An Imperial Presidency Essay

2075 words - 8 pages

An Imperial Presidency

Writers of the constitution intended for congress to be the most
powerful branch of government. They invested in the president: the
powers of the monarch, but subjected him to the democratic principles
of accountability which was ensured by a complex system of
parliamentary and judicial checks and balances. For over a century the
US got along fine with a relatively weak president whose major role
was simply to carry out the laws and policies made by congress,
however, there has been erosion in this system.

Presidential power only started to grow after the 19th century when
the US set out on its path to empire.

A great transformation of the president’s power came with Franklin D.
Roosevelt. When he came into office in 1933, he declared the great
depression[1] a national emergency and announced that he would treat
the depression as a war. Although congress did not approve of this, he
still presided over the nation. Roosevelt also stayed in office for
more than four terms until his death in 1945. His forceful leadership
and many years in office inspired a term, ‘the imperial presidency’
that would be applied to subsequent president with similar leadership
style. Imperial means one that is superior in authority or acting like
an emperor.

Roosevelt’s successors used the cold war to justify continuity of the
imperial presidency. There was liberty in the amount of staff the
president could have. The white house became over crowded with staff
that held personal loyalty to the person holding the office of
president this brought enough favour and support to the president in
doing what he pleases. The president used their power to create a
genuine American empire. As a basis for their authority, presidents
typically cited their role as commander-in- chief- an undefined
constitutional term, and they inherited powers other presidents had
used before them. During Nixon’s time in office the Supreme Court and
congress placed checks on him as he was exceeding his presidential

In the name of protecting national security, Nixon wanted to be able
to wiretap without approval of a judge. In this case, which was known
as, united states v. United States court for the eastern district of
Michigan presently known as the Keith case. The Supreme Court along
with some of Nixon’s own appointees refused and Nixon lost.

Another case where the court had to put a check on Nixon was the
United States v Nixon. In this case, Nixon refused turning over the
Watergate special prosecutor his taped conversations. He tried using
his implied authority to invoke “executive privilege” but the Supreme
Court decided that the privilege did not protect the tape, and the
release of the tape ended his regime.

President William Jefferson Clinton was thought by many, to put an...

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