Presidency of the United States


president, in modern republics, the chief executive and, therefore, the highest officer in a government. Many nations of the world, including the United States, France, Germany, India, and the majority of Latin American nations, have a president as the official head of state. However, the actual power of the presidency varies considerably from country to country. In Germany the presidential power is relatively weak. True executive power rests with the chancellor, and all acts of the president must have his approval or the approval of one of his ministers. The presidential power in India is similarly subordinated to a cabinet of ministers and restricted primarily to ceremonial functions. By contrast, France (under the Fifth Republic), the United States, and some Latin American countries have given the office of the president considerable authority. In Latin America heads of state have not infrequently assumed dictatorial powers, while retaining the title president. The power of the French president is such that he may dissolve parliament at any time, although not more than once a year, and may veto parliamentary bills. He is commander in chief of the armed forces and possesses extraordinary emergency powers. In the United States, Article II of the Constitution provides for the office of the presidency, which is held for four-year terms and filled by election through the electoral college. The president is given full responsibility for the execution of the laws and is therefore the head of all executive agencies. With the consent of Congress he appoints cabinet members and any other executive officials he sees fit. As commander in chief of armed forces the president has control over the military, although Congress tried to limit his war-making power with the War Powers Act of 1973. He is also responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, although his treaties and appointments must be approved by the Senate and his expenditures by the House of Representatives. To be eligible for the presidency one must be a native-born citizen, over 35 years old, and at least 14 years resident in the United States. The Twenty-second Amendment (1951) limits a president to two four-year terms. For a list of U.S. presidents, see Presidents of the United States, table.

See M. Cunliffe, American Presidents and the Presidency (1972); L. Fisher, President and Congress (1972); F. I. Greenstein, Leadership in the Modern Presidency (1988); L. Fisher, Presidential War Power (1995).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Presidency of the United States: Selected full-text books and articles

Power and the Presidency By Robert A. Wilson PublicAffairs, 1999
The Paradoxes of the American Presidency By Thomas E. Cronin; Michael A. Genovese Oxford University Press, 1998
The Myth of the Modern Presidency By David K. Nichols Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994
How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency By Saladin M. Ambar University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012
Presidential Power: Forging the Presidency for the Twenty-First Century By Robert Y. Shapiro; Martha Joynt Kumar; Lawrence R. Jacobs Columbia University Press, 2000
Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership By Richard E. Neustadt John Wiley & Sons, 1960
The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency By Robert J. Spitzer State University of New York Press, 1988
The Presidency in an Age of Limits By Michael A. Genovese Greenwood Press, 1993
The Ultimate Decision: The President as Commander in Chief By Ernest R. May; George Braziller G. Braziller, 1960
The Managerial Presidency By James P. Pfiffner Texas A&M University, 1999 (2nd edition)
The Power of Presidential Ideologies By Dennis Florig Praeger Publishers, 1992
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