Lesson Objectives:- Head of State
- Chief Executive
- Chief Diplomat
- Chief Legislator
- Party Chief
One of the many roles that the president has is as Head of State. That is the role of the president as ceremonial head of the government and means he serves as a living symbol of the nation. The president is fulfilling this role when he gives out medals to model citizens or makes a patriotic speech on the 4th of July.
Another role the president plays is as the Chief Executive, the head of the executive branch of the government. In this role, he is seen as being in Civil Service to the nation. That is a collective term for the body of employees working for the government. Generally, civil service is understood to apply to all those who gain government employment through a merit system.
Being the Chief Executive grants the president great power. One such power is Appointment Power, the authority vested in the president to fill a government office or position.
He also has the power of Reprieve, which is a formal postponement of the execution of a sentence imposed by a court of law. More significantly, the president has the power to Pardon, a release from the punishment for, or legal consequences of, a crime. A pardon can be granted by the president before or after a conviction.
In a totally different role, the president assumes the position of supreme commander of the military forces of the United States and of the state National Guard units when they are called into federal service.
Even as Commander-in-Chief, he has limitations. The War Powers Resolution is a law passed in 1973 spelling out the conditions under which the president can commit troops without congressional approval.
The power to recognize foreign governments and make treaties is granted to the president, but only with what is known as the Advice and Consent of Congress. Those are Terms in the Constitution describing the U.S. Senate's power to review and approve treaties and presidential appointments.
Officially, Chief Diplomat is defined as the role of the president in recognizing foreign governments, making treaties, and effecting executive agreements. The first of the powers associated with the president's role as Chief Diplomat is called Diplomatic Recognition, or the formal acknowledgment of a foreign government as legitimate.
Even though the president has the power to negotiate treaties with nations, there is an approval process that goes through the Senate. An Executive Agreement is a way to bypass Congress. It is an international agreement made by the president, without senatorial ratification, with the head of a foreign state.
In the role of Chief Legislator, the president influences the making of laws. Another of the president's duties as the Chief Legislator is setting the agenda for Congress through his State of the Union Message, an annual message to Congress in which the president proposes a legislative program. The message is addressed not only to Congress but also to the American people and to the world.
Getting legislation passed is often a balancing act he has to play. One important power is that of the veto. It comes in various forms. The president can shoot down legislation with his Veto Message, a formal explanation of a veto, which accompanies the vetoed legislation when it is returned to Congress.
He also has at his disposal the Pocket Veto, which is a special veto exercised by the chief executive after a legislative body has adjourned. Bills not signed by the chief executive die after a specified period of time.
He also has the Line-Item Veto, which is the power of an executive to veto individual lines or items within a piece of legislation without vetoing the entire bill.
The Constitution does not specifically appoint the president as a party leader, but that is in fact what he is. He can punish as well as reward members of his party. One system of reward is Patronage, the practice of rewarding faithful party workers and followers with government employment and contracts. In addition, he has further political rewards he can offer such as his ability to raise large sums of money for the party.
The president is beholden to many constituencies including not only the people who voted for him, but also to the party, opponents of the party who cooperated, and the "inside the beltway" crowd who may not even be in politics, but are part of the process.
A president has to strive to maintain a high approval rating to get legislation through Congress. Without a high approval rating, legislators do not cooperate and it can lead to losing reelection.
One move that seems to work well for the president is when he takes his case to the public. He goes right over Congress and appeals to the people. This can be effective when he has a strong position and is able to weaken the position of the opposition. It can backfire, however, when there is a margin of compromise and the issue comes across as a partisan issue.