Above: “Teddy” Roosevelt, President from 1901-1907. His foreign policy was to “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick”
This is the second instalment in my series on the American Presidency. The first one defined who is eligible to become the President, this one discusses the power of the office.
Reference for this discussion: Constitution of the United States, Article II, Sections 2 and 3.
In layman’s language here are the defined powers that the President has:
1) He is the Commander in Chief of the American armed forces.
2) He has the power to reprieve or pardon crimes against the United States, except for impeachment.
3) He can make treaties with foreign powers. They have to be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate.
4) The President can appoint ambassadors, judges of the Supreme Court and other ministers or officers of the federal government. These have to be ratified by Congress. For example he appoints his cabinet and then Congress holds hearings to review the appointment. Then the ratify or not the appointment.
5) He can propose legislation to Congress. This is usually done through his annual “State of the Union” address to Congress. Again Congress is not bound to pass the legislation, but it is formally placed on their agenda for consideration.
What makes the President of the United States the most powerful man in the world is one thing.
He is the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military forces in the world. This effectly gives him the power to go to war. Congress must ratify or confirm his actions within 30 days. How and if they could do this in the case of a nuclear exchange is doubtful. Most ominously he has his finger on the nuclear arsenal of the world’s only remaining true superpower. Only he can trigger a nuclear strike. A military officer with the codes and controls to allow him to use this power always accompanies the President wherever he goes. This briefcase is referred to as the “nuclear football”.
Above: Harry S. Truman (President 1945 – 1953) was the first President to have command over nuclear weapons and to use it. He ordered the use of the atomic bomb in World War II to end the war against the Japanese.
When the United States was in its infancy and was not a world power, the President was really only a powerful man in his own country. Now that it is a superpower with a nuclear arsenal and a formable military, he truly is the “most powerful man in the world”.
Above: Photo of a hydrogen bomb test. This unthinkable power that can be unleashed in a nuclear war is apparent. It truly would end civilization as we know it.
Let us all hope that the office of the Presidency is always held by a man of wisdom and courage.