The President

Article II of the US Constitution grants the president numerous powers and responsibilities, but the the authority
granted to the modern presidency far exceeds the constitutional definition of office. And through the years, a variety
of presidential roles have evolved that were not originally or specifically outlined in the Article. Some of these roles
were legislated by congress, the courts granted some, and powerful presidents assumed others.
The president?s first role is as chief executive, the head of the executive branch and most of its workers. He is
responsible for the ethics, loyalty, efficiency, and responsiveness of the federal government and its employees. The
evolution of the chief executive?s primary role provides a useful example of how the presidential power has
developed through the years. At the outset, the Constitution granted the chief executive the power to appoint all
officials in the executive branch, but after George Washington?s term. Custom gave the chief executive power to
remove appointees. Finally, legislation granted him the power to reorganize agencies and to prepare the budgets.
In the role of chief of state, the president acts as a ceremonial head of the federal government. This is an extremely
important role, for in this capacity, the president must greet distinguished visitors, bestow medals, and host state
dinners. The impression he gives others while performing these duties can help him gain support, lift his reputation,
and help towards reelection. President William Howard Taft once said the president must act as ?the personal
embodiment and representative of the dignity and majesty? of the people, the government, and the laws of the
United States.
The president also serves as commander in chief of the nation?s armed forces, which makes him ultimately
responsible for the nation?s defense. He appoints and removes generals, makes key military decisions (such as when
and where to wage war), and negotiates armistice terms. During wartime emergencies, the president is also entitled
to restrict civil liberties, to exert greater control over the economy, to seize industries, to fix wages and prices, and to
settle labor disputes. Finally the commander in chief alone decides when and if the nation will use its atomic
weapons. This role is extremely important because in acting out his decisions, the president is deciding the future of
the nation, and we the people are putting extreme powers in the hands of one man. Though he is influenced by his
associates and generals about the proper actions in times of political crisis, the last decision is up to the president.
People who are not supporters of the president or his decisions te!
nd to panic in times of war, and thus it is extremely important that the president makes the impression to the nation
as a competent and capable man who one can have faith in.
Another extremely important role that the president takes on is that of the nation?s chief diplomat. Although the
Constitution attempted to divide diplomatic affairs between the president and congress, these affairs have become
primarily a presidential responsibility. He negotiates treaties and executive agreements, manages foreign alliances,
recognizes new governments, appoints and supervises diplomatic personnel, and receives foreign ambassadors.
The Constitution accords the president the power to veto congressional bills and recommend legislation to congress.
This means that if the president disapproves of a bill (this usually happens when a bill contradicts the president?s
political group or personal beliefs), he can respond with a ?message veto? and return the bill to Congress with a
message stating the reasons he has for not signing it. This helps Congress ?edit? the bill in such a way that the
president will pass it, though many times it looks completely different than the original bill that they began with. If
Congress is about to adjourn, the president can also respond with a ?pocket veto? and refuse to sign the bill within
ten days. If Congress adjourns within that time, the bill will not become law. In modern times, the president also has
a responsibility to the legislature: he must annually address Congress on the state of the Union.
The roles of chief executive, chief of state, commander in chief, chief diplomat, and a key legislator originated in the
Constitution. But over time, the presidency has acquired many other roles that the Constitution?s framers never
imagined. One of these roles if party chief. Today, a candidate must have his political party?s full support in