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Week 4 » Executive Branch
Lesson 4: The Executive Branch
Scope and Limits of Executive Power
Controversies Regarding the Executive Branch: Executive Privilege
and Impeachments; Unitary Executive Theory.
“Being a President is like riding a tiger.
A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed."
President Harry Truman
Expected Outcomes: To appreciate the process of becoming president; to
understand the powers and constraints of the office; and to comprehend the logic
and criticisms behind executive privilege and unitary executive theory.
Ironically, the United States was founded upon the rejection of one-person rule
(the King of England), and yet Americans often expect so much of presidents,
holding them accountable for the nation’s economic performance - when a
presidents ability to influence the economy is extremely limited.
The presidency of the United States combines various domestic and international
responsibilities, and in the age of nuclear weapons the Oval Office of the White
House office has been described as the most powerful office in the world, both in
reality and symbolically. The president acts as the leader of the party, a chief
legislator, a diplomat, a Commander-in-Chief and a crisis manager. In modern
times, Franklin Delano Roosevelt best reflects the heightened profile of the
presidency, as he led the nation through both the Great Depression and World
It is possible to view the entire history of the United States through the window of
the White House. The kinds of presidents the U.S. has experienced, with their
personal and partisan orientations, have often reflected upon the country as a
whole. Some presidential events – such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy
– became a part of every Americans’ individual life story, and everyone who
remembers that day also remembers exactly where he or she was when they
learned of the assassination in Dallas.
It is useful to divide up American history into dominant themes, and to group
presidents together who faced similar circumstances. It is important to know the
succession of presidents from 1961 onwards, as well as their party affiliations (D)
for Democratic and (R) for Republican.
Early Republic and the Formation of National Government 1789-1829
John Quincy Adams
Jacksonian Democracy and Westward Expansion 1829-1853
Martin Van Buren
Sectional Conflict and Reconstruction 1853-1881
The Gilded Age, Industrialization and Urbanization 1881-1897
The Progressive Era and Becoming a World Power 1897-1921
The Great Depression & World Conflict 1921-1961
Social Change & Soviet Relations 1961-1989
John Kennedy (D)
Lyndon Johnson (D)
Richard Nixon (R)
Gerald Ford (R)
Jimmy Carter (D)
Ronald Reagan (R)
Economic Globalization and Domestic Political Polarization 1989-
George H. W. Bush (R)
Bill Clinton (D)
George W. Bush (R)
Barack Obama (D)
While it is possible to categorize presidents in this way, it is also conceivable that
there are political cycles of alternation between Democratic and Republican
presidents. Political scientist Arthur Schlesinger, for example, proposed that
there are national cycles between conservatism (a preference for order and
tradition) and liberalism (a preference for change and personal liberty).
Schlesinger further claimed that conservatism was about “private interest” and
economic growth while liberalism was about “public purpose” and social
responsibility. Presidents simply fit into these larger national movements. Most
(but not all) Republicans advance private interest; and most (but not all)
Democrats advance public purpose. This can be called the “Schlesinger cycle.”
Another political scientist, James Barber, considered the influence of a
president’s personality on his performance in the White House. Barber found
repeating patterns of common elements relating to character, worldview, style,
approach to dealing with power, and expectations.
Based on these findings, Barber concluded that presidents were either “active” or
“passive.” For example, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were highly active;
Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan were highly passive. Interestingly enough,
passive presidents often did better in approval ratings.
Barber also analyzed the emotional attitudes of presidents toward their work.
Some presidents were “positive” and others were “negative.” Franklin Roosevelt
and Reagan, for example, were presidents who enjoyed their work. FDR and
Reagan left office with rather high approval ratings and were treated favorably by
historians. However, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon had negative feelings
towards the job, with more mixed results.
Barber developed four repeating categories into which he was able to place all
presidents: those like FDR who actively pursued their work and had positive
feelings about their efforts (active/positives); those like Nixon who actively
pursued the job but had negative feelings about it (active/negatives); those like
Reagan who were passive about the job but enjoyed it (passive/positives); and,
finally, those who followed the pattern of Thomas Jefferson -- who both was
passive and did not enjoy the work (passive/negatives).
Interestingly, the category of presidents who proved troublesome and unpopular
under Barber's analysis is that of those who turned out to be active/negative.
Barber placed Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson and Richard
Nixon in this class of active/negatives. Scholars taking up where Barber left off
(Barber recently died) have classified Pres. George W. Bush as active/negative,
perhaps one reason for the steady decline he experienced in his approval ratings
over his years in office.
