Changes in Presidential Powers From Nixon to Bush Thesis

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Presidential Studies

The transfer of power from one President to another is a crucial time in the life of a democratic nation. "Expansions of presidential power are not always the death knell of democratization, but they often have had negative consequences for the expansion of political and civil rights" (Frye, 8). The President of the United States is the chief officer of the executive branch of the U.S. government. The transfer of power represents a change in almost the entire cast of players in the mechanisms of government when it happens in the United States. The numbers of Representatives who are Democratic or Republican determines who will dominate the House, and the numbers of Senators who are Democratic or Republican determine what laws will be passed and whether the main tenets of their parties will predominate. But the President is the Commander in Chief of the military, the head of his party and has the power of veto over any bills which the House and the Senate may have approved. The President appoints Supreme Court Judges, when a vacancy becomes available, which often determines the way the federal court may lean on Constitutional questions. He also submits the national budget to Congress each year.

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Scholars have studied many different ways that an incoming president may wield presidential influence, such as through political skills, strategies, public approval and policy issues. Within Congress, presidents may influence policy in different ways: presidential appeals, coalition building and veto bargaining are just three ways that each president may make their influence felt. Institutional changes in Congress and in the executive branch, as well as changes in the parties and political environment, have also had considerable impact on executive-congressional relations (Frye, p. 3).

Thesis on Changes in Presidential Powers From Nixon to Bush Assignment

According to Richard E. Neustadt (1990, p. 11), the President has enormous formal powers, in the Constitution and in authority in statute law. In 1952, President Truman seized the steel mills of a struggling nation, and Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to quell mob opposition to desegregation. Presidential power means that presidential words are "tantamount to action" (Neustadt, p. 17)

Richard Neustadt also describes how powerful the president's power to persuade is. The leader of the most powerful nation in the world wields enormous influence among other nations. But most of all, the President is often able to persuade members of the various institutions which make up the parts of U.S. government. The President's powers of persuasion or inability to persuade determine the direction in which policy and progress are made (p. 31). The men who the President chooses to have about him as his cabinet are also highly important and determine how the President is viewed, his realm of influence and how effective he may be in controlling the information that comes out of the White House.

Richard Nixon to Gerald Ford

When Gerald Ford took over the reins of power from Richard Nixon, he faced a shocked and disillusioned nation. The image of Nixon had sunk from honored President to common criminal in the eyes of the majority and with his decline, the office of the president had also become suspect. Had he become too powerful? In the years following Watergate the image of a weak president allowed Congress to intrude upon and preempt presidential powers in a variety of ways. The problem was that as long as Congress was able to impinge upon presidential prerogatives, it would be quite difficult for any administration to expand on presidential prerogatives, as it would always be keeping Congress from administering them. The limitations of the administrative state had almost always been a barrier to the policies of new presidents. (Neustadt, p. 8)

Nixon had been the original "The Image is Everything" President. After him, Reagan followed this dictum and so did Bush and Clinton, to some extent. The rise of the media as a force in the election (and demise) of the Presidential Image allowed Nixon to provide a strong leader image which, albeit superficial, determined the outcome of the election.

Successive presidents have followed Nixon's lead. The end result is "an image-driven presidency in which policies are often mere props for presidents and their image makers. Substance has been devalued and replaced with symbolism and style. In the process, the world of the image maker has become increasingly confused with reality" (Waterman, 1999, p. 4)

Ironically, it was the media which later allowed the public to see President Nixon as an ordinary man who had made a mistake and was probably guilty of misdemeanors, a far cry from his original "superman" public image.

Gerald Ford, Nixon's successor, was considered weaker and less inept at public speaking and dealing with the reins of power. He appeared to struggle to carry on and set the goals of the Republican National Convention. One constant was Henry Alfred Kissinger. "Some might hypothesize that Mr. Kissinger's perpetual re-emergence as eminence grise reflects the tendency of presidents to change their views after taking office and gradually move in Mr. Kissinger's direction" (Mann, p. 3).

Gerald Ford to James Earl Carter

Carter campaigned against an incumbent Gerald Ford, debating with him three times, and won by 197 to 241 electoral votes. Dealing with a legacy of inflation and unemployment left by the former administration, he improved the picture by increasing the employment rate by nearly 8 million and effecting a decrease in the national deficit. However, inflation and high interest rates haunted him and efforts to reduce them created recession for a time. His attempts at civil reform included creation of the Department of Education, building up the Social Security system and appointing Hispanics women, and blacks to government jobs.

Foreign affairs was then, and remained, even after he retired from office, "Jimmy" Carter's strong suit, as he set about supporting human rights, working on Middle East conflicts, prodding the Soviet Union and other nations to come to terms with human rights and negotiate the SALT II nuclear limitation treaty. He developed diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and obtained ratification of the Panama Canal treaties. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and U.S. embassy staff were seized in Iran during Carter's last year in office, that and increasing inflation led to his defeat to Reagan in 1980 (White House, 2007).

James Carter to Ronald Reagan

The election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, created a major Democrat-to-Republican change. Reagan was considered the "Ultimate Media President.," Reagan won by a landslide (489 to 49). His campaign, which he ran from a distance, portrayed him as a leader, while he ridiculed Carter and blamed him for the nation's problems (many of which were left from the Nixon-Ford era) in a media-oriented race. Reagan did not attend many of the campaign events and maintained an "above the fray" attitude. For the first time in 28 years, the Republicans also won control of the U.S. Senate. An actor, known for his roles in movies, Reagan presented an image of superhuman strength and leadership. His running mate was George H.W. Bush, one of the nominees he had debated during his campaign, in Nashua, New Hampshire

In 1981, Reagan was able to win enactment of major budget changes, cut taxes and called for increased revenues. This was called "Reaganomics" or "Voodoo Economics." Yet he was stymied when he tried to cut the federal budget, one month later. Being pressured for further spending cuts, both the House of Representatives and the Senate balked.

The Reagan administration "announced" the decision to have the signing statement added to the legislative history, and adopted a strategy of using the signing statement at first for "under the radar" bills in order to build up a body of precedent where they were used without objection from the Congress (Kelley, p. 8).

Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush

In 1988, when he defeated Michael Dukakis for the nomination by his party (Republican), George H.W. Bush took on the Presidency after Reagan's second term ended, almost as a continuation of his Vice-Presidency. He was a former director of the CIA and had been a loyal Vice President to Reagan, winning Reagan's favor. As President, he left as his legacy one of the largest national debts yet ($220 billion in 1990) and growing inflation, he reneged on his promise not to raise taxes. He had called his opponent a "tax-raiser" and during the convention he pledged "Read my lips: no new taxes." militaristic foreign policy was a strong point in the Bush campaign and presidency. Military operations in Panama and the "Gulf War" (Persian Gulf) were major conflicts he dealt with. Inheriting a continuation of the Cold War, this ended when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed.

When Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait, Bush demanded that Sadam Hussein withdraw from Kuwait, as their "legitimate government must be restored. The security and stability of the Persian Gulf must be assured. And American citizens abroad must be protected." Even though the U.N. was opposed to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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