The past years has seen a gradual increase in presidential powers leading to an imperial presidency. This increase can be attributed to a number of historical events in the country. During national crises like Civil War and the Great Depression it is important that the president show good leadership; a leadership that keeps the country united despite the crisis while at the same time ensuring that the crisis is successfully resolved.
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If the president succeeds in dealing with the crisis effectively, he will command a great respect among the citizens hence increasing his presidential powers. Secondly, many people would respect leaders who initiate sound policies. During tenure as the occupant of the House on the Hill, President Franklin Roosevelt commanded a great respect among the Americans when he showed leadership in legislation as the New Deal policy originated from the executive branch under his direction.
This was also the case in the presidency of Johnson who initiated the Great Society policy. Such show of leadership in formulation of major legislation led to the increase in the presidential powers. One of the reasons why President Clinton was powerful presidents is because of the many executive orders he issued during his reign. Such executive order as the Emancipation Proclamation was popular with the people thereby increasing the president’s powers.
The ability of the president to run a country with sound trade policies that ensure economic growth is a major factor in boosting the image of the president. Good public image comes with increased powers thus the conclusion of such trade agreements as the Reciprocal Trade Agreements and reduction of tariff on foreign goods saw an upsurge in presidential powers.
This led to creation of an imperial president. Moreover, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the president must show good leadership especially during war. Successful execution of this duty will without doubt lead to an increase of powers of the president. Many presidents of the United States of America earned local and international respect and thus an increase in their powers by their activism both at the local and international stage.
Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt saw an upsurge in their presidential powers due to their presidential activism in national and world affairs. Presidents who are seen by the public as strong and able usually command a popular admiration and consequently increased powers. This was the case for presidents such as Clinton and Franklin Roosevelt who became powerful due to popular admiration for being strong and able.
Many presidents also saw their powers as president increase due to their strong and popular foreign policies. This is because these foreign policies affect the lives of the American people both directly and indirectly. Thus the successful of such policies would lead to admiration both locally and internationally. The resulting good reputation leads to presidential powers increase.
The budget of any country is a very sensitive issue since it has a direct bearing on the living standards of the citizens. Thus any president who sets the right agenda as the budget maker would definitely command great respect and as such, become very powerful (Dye 96).
These factors may lead to an imperial president however there are checks and balances that ensure the president only enjoy the constitutional powers only. Such checks and balances exercised by the Judiciary, the Congress, media and public, friends and family and self control. The Congress being the predominant branch of the government always reasserts its powers over the president ensuring that imperialism does not set in due to the increasing presidential powers.
Through congressional hearings, the Congress is able to increase public awareness and opposition to various national and international issues. This may force the president to review its policies and stand concerning such issues as seen during the congressional hearings on the Vietnam War which put pressure on President Johnson and Nixon to withdraw from the war through negotiations. As the Congress reasserts its powers, imperialism in the presidency is checked.
This it does by conducting investigations such as the Watergate investigation against President Nixon, the Iran-Contra investigation against President Reagan and the White Water investigation against President Clinton (Smith, Jason and Ryan 50 – 111). Moreover, it also reasserts its powers by making their stand known to the president on any matter through Congressional debates. The Congress may also propose constitutional amendments and thus redefine presidential powers such as limiting the terms of office of the president.
The Congress can also limit the presidential powers by passing a resolution not to commit American troops into combat abroad. In addition, the Congress may also declare war thereby allowing the president to exercise emergency powers such as prohibiting strikes and lockouts. The Congress has the power to tax and to spend and thus controls the president spending too (Dye 97 – 98).
The Congress also accompanies the president and participates in international conferences as American delegates thereby shaping the outcomes of such conferences. Moreover the Congress also, by repassing the bill in the same session by a two-thirds majority vote in each house, override presidential veto. The presidential powers are also limited by the Congress since it must approve all the judicial appointments as the president must consult the Congress.
The Congress also has the power to impeach the president as seen in the case of presidents Nixon and Clinton (Smith, Jason and Ryan 120 – 191). The media and public opinion also prevent imperialism. The president should also have control and also listen to the counsel of family and friends. If these groups fail in any case, the Judiciary then takes up the matter and limit presidential powers to prevent imperialism.
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Dye, Thomas. Politics In America, (8th ed.). New York: Pearson/Ph, 2009.
Smith, Steven, Jason, Roberts and Ryan, Vander Wielen. The American Congress (5th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.