When the framers met in Philadelphia in 1787, they assumed that the legislature was the real engine of the national political system.
The need for a central executive was demonstrated by the breakdown of the national government.
Nervous about trusting the general public to choose the executive, the founders provided for an Electoral College, a group of people who would be chosen by the states for the sole purpose of electing the president.
The assumption was that this body would be made up of leading citizens who would exercise care and good judgement in casting their votes and who wouldn't make post election claims on him.
The founders wanted to avoid the concentration of power that could be abused by a strong executive because of their experience with King George III.
The presidency has two different roles, the more symbolic head of state and the more energetic head of government.
The founders probably had in mind a figurehead, someone who would sit at the top of the executive branch, command the armed forces, and represent the nation.
We put presidents on a higher plane than other politicians because Americans were not ready for such a title.
The ceremonial role of the American president includes greeting other heads of state, attending state funerals, tossing out the first baseball of the season, and consoling survivors of national tragedies.
The vice president can relieve the president of some of his responsibilities, but only when the president is present.
Our system of checks and balances gives the president real political powers, which are intended to keep the other branches in check.
The head of a political party is supposed to run the government.
Some citizens will win more than others, some will lose more than others, and some will become angry as a result of these functions.
In Great Britain, the head of government role is given to the prime minister, who is expected to be the official head of a party in charge.
Even though the president's political roles have expanded far beyond the intentions of the founding fathers, the prime minister is still more powerful than the president.
The president plays two roles.
When President Obama signed his signature healthcare reform bill, he was leading on a potentially controversial government policy complete with arm twisting and ample use of the bully pulpit.
When President Bush visited Ground Zero after September 11, his goal was to unify us and speak for the nation as head of state.
Being head of government involves a lot of political activities.
Because of the constant attention presidents command, they are uniquely positioned to define the nation's policy agenda--that is, to get issues on the unofficial list of business that Congress and the public think should be taken care of.
An effective head of government needs to broker deals, line up votes, and pass legislation.
This may seem odd since Congress makes the laws, but presidents are often critical players in getting these laws passed.
To make government work, presidents are expected to execute the laws.
People don't think much about things that go well.
Presidents are held accountable when things go wrong.
Like prime ministers, U.S. presidents lead their political party.
The rest of the president's powers are explored later in the chapter.
All of these roles place the president in a position that is inherently and unavoidably conflicting.
On the one hand, they are the symbol of the nation, representing all the people, while on the other hand, they have to take the lead in politics that are inherently divisive.
The unifying role of the head of state is undermined by the political requirements of the head of government.
It's difficult for the president to bridge the conflicting roles in Congress because of the hyperpartisanship.
Our ability to insist on respect for the office even when we disagree with the person holding it depends on our ability as a nation.
When politics leads us to criticize the policies of the president, it's more difficult for him to act as a unifying figure when the need arises.
The framers' conception of a limited presidency can be seen in the brief attention the office gets in the Constitution.
The second article is not very precise.
The president is elected by the Electoral College.
In response to Franklin Roosevelt's four terms in office, the Constitution was amended to limit the president to two terms.
The president must be a natural born citizen of the United States and a resident for at least fourteen years.
If the president dies or is removed from office, the vice president takes over.
If the vice president is unable to serve, Congress passed the Presidential Succession Act, which establishes the order of succession after the president.
The vice president can take over if the president is unable to serve, according to the Twenty-fifth Amendment.
After an in-depth investigation, the House votes to impeach the president by a simple majority vote, which charges him with a crime.
The Senate can convict the president on the articles of impeachment with a two-thirds majority vote.
The Senate couldn't assemble a majority against Clinton and failed to convict Johnson.
The power of impeachment is meant to be used to check the president, but it is often used for partisan purposes.
Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush were impeached for a number of offenses.
The Republicans called for President Obama's impeachment for a number of reasons, including the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya and the fact that he did not have a birth certificate.
The Clinton years taught us that impeachment can be expensive, time-consuming, and punishing for the party that conducts them, and that there are more ways to provide checks and balances.