that the action portrays clearly “enhances presidential authority, legitimizes and maximizes other presidential powers, and secures his position as Chief of State.” (The Presidency, Pg. 69) ” “As political scientist Clinton Castro 4 Rossiter explained “No president can fail to realize that all his powers are invigorated, indeed are given a new dimension of authority, because he is the symbol of our sovereignty, continuity, and grandeur.” The presidency is therefore elevated above other offices and institutions not just by its legal authority, but also by its symbolic and historic mystique.”‘ (The Presidency, Pg.69) The position of the President as the Chief of State is defined by the Constitutional provisions which are the source of some of the most important power the President can use. The parts covered by these provisions are classified as Military, Judicial, and Diplomatic.
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, provides for the power as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the Militia of the several states, when called into actual Service of the United States”. (U.S. Constitution) The position of the Commander in Chief makes the President the highest Military officer in the United States, with control over the entire Military establishment. Although, that does not mean that he is always doing something involving Military or Naval actions every minute. He leaves the smaller jobs up to the generals Castro 5 of the Army or the Admirals of the Navy. “The preference for civilian control of the Military is so strong in the United States, however, that no president would dare put on a Military uniform for a state function, not even a former general like Eisenhower.” (Lowi & Ginsberg, Pg. 127) The President is also the head of the secret intelligence hierarchy”, which includes not only the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) but also the National Security Council (NSC), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and a lot of other less “well known” but very powerful international and domestic security agencies. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, also provides the power to “grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States except in cases of impeachment.” (U.S.
Constitution) The presidential power to grant pardons, reprieves and amnesties involves the presidential power over the life and death of all individuals who may be a threat to themselves or to the national security of the United States. Presidents can use their power on part of certain individuals. An example would be when President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974 “for all Castro 6 offenses against the United States which he .. has committed or may have committed.” (Lowi & Ginsberg, Pg. 127) Or presidents may use their power on the many. An example is when President Andrew Johnson in 1868, gave “full Amnesty” to all the people from the South who participated in the “Late Rebellion”, and President Carter in 1977 gave amnesty to all the “Draft Evaders” of the Vietnam War.
Another example is when President Bush used his power before his retirement in 1992, when he pardoned the former Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, and five other participants in the “Iran-Contra affair”. This power of “life and death” over individuals has brought up the power of the president to that of rulers and kings of ancient societies in a way that the President is the person who violators, of the law, turn to so that they can make their pleas for mercy. The third and final provision is stated in Article II, Section 3, provides the power to “receive Ambassadors and other public ministers.” (U.S. Constitution) When President George Washington Received Edmund Genet as the “formal emissary of the revolutionary government of France in 1793”, he transformed the power to “receive Ambassadors and other public ministers” into the power to Castro 7 “recognize” other countries. (Lowi & Ginsberg, Pg.127) That power gives the President almost all authority to review the claims of any new ruling groups to determine of they “indeed” control the territory and population of their country, so that they can make treaties and other agreements. In today’s society we understand that the President is not only “the President” but he is also the representative, the Ambassador, and the “symbol of the American people.
Today we still see the President as the Commander in chief of the Military. The President pretty much still calls the “shots” when it comes to Military actions and events. Although we hardly think of the President we talk about the Military or the Navy, he still plays a Major part in the “chain of command”. An example is with the bombing in the Middle East. The president is the one who gave the “O.K.” to the Military to fire, and they did. When it comes to the Judicial part of the government, the President still has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, and amnesties.
Lately we have not seen the President grant any of those, but we have seen him follow Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which denies him the power to grant “pardons, reprieves, and amnesties in Castro 8 cases of impeachment”. (U.S. Constitution, we see this in effect in the case of the Bill Clinton & Monica Lewinsky affair, in which the President is being charged with perjury and just cannot pardon himself. The third and most often seen provision is the President as a diplomat. We see this when the President hosts foreign leaders or when he travels to other countries.
An example would be when he left to the Middle East to have peace talks with other foreign leaders. All in all, in today’s society , the president is us. He derives his power from us, the American people, and he represents us in his daily endeavors and important activities. Although not everyone may agree with that, but still.. no one can deny that the President has been a long lasting symbol of America and the American people for over 200 years.
Today’s newspaper articles about the president and the powers that they posses are pretty self-explanatory as to what provisions in the Constitution they are referring to The articles about the President ordering the bombing, explains the Military role of the President as stated in the U.S. Constitution. Castro 9 The articles discussing the President’s perjury charges (i.e. Monica Lewinsky case) refers to the Judicial Provision in the U.S. Constitution. Article II, Section 2, states that the President cannot grant pardons reprieves, and amnesties in cases of impeachment.
Third, the articles that discuss peace treaties and peace talks refer to the diplomatic provision of the Constitution. Article II, Section3, talks about receiving Ambassadors and other public ministers. And the articles that discusses the President attending a space shuttle launch illustrates how he is involved in function that are not government related. Meaning that he supports his country’s endeavors although he does not “have” to…