American Presidency The Issue Of Term Paper

Length: 10 pages Sources: 3 Subject: Government Type: Term Paper Paper: #33740046 Related Topics: Richard Nixon, Anti Federalists, American Revolution, Presidential Debate
Excerpt from Term Paper :

At the same time it was the fatal mistake that provoked and legitimized resistance to the revolutionary presidency." The Watergate scandal and the events leading to it were, from the perspective of the components mentioned above, the manifestation of both an imperial presidency visible in the way in which Nixon tackled the issue of Vietnam, and a revolutionary presidency, as the resignation of the president marked the beginning of a new period in the history of the presidential administrations.

The example of the Vietnam War is probably one of the most representatives for the issue under discussion, the idea of imperial presidency. In this sense, the author considers the right of Nixon to wage war against the authorization of the Congress. The main justification for the continuation of the war in Vietnam was the title of the president as Commander in Chief

Overall, the perspective offered by the book is both historical and analytical. On the one hand, it is an important review of U.S. presidencies, and on the other hand, it represents an important point-of-view related to the issue of the rule of the Constitution, the prerogatives of the President, as well as the relation of the President with the other powers of the state.

A complementary work in this area is Forest McDonald's "The American Presidency: an intellectual history." His approach is also based on a historical account of the presidencies of the United States. However, the starting point for his analysis is the degree to which presidential powers have increased. Moreover, his approach is based on the evolution of the executive starting from the mere idea of presidency.

The main idea of the work is not necessarily related to the study of history in itself. More precisely, the text represents a mix between theoretical aspects and practical ones. In this sense, his approach is based, first and foremost on the issue of the political theory. Thus, he describes the connection between the president and the various forces such as the Congress, the judicial, or the executive branch in terms of the theoretical aspects imposed by the science of politics. Thus, his line of thought starts from the idea of the separation of powers, similar to the issue described by Schlesinger. However, McDonald considers this point of discussion in terms of a more coherent description of the situation of the British legacy for the American state. Thus, he exemplifies the role of the president in managing the balance between the powers of the state through the figure of Thomas Jefferson. The President made use of his balancing powers to slide between the tensions existing in any type of democracy, especially a young one which does not have the experience of the rule of law. He was thus a more important factor in the situation and he increased his power.

Although there is an important focus on the issue of presidency, it is rather hard to determine whether the main issue of the book is strictly related to the presidential prerogatives. The approach is wider, as it tries to encompass both theoretical aspects related to the democratic institutions of the state, as well as the theoretical aspects related to the presidential post. Therefore it can be said that the perspective in itself is broader and it offers the somewhat theoretical framework for the information provided by Schlesinger.

Despite its complexity, the book can be considered to have its limitations. Indeed, the wide view on the way in which the idea of presidency is presented is rather useful for the continuous debates that take place on a constant basis surrounding this subject, the theoretical perspective does not allow for the author to properly present a more complex detailed view on the actual events he theorizes. However,

The last of the books considered, Andrew Rudalevige's "The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power after Watergate" has in mind...


The author himself recalls that "the first version of this book took shape in my mind before September 11, 2001, but it was largely written after the mass murders of that day." Therefore, from the very beginning it can be said that the book is dealing with a current approach of the conduct of presidential politics, taking into account that the author points out in the introduction the fact that the reaction of the president was, on all accounts, an "extensive" one.

Similar to the previous books, Rudalevige also addresses the issue of the presidential rule and the extent of the presidential powers in the conditions offered by the Constitution. He addresses this issue however more from the point of the last thirty years, more precisely the decades following the Watergate Scandal. In a way, it can be said that he continued on the path left opened by McDonald and Schlesinger. The individuality of the approach does not lay necessarily in the new information provided, which is nonetheless closer to our reality than the previous works, but rather from the perspective given by the way in which he considers the Watergate scandal to be a cornerstone in the evolution of the presidential prerogatives, in the tradition of the relationship between the President, the Congress, and the government, and most importantly, the responsibility of the president towards the civil servants and the public opinion.

An important aspect of the book is placed in the introductory part in which he sets as a starting point the notion of imperial presidency as presented by Schlesinger. In this sense, he argues that "imperial presidency (...) didn't mean that the presidency literally had become an emperor, as some anti-Federalist authors had feared back in the 1780s. But it did suggest both that the occupant of the office exercised more absolute power over more issues than the constitutional framework suggested and, more broadly, that the office itself had expanded in its power relative to other governmental actors. The presidency had breached old boundaries, bringing more and more authority over more and more aspects of American governance under its control." From this theoretical point, the author builds his theory which is based on various aspects supporting his main arguments.

The thesis of this book included the idea of the evolution of the powers of the president at the expense of the congressional influence and the judiciary force. This evolution is followed throughout the history of the framing of the Constitution up to the present moment; however, the distinctive nature of the work is related to the fact that aside from a theoretical perspective, the author also presents a historical account of the evolution of the presidential prerogatives.

The main argument in support of his thesis which is related to the increase in the abuse of presidential power since the Watergate scandal is what he calls "the resurgence regime" which confronted the imperial presidency that had been established during the Nixon years. In this sense, he somehow makes the connection between his line of thought which concluded the fact that the Nixon administration could not have been put down but through a revolutionary step of the Congress and Schlesinger's view on the different types of presidential control, one of which being the revolutionary presidency.

The book in itself is, as the author points out in the very beginning "one about politics, not of political science. I have taken on the task of systematizing, generalizing, reducing the chaos, disorder, and sheer untidiness of history to neat patters." The pattern the author discusses is relevant for pointing out the gradual change of the scale of the administrative prerogatives of the president since the Nixon period. This time is taken as a reference point by the author because of its importance for the studies in the field. More precisely, after the Watergate scandal, the Congress took again hold of the major decisions taken in terms of foreign policy matters. However, especially during the Regan and the Bush administrations, this shift changed and again, as the author points out "in the spring of 2003 (...) president George W. Bush appeared in practically every one of those articles (newspaper articles), a commander in chief very much in command." One of the most important arguments to support his thesis of the eventual shift of power from the Congress back to the presidential administration as it had been during the Nixon years was the fact that the Congress played no role in the decision to go to war in Iraq. This is indeed a matter of concern for the democratic system because in the end the involvement of the Congress in foreign policy decision making is essential and a constitutional provision. Therefore, from the perspective given by this example alone, it can be stated that indeed, the presidential prerogatives in the U.S. regained…

Sources Used in Documents:


McDonald, Forrest. The American Presidency: An Intellectual History. Lawrance: University Press of Kansas, 1994.

Rudalevige, Andrew. The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power after Watergate. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Schlesinger, Arthur Jr. The Imperial Presidency. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973

Arthur Jr. Schlesinger, the Imperial Presidency. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973), 299

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