Many Americans often portray the president as one of the most power people in the world. This may not be exactly true, but how much power the president really has is a subject that has drawn the attention of many observers. Clinton Rossiter, Richard Neustadt, Thomas Cronin, Michael Genovese, and Aaron Wildavsky are all political scientists who answer the question “How powerful is the presidency?” with their essays on the topic.
Clinton Rossiter’s essay entitled “The Presidency – Focus of Leadership” clearly shows that Rossiter believes the president has an overwhelming amount of power. Rossiter stated that the president is leader of the Executive Branch, the forces of peace and war, Congress, his political party, public opinion, and the rituals of American democracy. The president has the power to influence Congress, the power to sway the public’s standpoint on things, and the power to partly control war.
If Rossiter was asked “How powerful is the presidency?”, he would surely answer like many Americans do, that the president is the most powerful person in the world. Rossiter wrote that the president is also the leader of the free nations. This is so because as long as America stays rich and powerful, the president’s words will have a large effect on other countries that may be involved with America, giving the president some “world-wide” power along with the large amount of power he already has just over his nation.
Richard Neustadt states that the president’s power is actually his influence in his essay, “Presidential Power”. He wrote that the president gets many demands from many people from different groups and that he has a responsibility to listen and try to comply with those demands. But even with all these demands, the president is not guaranteed or even assured that people will agree with him or support him. This weakens his power because he can not put the pressure Congress to get the things he wants done because if the public isn’t behind him then members of Congress are less afraid to disagree with the president or go another way on some issues. This will slow things down and make it hard for the president to accomplish things.
Thomas Cronin and Michael Genovese wrote about the factors that limit and contribute to the power of the president in their essay “Presidential Paradoxes”. Cronin and Genovese basically see the presidency as powerful and weak because of ironic limitations, but if a president was to manage and balance the limitations and the advantages then the presidency can be a powerful position indeed. Some important factors to “balance” would be self-confidence, leadership, position-taking, agenda-setting, partisanship, and behavior. Cronin and Genovese listed some paradoxes that people share towards the presidency, a president must overcome these things in order to be successful and maintain as much support as possible.
Aaron Wildavsky provides an interesting answer to the question of the power of the presidency, or how Wildavsky puts it, the presidencies with his essay “The Two Presidencies”. Wildavsky is not saying that there are really two presidents but that one “presidency” is concerned with domestic affairs, and the other with defense and foreign policy. Wildavsky makes the point that the president is much more powerful when it comes to dealing with foreign affairs opposed to domestic. This is so for a few reasons.
One being that Congress interferes a lot more when dealing with domestic issues, and not as much with foreign because Congress doesn’t feel it’s their place. Another reason is that the public is naturally more familiar with domestic issues rather than foreign, thus giving the president more trouble with domestic affairs, also the president is trusted by the people for foreign policy because he is commander in chief. The president is also head of some agencies and that also manifests some support.