In the United States our President has many powers that are granted to him when they are elected into office. They have the ability to change the budget, to either cut back on spending, or implement new programs to help their citizens. They can veto a bill that they think is not ready to be made law yet and send it back to congress for further evaluation. They can appoint Supreme Court Justices. They also are the Commander in Chief of all U.S. armies, and they even have the power to send troops over to foreign nations in times of hostility in some circumstances. There are many who believe that the powers of the president are sometimes abused, especially as the Commander in Chief. There have been several instances in our Nation’s history in which the President has been able to wiggle their way around the constitutional limitations that are given of the Commander in Chief. Even though the president is unable to actually declare war he can use his powers to advance a conflict.
The article Congressional War Powers, The Commander in Chief and Senator John Mccain describes how this is achieved by stating “Technically only congress has the power to declare war but the President can act unilaterally to repel sudden attacks made on U.S. Soil” (Bowling, 2008, p. 1). Presidents use these executive powers to engage in a conflict that they believe needs to be settled in times of crisis. The Constitution has a system within-it that tries to grant separate but equal powers to all branches of government called checks and balances.
Although this system of checks and balances is supposed to be followed, there are ways which certain branches of government can gain more power than others. Often the President is the one who abuses the system, and uses their executive powers for their own advantages. These powers granted to the President have been abused more and more throughout our Nation’s recent history and it needs to be limited to make sure that the leader of the United States is making decisions which are best for his citizens.
In the book Executive privilege, Presidential Power, secrecy and accountability Mark Rozel defines executive privilege and how it has been implemented over time. He focuses on several cases where executive privilege has been abused including the Nixon, George W. Bush, and Clinton administrations. He brings insight on how they took the power too far and how the country felt about their actions. The article Conflicts between the commander in chief and Congress (2008) written by Jules Lobel focuses on the Bush administration, and how the president took his powers of commander in chief too far. According to the article the administration “ignores or greatly minimizes Congress’s Constitutional Powers to declare War” (2008, p. 391). This is a prime indicator that the president is gaining too much power. Another article, CONGRESSIONAL WAR POWERS, THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF AND SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, (2008) written by Jeremy L. Bowling, Richard D. Caldwell, Ryan C.
Hendrickson, and John S. Morris, focuses on how the system of separation of powers was supposed to divide the powers of the government equally, but describes how the president has used his unilateral powers too much. The article also focuses on John McCain’s views about using and restricting the powers of commander in chief. Another article that focuses on the executive powers of the president is Controlling Executive Power in the War on Terrorism written by Mark Tushnet (2005). This article analyzes what the government’s response is to outbreaks of war. It describes how Congress and the president interact with one another during times of crisis to decide what should be done.
It elaborates on the difficult struggle that the government faces during these times. Usually the president has final say of what to do during these times. Another article that focuses on a different way the president can gain too much power is The Most Dangerous Branch: Executive Power to Say What the Law Is written by Michael Stokes Paulsen (1994). This article goes into depth about just how much power the president has compared to the other branches of government. One of the main points it asserts is that the president has the power to interpret the law before executing it which can play a big role in how the country is ran.
` Our country’s Constitution was arranged in a way, and developed over the years to make sure that no branch of government would become more powerful than the others. It has been amended and changed throughout history so that it can adapt to the way that citizens’ views change. Although the Constitution is written in ink it does not mean that there is one way of interpreting the meanings of laws and amendments. The constitution grants Executive Power to the President but there are also powers called the inherent powers which are other powers guaranteed to the President, including conducting foreign policy, making treaties, using executive privilege which is used to keep diplomatic and military secrets private. These powers can be very dangerous because they can be taken advantage of, and interpreted in a way that can give the president the upper hand over the two other branches of government.
Michael Paulsen describes why the Executive Branch of government is the most dangerous by stating “The executive possesses Force, Will, and Judgment the power to interpret the law. He has the sole duty and prerogative to direct and control the manner in which the laws are executed” (1994, p. 219). If a person gets elected to president who is selfish or does not have good morals then these powers could prove to be very harmful to the nation’s well-being. There have been several instances in our nation’s history where the President has acted not in the best interest of the nation, but in the best interest of themselves and his supporters. This builds mistrust in citizens about the government, and makes them question whether they actually have as much influence in the government that is promised to them by the Constitution.
A power that has been abused recently, and interpreted in a certain way that makes it easy to be in favor of the president is the power of commander in chief. The president is not able to declare war officially but he can sure be one of the causes for it. Even if the majority of the country feels that war should be avoided the president still has the power to send troops over to foreign nations if there is a threat to the national security of the country. The president then has to prove why their decision to send troops to foreign nations is justified. Even if citizens do not agree with him, as long as he proves that he is trying to protect the nation, he is able to engage in the conflict. One of the most recent displays of taking advantage of executive power is when the Bush administration sent troops to Afghanistan to fight the War on Terror.
