POL326Y1 Lecture 9: Defense Dept Lecture

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26 Aug 2019
Defense Department
The president is the most important figure in the executive branch; he has enormous sources of power
o The commander-in-chief of the armed forces, chief diplomat, head of administration/state, chief
legislator (only influence what legislature can be imposed); chief judicial officer
Being president faces enormous restrictions on his power; more importantly, the limitations are a result of
lack of time (the president must deal with an enormous number of issues in domestic/foreign policy)
o The vast majority of issues tend to be managed at different levels; tends to succumb to
o Limitation of time = limitation of info
Presidents are limited their ability to govern by far too much/little information about their
disposal for them to properly digest/use of
Office of the President
Presidential life cycle: presidents throughout American history had high/low points to accomplish their
goals; they follow a basic pattern;
o After their election, their ability to initiate policy is at a high point; the more decisive the election,
the more influence their policies could have
o Trump won the presidency on the basis of the electoral college; presidents are elected by 50
elections; if you win a large number of states by electoral college, you may lose popular vote
o The honeymoon period is followed by a slow decline in presidential authority, culminating in a
lame-duck presidency: presidents tend to be much weaker than at the beginning
A lame-duck president is reluctant for a second term; incapable of doing much in a domestic
area; his influence will be limited
Obama’s influence was through his executive orders; problem is they can be repealed
Its origins came from FDR and the New Deal; one of the most successful presidents pushing
legislation within 100 days
Political parties aren’t reliable institutions; they’re more concerned about the perceptions
of their constituents than the political program of their party
4 quadrants
o An assertive congress that’s active is described as a coequal/competitive congress in whom
o More assertive yet less active = strategic
o Less active/more assertive (cooperative):
o Less assertive/more active (disengaged): this shares the party of the president; can’t afford to be
largely disengaged; his power largely expands
Direct influence
o Informal advice (given by president seeking meetings in the form of consultation or in many cases,
congress writing letters)
o Congress can exercise oversight over whatever the president’s up to (ex. Russian collusion; legality
of launching nuclear attacks)
o Congress could also use the courts to challenge the president’s actions (ex. Attempts to limit the
role of executive privilege that came to ahead before committee to shape Bush’s energy policies)
Headed by Dick Cheney; congress demanded to know who was providing this advice
Cheney refused, as this was an executive privilege
Congress took Bush to court, demanding access to this information
indirect means of influence
o role of congress in framing actions of policy and the use of congress of foreign policy
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