The Paradoxes of the American Presidency

By Thomas E. Cronin; Michael A. Genovese | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
"If Men Were Angels . . .":
Presidential Leadership and
Accountability

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern man, neither external nor internal controls in government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this, you must first enable the government to control the government and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government. But experience has taught mankind the necessity for auxiliary precautions.

James Madison, Federalist Papers No. 51 ( 1788)

A strong president is a bad President, a curse upon the land, unless his means are constitutional and his ends democratic, unless he acts in ways that are fair, dignified, and familiar, and pursues policies to which a 'persistent and undoubted' majority of the people has given support. We honor the great Presidents of the past, not for their strength, but for the fact that they used it wisely to build a better America.

Clinton Rossiter, The American Presidency ( Harcourt, Brace and World, 1956), p. 257

People with vast power at their disposal get cut off from reality, and their power is inevitably misused. One Administration will have its Watergate, another its Vietnam. Clearly, there is a need for Congress, the courts, the media and the general public, each in its own way to work to lessen both the power and the aura of divine right that now surround our President.

Jeb S. Magruder, "convicted Nixon White House aide", Los Angeles Times May 22, 1974, p. II-7

-349-

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