President Bush had told the citizens of the United states that there was suspicion that Afghanistan had weapons of mass destruction which justified him to send troops to check out the situation. According to Jules Lobel in the article Conflicts between the Commander in Chief and Congress “President Bush had the right to not only regulate and direct troops but also hold enemy combatants against their will for interrogation” (2008, p.392). This was a nice way of letting citizens know that the Bush administration was willing to do anything, even torture to retrieve information from individuals who they suspected knew something.
The administration also felt that it was necessary to begin wiretapping peoples’ phones in order to protect citizens. This outraged a lot of citizens that felt like their privacy was being violated, and the government was over stepping its boundaries. It is true that during times of war or conflict the president has the power as commander in chief to take necessary actions in order to keep the country safe, but in some circumstances that power is over used and can almost become an excuse to carry out laws and regulations without the approval of congress. This power has proven that there needs to be some limitations on what the president can or can not do during times of conflict.
Another power which has shown throughout history to be abused by the president is executive privilege. This is the ability for the president to withhold information that they feel is necessary to keep secret for the good of the public. This is a useful tool to the president and it can be used to keep the public from panicking in times of crises, and also to protect citizens from criminals who are try to receive information. It can also be used to prevent legislative oversight on foreign policy, so that the president can cooperate with other nations as he pleases. It is necessary to justify the use of executive privilege, and there have been several circumstances where there was no proof to explain the action. The most controversial issue in our Nation’s history is when President Nixon attempted to use executive privilege to cover up the Watergate scandal.
He tried to withhold information from congress to protect him, as well as his constituents from getting in trouble. He could not explain the need for secrecy of the situation. Mark Rozell explains in his book executive privilege that “confidentiality was the vehicle for the cover-up of the criminal acts and conspiracies by his aides” (2002, p.53). It also explains in the book how Nixon attempted to expand executive privilege to all executive branch officials (2002, p.65). If this were to happen then the executive branch would without a doubt become the most powerful branch of government because they could use executive privilege to trump almost anything. The Watergate scandal had truly made citizens question the reliability and honesty of the federal government. This was the first time in American History where the president attempted to cheat the system solely for his own benefit. The disapproval rating of the national government at the time directly after the scandal had dropped dramatically, and legislators began to think how to limit executive powers of the president, but would not be able to affectively come up with a solution. The Clinton administration also refused to release to congressional investigators that the White House deemed subject to executive privilege”(Rozel 2002,p. 124).
He was trying to cover up his personal affairs so that he would not look bad in the nation’s eyes, and although the court claimed that this use of executive privilege was improper, and he was impeached, he still remained to be in office. The power to interpret the power of executive privilege has simply gotten out of hand and there are some individuals who believe “the power to interpret the law, including the Constitution, is like any other power too important to vest in a single set of hands” (Paulsen 1994, p. 222). This is a power of the government that continues to be abused by the president and congress has tried to figure out a way to control this power, but has remained unsuccessful. Citizens may wonder why the other two branches are hesitant about limiting the president’s power to use executive privilege. One of the reasons is because as Lobel states “The constitutional concern with congressional interference with the President’s Commander in Chief power over warfare typically focuses on detailed congressional micromanagement of the conduct of war (2008, p. 401).
It is an issue to take away the executive power of the president especially as commander in chief, because although congress might make a more affective decision to a situation in times of crises, the time it would take for senators and house representatives to agree on what to do would be too costly and timely that it would hardly be effective. Congress is just too big to come to a fast conclusion that the majority agrees upon. There have been several presidents, including Franklin Delanore Roosevelt, who used executive power to change policy that actually made a positive difference in society. Roosevelt portrayed his use of executive power when he made the New Deal.
The executive power is an important factor in the political process but Its primary concern is what “Professors Bradley and Goldsmith call Executive Branch unilateralism, a fear that Presidents acting on their own might make unsound decisions, engaging in too much (or too little) military action, intruding on liberties too much (or too little)”(Tushnet, 2005, p. 2674). Presidents have a lot of power, and they can choose to make decisions that are for the well-being of our country, but the decisions that they make on their own needs to be limited so that they do not make a decision that is unconstitutional or morally wrong.
There have been many instances in our nation’s history where presidents have abused their power to implement their views on policer war, or to protect themselves. Some presidents have used their executive power to change America for the better, but recently this power is interpreted in such ways that can make the president more powerful than the other branches of government, especially during times of war or when there is a conflict on policy. Citizens should be able to decide whether the country should go to war or not, instead of outing that extremely dangerous power into the hands of one man.
Yes it is true citizens elect the president but they can not tell how they are going to act once in office. Presidents use strategies to get elected so that once they are in office they can do what they actually believe should be done. There have been several attempted scandals and cover-ups from former presidents to keep them from getting in trouble and the executive power still remains to be misused. The president is the leader of the nation, and should act on behalf of all people, not just on behalf of himself and his constituents. The powers of the president need to be limited even more especially during times of crisis, so that there is not too much power placed in one pair of hands, and so that the views of all citizens can be heard.
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