HOW THE U.S. PRESIDENT WORKS
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How does the U.S. President work?
Whether you think that the United States President is
the head of a nation or the leader of the free world, there can be absolutely no
doubt that it’s an incredibly powerful position to hold, not only within
America, but throughout the entire world. Consider some of the changes the
country and the world has seen due to the efforts of men such as James Monroe,
who created the Monroe Doctrine which separated the world into two hemispheres.
Or John F. Kennedy who went to such extremes as to provide the security of the
National Guard of 2 black students when they entered the campus of University of
Alabama so that the desegregation of schools could begin. And even more
recently, George W. Bush ordered $200 million from the emergency fund to be
given to nations that were suffering from hunger due to lack of food supply.
Nations such as Cairo, Manila, and Port Au Prince were helped by this effort. So
how does one person make such on impact on the world in a relatively short
amount of time? How can one person be so powerful and, what responsibilities
must be adhered to in order for the advantages to be taken? How exactly does the
office of the U.S. President work?
In order to become President of the United States,
technically a person must only meet 3 criteria, according to the U.S.
Constitution. The first requirement is that the person must have been born in
the United States (or on American foreign soil.) The second is that the person
must have lived in the United States for a minimum of 14 years, although the
Constitution does not specify whether or not those years must have been
consecutive. And lastly, any person running for the United States President must
be 35 years or older when they officially take office. While these requirements
are still in place today there are also some less formal requirements as well,
and the campaign leading up to the election is the place to prove that the
person meets these requirements. Some of these are: being part of a political
network, winning over public opinion, and being educated about national and
global issues and being able to debate those issues knowledgably.
The Constitution also very clearly states some
rules and regulations that the President must adhere to while in office. These
- A presidential term should be for a period of
- While in office, it’s the responsibility of the
President to honestly oversee and execute the laws of the United States.
- Upon taking office, the President must take the
Presidential Oath: “I do so solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute
the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my
ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United
- When the military is in a state of being under
federal command, the President will act as Commander in Chief for all
military and state militias.
- Unless the President has been impeached, they
can grant pardons.
- The President can form treaties with other
countries but must have the consent of the Senate to do so.
- The President also has the power to appoint
Supreme Court Justices, ambassadors, and positions within other public
offices, but the Senate must confirm this.
- During a State of the Union address the
President must address Congress.
- When foreign heads of country and other
officials visit the United States, the President must be in attendance to
- The President’s salary is currently $400,000 a
year plus $50,000 annually for expenses and $100,000 for traveling expenses.
- If the President is charged with a crime, they
can be taken out of office through an impeachment process.
- The President is responsible for proposing
bills to Congress and if Congressional laws are being passed, the President
can stop them from going through with their veto power.
Just as with the presidential requirements, the
responsibilities of the President and the requirements that must be met have
changed throughout the years. It was during Franklin Roosevelt’s 3 consecutive
years that the 22nd amendment was introduced, which stated that the president
may only serve 2 terms however, these don’t need to be served consecutively.
It’s important to note however, that what the term of a President will look like
will greatly depend on their relationship with Congress and their relationship
with the public. No one presidency will ever be identical to another and while
the requirements of Congress are still adhered to, there are other obligations
the President has that are less formal and sometimes, exceptions to the rules
are made, such as when Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from
France without the approval of Congress. And just like that decision, the
decisions the President makes affect millions of people, are written down in
history books, and the effects are still felt for generations to come.
It may be easier to look at how the office of the President works by comparing
it to being the CEO of a major company, except of course that instead of a
company, they are the CEO of an entire country. When they enter office, they
have an agenda of what they would like to accomplish during their term, or
terms, and they make plans to follow through with that agenda with the resources
that they have available to them within the country. They appoint heads of
departments, such as the Department of Defense, to communicate with them and
tell them what they can give to the country, and what they need from the
country, such as funding. These department heads are actually called Cabinet
heads and there are 15 of them in total. The Cabinet heads make up a large part
of the President’s agenda, in that they represent the resources that the
President has available to him/her in order to carry through with their agenda.
