Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions

By Henry Etzkowitz; Peter Schwab | Go to book overview

2 The Presidency
The basic questions this chapter will address are:
1. How powerful or powerless is the President?
2. Which interests does the President serve?
3. What are the sources of information the President receives and how valid is this information?
4. How powerful should the President be in setting the direction of our society?

These questions represent the major issues which the authors in this chapter argue from explicit and implicit conservative, liberal, and socialist principles.

The conservative position holds that the Presidency should be the basic goal-setting institution of our society. It accepts the Presidency as the most important institution in our society and argues that it is in everyone's interest to keep it so. The liberal position argues that the Presidency is the most important institution but that it has some structural deficiencies which lead to its not always acting in the best interests of the people. Liberals want to reorder some of the goals of society and believe this can be done by filling the Presidential office with the right individual. The right individual, such as a Franklin Roosevelt or a John Kennedy, is held by his leadership to be able to reorder priorities by changing how the office works. The socialist position does not see the problem in terms of how the office works. The very existence of the Presidency as the preeminently powerful institution in our society is a basic problem. This is so because the enormous power accumulated in this institution is used to serve a small class of people who control society through their control of the economy. The power is used in the interest of this small elite rather than for the great masses of people. The solution therefore is not seen in a restructuring of the Presidential office but in changing fundamentally the economic/political system of the United States.

In the articles you will read in this chapter, the office of the Presidency is analyzed, and the above questions and following issues are dealt with.

Amos Perlmutter, in his article "The Presidential Political Center and Foreign Policy," says that the Presidency is and ought to be the center of decision-making in foreign policy. The presidential political center consists of people chosen on the basis of merit and expertise. These people know what they are doing and know what is best for the country. They have the right to act.

The President is the decision-maker in foreign policy because he has been granted power by the Constitution, Congress, and the Supreme Court, and he has taken advantage of that power. In addition to this delegation of power, Presidents have taken the initiative in defining new areas of power under their control. This initiative has been formulated from John Locke theory of Prerogative, which allows that for the good

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