Comparing the Position and Powers of the US President and the UK Prime Minister
Political instinct alone seems to dictate to many that the American
president - 'the world's most powerful man' - is the most powerful
politician in any of the world's democratic nations. He is at the head
of the world's most modern military force and the world's largest
economy. What the president says is reported around the world and
world share markets can fall or rise on any public statement by him.
But is he the western world's most powerful politician?
In America, the president is the best known of many politicians. This
alone gives him a great deal of authority as many people within their
own states cannot name their own representatives in the House, Senate
or governor. The simple fact, that the president has the title of
president gives him enormous authority and power in that he is the
main figurehead within the whole of the massive American political
structure. To take on the president is seen as almost taking on
America and all that the nation stands for. When Clinton moved towards
the impeachment process during the Lewinsky scandal, he was paying the
price for what he had done as a person not as a politician who
happened to be president. Even so, the fact that the Senate failed to
go all the way down the road to impeachment was probably because they
did not want to see the title of president sullied in such a manner.
The same is probably true of Nixon during the Watergate crisis. Here
was a man who was allowed to resign rather than face the ignominy of
impeachment and possibly a full trial in the full glare of the public
at both domestic and international level. Protecting the name of the
president and all he stands for does give the post-holder a great deal
of authority and, in this sense, power.
The British Prime Minister does have the same international standing
as the president. In the crisis involving Iraq, the driving force
behind any move against the leadership in Baghdad has been the
American president, G W Bush, while Tony Blair, the British Prime
Minister, has been referred to as clinging onto the coat tails of
Bush. Britain simply does not have the international standing to
overtly influence policies - her military is weak compared to America
and though a member of G7, our economic standing in the world is
dwarfed by America's. Such a position does not allow the Prime
Minister to drive an international agenda whereas the US president
can. In this sense, the power of the US president abroad is far
greater than that of the British Prime Minister.
In domestic politics that same power is more open to question. The
president can select his own cabinet with which he can work, but it
has to be ratified by the Senate. Whilst this is usually a formality -
as the Senate would...