Still other political scientists consider economic factors – such as the Stock
Market – as critical in determining the overall performance and approval rating of
a president. If true, a president’s personal characteristics have little to do with
overall approval ratings.
Clearly, the presidency is one of the most studied institutions in American
government, and generations of political scientists have studied the presidency in
order to better understand where then country has been where it is, and where it is
It is vital to an understanding of the presidency to consider written documents and
first-hand texts from the presidents themselves. Below, two documents have
been selected that attest to the power of the office: the first, by Andrew Jackson,
led to the tragedy of the forced removal of Native Americans from their
homelands; the second, by Abraham Lincoln, led to the formal freedom of
African-Americans, who had been held in slavery.
Andrew Jackson's Seventh Annual Message to Congress, Excerpt
December 7, 1835
On Indian Removal
The plan of removing the aboriginal people who yet remain within the
settled portions of the United States to the country west of the
Mississippi River approaches its consummation… All preceding
experiments for the improvement of the Indians have failed. It seems
now to be an established fact they can not live in contact with a
civilized community and prosper. Ages of fruitless endeavors have at
length brought us to knowledge of this principle of
intercommunication with them… Many have already removed and
others are preparing to go, and with the exception of two small bands
living in Ohio and Indiana, not exceeding 1,500 persons, and of the
Cherokees, all the tribes on the east side of the Mississippi, and
extending from Lake Michigan to Florida, have entered into
engagements which will lead to their transplantation.
The plan for their removal and reestablishment is founded upon the
knowledge we have gained of their character and habits, and has been
dictated by a spirit of enlarged liberality.
Such are the arrangements for the physical comfort and for the moral
improvement of the Indians. The necessary measures for their political
advancement and for their separation from our citizens have not been
neglected. The pledge of the United States has been given by
Congress that the country destined for the residence of this people
shall be forever "secured and guaranteed to them." A country west of
Missouri and Arkansas has been assigned to them, into which the
white settlements are not to be pushed…
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Excerpts
January 1, 1863
That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any
State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in
rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and
forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States,
including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and
maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to
repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for
their actual freedom.
"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by
proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which
the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the
United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall
on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the
United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a
majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated,
shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed
conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not
then in rebellion against the United States."
Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by
virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army
and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion
against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit
and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this
first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight
hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do
publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the
day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts
of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in
rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard,
Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension,
Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and
Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama,
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia,
(except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also
the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City,
York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and
Portsmouth), and which excepted parts, are for the present, left
precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order
and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated
States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and
that the Executive government of the United States, including the
military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the
freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain
from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend
to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable
condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States
to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man
vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted
by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate
judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God. In
witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of
the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the
Independence of the United States of America.
Modern presidents provide political scientists and historians with a more
complete picture of their presidencies. Their speeches were often recorded on
tape, and their actions were also captured on film and video, sometimes to their
The links below are windows into the modern presidency during important
turning points, during key moment in time. It is important to visit each link.
However, due to the length of some lengths, do not feel that you must listen or
watch the entire piece. Some presidents might gain your attention more than
others. You might consider leaving these windows open while continuing to read
the text in this unit.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Fireside Chat, 1940 (Video)
Dwight Eisenhower: Warning of “Military-Industrial Complex,” 1961
John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address, 1961 (Video)
Lyndon Baines Johnson: Report on Vietnam and Decision Not to Seek Re-
Election, 1968 (Audio) – Note: Scroll to the very end to hear his decision.
Richard Nixon: Remarks on Departure from White House, 1974
Jimmy Carter, Inaugural Address, 1979 (Video)
Ronald Reagan: First Inaugural Address, 1981 (Video)
Remarks on Soviet “Evil Empire” (Audio/Real Player)
George H. W. Bush: Announcing Ground War Against Iraq, 1991 (Video)
Bill Clinton: Remarks on Impeachment, 1998 (Audio)
George W. Bush: “With us or against us” speech, 2001
It is time to examine more closely the office of the Presidency as outlined by the
Scope and Limits of Executive Power
The Presidency of the United States, which constitutes the executive branch of
government, is described in Article II of the Constitution, and Section 1 is largely
concerned with the requirements of the office.
Section 1 - The President
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United
States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be
eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible
to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five
Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
Section 2 outlines his basic powers and responsibilities, which include being
“Commander in Chief.” There is some confusion regarding this responsibility.
