Focus 1


The Myth of the All-Powerful President

The myth of the all-powerful president may make logical sense for those not in the White House or dealing with foreign affairs. It may seem easy for one to think that the president can declare war in a blink of an eye, interpret laws, or decide how federal money will be spent. But further research shows that the president does not have complete unlimited power. While he has abundant power, he also has restrictions. Congress is right alongside the president as he is governing. Just because a president wants something does not mean it will be become law.

The president has a long list of duties and responsibilities, including being the chief of state, chief diplomat, chief legislator. His primary powers are the veto and executive orders. Without the president’s signature, a bill cannot become a law. However,  a president can “kill a bill by not signing it the last ten days of a congressional session” (Gitelson), which exercises his veto power. This is known as a pocket veto. Another one of the president’s powers is the power to pardon. Congress may not limit the president’s power to pardon like they can for other orders. Also, the president can withhold information from Congress through executive privilege. A president can also turn to executive agreements, where he does not have to get the consent of Congress before making agreements with other countries. The title of Mr. President does not fall short of having a lot of power and responsibility in governing the nation.

While having a great deal of power, the president does not have complete control of everything; this is a myth “where voters believing in unrealistic presidential power” (Gardner)  that many Americans succumb to. The United States of America has a system of checks and balances. Congress plays a key role is certain aspects in the White House. The president can choose what money is needed for certain departments and he can prepare a budget to submit Congress, but in the end, congress decides whether to vote yes or no on the proposed budget. The president can also use the congressional-executive agreement which is used for dealing with foreign affairs. It is “an agreement with a foreign nation that is negotiated by the president and then submitted to both houses of Congress for approval” (Gitelson). President Bill Clinton used this to avoid the two-thirds vote in the Senate for treaty ratification, successfully winning the approval for NAFTA.  

As Bill Clinton’s wife, Hillary Clinton, prepares for the upcoming 2016 election, the Republican party won’t even consider a “Democratic president’s nomination for the Supreme Court and it means that the ‘I can work with Congress’ talking point should be permanently retired” (Washington). As long as Republicans have control over both the house and senate, there is no working with Congress for Hillary Clinton.  Budgets will still get passed, but whether there will be compromise or not is up in the air if Clinton wins in November.  

Some presidents or even potential candidates may promise such things that they cannot control. Donald Trump’s plan for immigration is to convince the Mexican government to build a wall with Mexico’s own resources and money. This is an unrealistic approach, since Trump does not possess the power to do this. “Conservative voters are so locked into their hatred of anything “liberal” that even a man as openly vile and dangerous as Trump will probably manage to at least make it close on election day” (Washington) and try to build his unreasonable wall. However, Trump has a point, the United States needs to do something about its immigration problem; immigration is a privilege, not a right.

The president has a wide range of responsibilities and power, but through checks and balances is limited by Congress. The central myth that the president is all-powerful can be misleading and voters put all of their hopes and wishes into one candidate when they cannot necessarily do everything they have promised.


Works Cited

Atkins, David. “How Much Bad Press Can Trump’s Campaign Take Before It Implodes?” Washington Monthly. Gone Viral, 27 Aug. 2016. Web. 30 Aug. 2016. <;.

Atkins, David. ““Working with Congress” Won’t Be Possible for Clinton.” Washington Monthly. Gone Viral, 27 Aug. 2016. Web. 30 Aug. 2016. <;.

Gitelson, Alan R., Robert L. Dudley, and Melvin J. Dubnick. “Chapter 12: The Presidency.” American Government: Myths and Realities. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.