During the inauguration the President will explain their goals for their term,
and the plans on how to accomplish them. After that, they will redefine old
goals, and institute new ones during quarterly State of the Union addresses. It
is this agenda that will provide much of the work of Congress will be
responsible for doing over the course of the term, as they deliberate about
which bills to pass and which bills not to pass. Although Congress does much of
this work, the President does even more so when it comes to passing legislature
and making the agenda.
Working as Commander in Chief, the President can
control and command the military in all aspects but according to the
Constitution, only Congress can actually declare war. However this too, is
another area of the President’s role and responsibilities that have changed over
time. Congress has only declared war 5 times: The War of 1812, the Mexican War,
the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. However, public opinion
on the war on Iraq in 2001 would most likely be that it was George W. Bush that
declared this war, and rightfully so. This action is one exception to the rule
that only Congress can declare war. President Bush was able to declare war on
Afghanistan after the September 11th attack due to the charters of the United
Nations and NATO, which state that a nation can retaliate after a direct attack.
The President also has what are known as domestic
responsibilities and these are mainly responsibilities pertaining to the laws
and the economy. The legal responsibilities are to ensure that the laws of the
country are being carried through and abided by and the economic
responsibilities involve things such as creating a national budget and
overseeing the creation of new regulatory bodies. These bodies become very
important, as was the case of the Department of Labor, which was created to
fight for worker’s rights and also created another Cabinet position. The
creation of the national budget is an enormous job which must directly discuss
in full detail where the federal funding will be spent and it accounts for every
dollar. The budget takes a long time to create and a team of many, many people.
Aside from domestic responsibilities, the President
has many responsibilities in terms of foreign relations as well. It is due to
these relations that past Presidents have created, and other relations that have
naturally been formed, that the United States can communicate with other
countries and do great work globally, while always knowing what will be best for
their own country. In addition to working with other countries, the President
also has the power to create treaties with other countries with approval from
Congress. However, a President does not need permission when choosing not to
sign a treaty, just as President Clinton declined to sign the Kyoto Treaty. The
President also serves as a figurehead to other nations. They represent the
United States when visiting other countries and depending on how they are
perceived, they can make a country either hate the United States or love them.
This is one of the largest parts of being President.
One cannot look at how the presidency works without
considering how the First Family, the family of the President, works and their
role during the President’s term. The First Family is often scrutinized by the
media partly because they lead such an interesting life and more in part due to
the fact that it’s the role the President plays within that family and how they
govern their own lives that reflects how they will run the country. The First
Lady, the President’s wife, plays a huge role within the White House and
politically as she is expected to support her husband fully in whatever he does
and can often play a huge part in having legislation pass. Nancy Reagan showed
full support of her husband when she launched her own “Just Say No” campaign in
conjunction with President Reagan’s war against drugs and Hillary Clinton showed
what huge strides the First Lady could make when she made such a positive impact
on health care. The President, the First Lady, and the First Children are
generally those who live in the White House, which is located at 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. although the President can choose to live
with anyone he wishes. The First Family can also make renovations to the White
House and have certain things, such as a bowling alley, installed and most
presidents have taken advantage of this.
The President has many special perks for being
President to go along with his salary. The first is Air Force One, which is a
specialized airplane that was created when President John F. Kennedy ordered
that there be a plane created to be ‘a flying White House.’ This aircraft is
designed so that the President can get to anywhere in the world that he wants to
get to, in a very short time, and as fast as possible. Today, the official Air
Force One is actually a pair of Boeing 747’s but the term ‘Air Force One’ is
actually the call sign for any aircraft carrying the President. Marine One is
the helicopter that is designated for the President’s use. Camp David is a cabin
retreat in the mountains that every President has full access to and has had
since Franklin Roosevelt. This retreat is used not only by the President when
they need some downtime but is also the sight of many important events, such as
the Camp David Peace Accord between Egypt and Israel, which Jimmy Carter hosted.
Once the term or terms have been served, a President can do whatever they
choose. Some try to lead a quiet life out of the public’s eye while some remain
in the political centre and try and continue on with their work. Whichever they
choose to do, the Former President Act does guarantee some rights to President’s
after they have left the office. After leaving office, a former President will
be granted the same salary as a Cabinet member, which is approximately $161,000
annually. The former President is also given an office, complete with staff, for
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