As has been noted, Congress is the only branch of government entitled to “declare
war,” but once that occurs then the president exerts his authority over the
Some constitutional scholars claim that congressional “authorization” of the use
of force with a “joint resolution” does not meet the standard of a full vote to
declare war as outlined by the constitution. (The U.S. has not “declared war”
since Pearl Harbor.)
Maintaining civilian control over the military is an important feature of a
democratic republic, and it further maintains a clear line of authority and
hierarchy during a conflict.
Section 2 - Civilian Power over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power,
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; he may require 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, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and
Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the
Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present
concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and
Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public
Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other
Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein
otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but
the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior
Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of
Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may
happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions
which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Section 3 includes that the president must give updates on the “State of the
Union” to Congress - without specifying how often. Tradition now compels the
President to give an annual speech in January or February.
Section 3 - State of the Union, Convening Congress
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the
State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such
Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on
extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and
in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of
Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think
proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he
shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall
Commission all the Officers of the United States.
Section 4 explains the conditions for removing a president from office – for
“impeachment.” Complete removal from the office requires an impeachment by
the House of Representatives and a conviction in a trial by the Senate.
Section 4 – Disqualification
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United
States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and
Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and
After FDR’s long tenure as president, the Republican Congress sponsored a
constitutional amendment (ratified by more than 3/4ths of the states) to prevent
any other president from installing himself in the White House for decades,
perpetually getting re-elected to 4-year terms.
Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President
more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President,
or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some
other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the
President more than once.
The above information describes the clear and incontrovertible duties and
responsibilities of the presidency. Over time, many of these duties and
responsibilities have been compartmentalized. At first, there was only the
Department of State and Treasury, but American government became more
complex over time, and today the president’s cabinet includes the following:
LINK: The White House Homepage, Cabinet.
The structure and process behind much of the executive branch is fairly
established. There are other areas of presidential power, however, which have
traditionally been subject to debate.
Controversies Regarding the Executive Branch
The presidency is central to the debate surrounding the separation of powers. To
what extent can a president act without congressional oversight? Can a president
deploy troops overseas without a congressional declaration of, or authorization
for, war? What should be the threshold for removing a president from office, or
Executive Privilege and Impeachments
The pressures of the presidency visit upon all its occupants – Democrats and
Republicans. Sometimes, personal and political situations emerge that test the
limits of the constitution.
For most Americans over the age of 40, the Watergate scandal remains one of the
most memorable events of American politics. Beforehand, the public and the
press had an enormous amount of respect for the office of the president;
afterwards, there was much less.
More importantly, the Watergate scandal raised all kinds of constitutional
First, we must examine the timeline of the scandal itself. President Richard
Nixon had always been a controversial figure. As a politician, he had been close
to Eugene McCarthy during the interrogation of suspected communists (almost
none turned out to be real communists) in the hearings of the House Un-
American Activities Committee.
Richard Nixon had also stood in stark contrast to his democratic challengers,
especially to George McGovern, the democratic candidate for president in 1972.
Nixon was portrayed as a tougher, law-and-order president, a hawk who would
not capitulate to Communist China, the Soviet Union or Vietnam. After running
on a “peace with honor” campaign to end the Vietnam War, President Nixon and
his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, actually expanded the war by heavily
bombing Cambodia, with disastrous results as it turned out (as the genocidal
Khmer Rouge regime rose out of the ashes). The Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy
was extremely controversial both at home and abroad.
The 1972 election for president was a heated one. The Committee to Re-Elect the
President (CREEP) apparently decided to “get the dirt” on the Democratic
candidate, George McGovern, possibly exposing his psychological profile (back
then, few people went to therapy, so those that did were suspect).
CREEP hired five men to burglarize the Democratic Party headquarters at the
Watergate Complex on June 17, 1972, but they were caught. President Nixon’s
subsequent behavior - his cover-up of the burglary and refusal to turn over
evidence – led to Congressional hearings.
Congress demanded that Nixon turn over hours of secretly-recorded tapes. Nixon
refused, citing “executive privilege.” This means that, especially according to
presidents, the executive branch is immune to certain encroachments by Congress
and the judiciary – particularly when the president has to protect national
security. According to President Nixon, “Under the doctrine of the separation of
powers, the manner in which the president personally exercises his assigned
executive powers is not subject to questioning by another branch of government.”
President Nixon and Congress came head to head. The issue went before the
Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974). Nixon lost in an 8 – 0 decision
(William Rehnquist, a close friend of Nixon and recently appointed to the Court,
US v. Nixon (1974)
Is the President's right to safeguard certain information, using his
"executive privilege" confidentiality power, entirely immune from
No. The Court held that neither the doctrine of separation of powers,
nor the generalized need for confidentiality of high-level
communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified,
presidential privilege. The Court granted that there was a limited
executive privilege in areas of military or diplomatic affairs, but gave
preference to "the fundamental demands of due process of law in the
fair administration of justice." Therefore, the president must obey the
subpoena and produce the tapes and documents. Nixon resigned
shortly after the release of the tapes.
