HU The USA President Changing

Do you think that the changes to the role, from statesperson to administrative leader to spokesmodel, have been for the better? What major things that US Presidents have done CULTURALLY* (not politically or legally, but in terms of impact on society) have ultimately been for the better? (Give at least one example to justify your response.)

The President of the United States of America is the head of state of the United States of America, and in essence the head of the American federal government with a level of oversight and authority over federal, state, and local laws (a very limited level). They are indirectly elected through the Electoral College, and serve no more than two terms of four years each. They directly oversee the executive branch of the American government (one of the three branches alongside the other two, the US Congress and the Supreme Court). What this means is that, among other things;

  • The President (as a title, it is always capitalized) is the Commander In Chief of the US Armed Forces, technically making them the commander of all the military forces of the United States of America.
  • While Congress technically is the branch of the government that “declares” war, the President is the one responsible for initial calls for what goes where, formally.
  • The President can grand federal pardons and reprieves, as well as issue something called an Executive Order (though not named as such in the US Constitution, generally accepted as a direct order by the Executive branch regarding a particular ruling. Executive Orders, though they technical circumvent Congress and the US Supreme Court, are not authoritative and can be challenged in court).
  • Though there is a Department of State to manage day-to-day protection of American interests and alliances overseas, the President is also responsible, as a head of state, for representing the US in relations with other countries.

Also, the role of the office of the presidency (since its inception in 1787 with the first US President, George Washington) is to mostly sign bills into law;

  • The signing of legislation passed through both sides of Congress must happen within ten days (not counting Sundays)
  • The bill can be vetoed, or halted, at the President’s discretion (although a veto can be overturned if 2/3 of Congress are behind the bill)
  • The law cannot be enforced/acted upon until it is formally signed and witnessed (which is why people are always around the President when he signs bills into law on TV, standing behind him)

However, it’s not all absolute authority and TV moments. The formation of the office and the infancy of the nation was heavily reliant on the fact that we (the US) had worked hard and fought a war to no longer have absolute rulers, which is why so much of the power that is vested in the Presidency is ultimately tied to other offices and branches of the government. For example;

  • Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution says you have to be a natural-born US Citizen who has lived in the US for at least 14 years AND be over 35 years old to be eligible. This disqualifies people who emigrated to the US or were US citizens born overseas.
  • The authority of the office is ultimately balanced by the other two branches of government (as seen above regarding veto power and executive orders).
  • Also (as stated above) you can only serve twice for four years each, and only once if you stepped in to serve the remainder of someone else’s presidency for two or more years (as a Vice President taking over for a President, for example).

Ultimately, the office is one that since its creation, has grown in size and power, but also in responsibility and spotlight.

While the idea of a President being a popular figure with “fans” is nothing new in US history, it’s interesting to note the rise of the President as a pop culture figure, depicted in fiction (something that you generally didn’t see until the past few decades and even then rarely) and the rise of the President as a pop culture figure venerated and/or despised not necessarily for things like policy but for personality, personal beliefs, and personal dislikes/likes. For the most part in history the President was a figure of distance, for better or worse.

However, that’s no longer the case. We have live televised Q&A’s on MTV (Bill Clinton), we have Twitter (Barack Obama, Donald Trump), we have depictions of presidents on TV (John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan), and we have fictionalized presidents that are meant to be amalgamations of actual people (Kevin Spacey on House of Cards). We have Gerald Ford and George Bush on the hit TV series The Simpsons, Barack Obama in issues of comic books, as well as voice actor Billy West voicing Richard Nixon’s head in the future on Futurama. The President has become more than just an office in the US government or the face of the US to the rest of the world.

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