Chief Justice Burger delivered the opinion:
Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive
national security secrets, we find it difficult to accept the argument
that even the very important interest in confidentiality of Presidential
communications is significantly diminished by production of such
material for in camera inspection with all the protection that a district
court will be obliged to provide…
A week after Nixon lost the case, the House Judiciary Committee to issue three
articles of impeachment on July 30, 1974. The document indicted Nixon for
illegal wiretapping, misuse of the CIA, perjury, bribery, obstruction of justice,
and other abuses of executive power.
“In all of this,” the Articles of Impeachment summarize, “Richard M. Nixon has
acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of
constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice,
and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.” Impeachment
appeared inevitable, and Nixon resigned beforehand on Aug. 9, 1974.
Impeachment had also appeared inevitable a century earlier, in 1868, when the
United States House of Representatives issued eleven articles of impeachment
against President Andrew Johnson for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Why?
The reasons were mostly political. Johnson had not supported the Radical
Republicans and their reconstruction plan for the South. Congress tried to reduce
his power through the Command of Army and Tenure of Office Acts. In 1868,
Johnson was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act and was impeached by
the House. At the Senate trial he was acquitted by one vote.
Another president, Bill Clinton, was impeached in 1998, when the House
Judiciary Committee introduced four articles of impeachment, two of which were
approved by the entire House. The Senate did not convict Clinton, however, and
he remained in office.
How did this crisis come to be? Monica Lewinsky was a White House intern
who became romantically involved with President Clinton. Lewinsky recounted
a sexual involvement with President Clinton to Linda Tripp, who was recording
these conversations (unknowingly to Lewinsky). Tripp later turned over the tapes
to Kenneth Starr, an independent prosecutor.
Clinton denied having sexual intercourse with Lewinsky while under oath in an
unrelated trial. In a nationally televised clip from a White House news
conference, Clinton claimed “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,
Miss Lewinsky.” However, there was some evidence that the Clinton-Lewinsky
affair did involve some kind of sexual activity, which led to the perjury charge.
Under pressure from Starr, and in light of a dress owned by Lewinsky with
Clinton’s DNA on it, Clinton apologized for misleading the American people.
Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury, but he was
not removed from office by the Senate – even though it was controlled by
President Clinton’s impeachment case also raised questions for the popular
culture: Should a president’s private life be part of his public life? Some people
think that how a president behaves in his private life has direct implication for
how he comports himself as president. Others feel that what happens behind
closed doors should not matter in terms of public or political life.
In short, just two presidents were impeached by the House (but, not convicted by
the Senate), and just one was on the verge of impeachment (President Richard
Nixon), when he resigned.
After all, it is difficult to carry out a complete impeachment and conviction.
Removing a president from office requires two steps:
A formal accusation, or impeachment, by the House of Representatives.
and conviction by the Senate. Impeachment requires a majority
vote of the House; conviction is more difficult, requiring a two-thirds vote
by the Senate.
In any case, that the House of Representatives impeached President Clinton for
perjury relating to a sexual matter certainly lowered the cultural and political
threshold for impeachment. This makes it easier for Democratic congressmen,
for better or for worse – to discuss impeaching President Bush for alleged
violations of legal procedures regarding domestic surveillance.
Unitary Executive Theory
President George W. Bush has raised several constitutional questions regarding
presidential authority. After 9-11, Congress granted the president the power to
punish those responsible for the attacks. It passed a Joint Resolution to enable the
president to fight the War on Terror.
Three controversies have emerged, however. Was this Authorization broad
enough - or are the powers of the executive branch wide enough - to allow
President Bush to do the following?
Detain terror suspects for an unlimited period, in Guantanamo for
instance, without formal charges?
Operate secret jails in foreign countries?
Extradite terror suspects to countries knowing the suspects will be
Conduct electronic surveillance of Americans without a warrant?
The Bush administration cited the principles of Unitary Executive Theory, and
said yes, despite what members of Congress said, the president’s wartime powers
granted him that authority. Besides, from 2001 to 2006, the Congress was firmly
behind President Bush’s policies, even passing the Military Commissions Act
making it easier to suspend habeas corpus (where the government must account
for a person’s detention) in the event of a national emergency.
Bush administration officials and their supporters also pointed out that the war on
terror necessarily involved strategies and practices that did not have to be
employed in previous wars, before the threat of terrorism.
Lastly, many conservatives point out that no new terrorist attacks have taken
place on American soil since 9-11, which may have attributed to the strong
leadership exercised by the president.
Unitary Executive Theory is more than a political fashion, however. Supreme
Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts, among others, are widely
considered to be principle backers of Unitary Executive Theory.
The theory relies on the Vesting Clause of Article II which states “The executive
Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”
Proponents of a unitary executive use this language along with the Take Care
Clause: "[The President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed..." to
argue that the Constitution creates a "hierarchical, unified executive department
under the direct control of the President."
Unitary Executive Theory argues for strict limits to the power of Congress to
divest the President of control of the executive branch – especially during
wartime. Proponents of the theory argue that the President possesses all of the
executive power and can therefore control subordinate officers and agencies of
the executive branch.
President Bush exercised his powers under this theory, first and foremost, by
directing the Pentagon and intelligence agencies to conduct detentions and
domestic surveillance in manners that they had not before – and without
congressional oversight. Second, President Bush issued many “signing
statements” to laws passed by Congress. Past presidents issued such statements
to indicate their reservation to the laws (without vetoing them), but the Bush
administration made it clear that it reserved the right not to adhere to the letter of
the law as stated.
There was an ongoing controversy concerning the extensive use of signing
statements to modify the meaning of laws. The Bush administration defended
their interpretation of “signing statements” while the American Bar Association
described them as “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of
separation of powers.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way have also
been opposed to the Bush administration’s interpretation of its own powers.
Finally, prominent writers like Bob Woodward, a Washington Post reporter who
broke the Watergate story, condemned the Bush administration as resurrecting the
authoritarian “Imperial Presidency” of the Nixon era.
Critics of the Bush administration argued that there are no real constitutional or
historical grounds for concentrating so much power into the hands of a president,
even in a time of war (although President Abraham Lincoln did centralize power
around the White House during the Civil War and suspended habeas corpus
The possibility of excessive executive power is deeply emotional because it
resurrects what some Americans see as a basic instinct to counter tyranny
(stemming from the American Revolution of 1776). As a result, many of the
objections to Unitary Executive Theory tend to be rather strident.
Again, defenders of the Bush administration point to both the Vesting Clause in
the Constitution and to the new realities of the War on terror. Unitary Executive
Theory will continue to be controversial, reflecting the complex relationship
Americans have with the presidency.
Perhaps Americans are unrealistic in their attitudes regarding the presidency.
Many people expect too much from a president, and this invariably leads to
disappointment. Many people are also quick to blame a president when things go
badly – especially the economy, which is almost completely beyond any
Yet the presidency is a good barometer of the mood of the country. Who
becomes president - and why - says a lot about the historic direction of the nation.
It is fitting to conclude with a portrait of an American President: Teddy
Roosevelt, one of the few men larger than the office of the presidency.
Teddy Roosevelt was President of the United States from 1901 to 1909, and he
was a complex figure. He was a “progressive” Republican who put Main Street
before Wall Street, an explorer of the Dakota Badlands, a cowboy and a “rough
rider” who led a charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. He
was also a Police Commissioner in New York City - and yet he was comfortable
in the highest intellectual circles. In fact, with a photographic memory, Teddy
Roosevelt could read a poem in French and, years later, repeat it back to you. He
devoured several books a day.
Teddy Roosevelt oversaw the greatest engineering feat of mankind, the Panama
Canal. His trip to Panama was the first trip abroad for a U.S. president in office.
And yet he knew that to build the canal also meant compromising on some of
America’s ideals, and he pursued a policy of “gunboat diplomacy” in Latin
America. “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” he said. Ironically, but
deservedly, Teddy Roosevelt was the first American to be awarded the Nobel
Prize, winning its Peace Prize in 1906, for negotiating the peace in the Russo-
Oddly, Teddy Roosevelt was only 5 feet 8 inches tall, but in real life and in
photographs he seemed big. A larger than life figure, Roosevelt overcame
immense personal challenges. His mother and his wife died on the same day –
only two days after the birth of his first child.
Famous Quotes by Teddy Roosevelt:
“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if
he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”
“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
“I took the Canal Zone and let Congress debate; and while the debate goes
on, the canal does also.”
“We can have no "50-50" allegiance in this country. Either a man is an
American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all.”
“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
“No man is above the law, and no man is below it.”
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we
are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and
servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
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