Outline Chapter 12 - THE PRESIDENCY AND THE EXECUTIVE...

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THE PRESIDENCY AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH A. INTRODUCTION When the founders created the three branches of the government, they disagreed about the amount of power to be vested in the executive. Many feared more than anything a strong president whose powers could be compared to those of the king of England. Others believed, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, that "energy in the executive is a leading characteristic of good government." As the modern presidency has evolved, Hamilton's point of view seems to prevail today, as the president is the single most powerful individual in the American political system. Although the checks and balances set in motion in 1787 still operate, the presidency described in the Constitution is much different from the one that we have today. B. THE EVOLUTION OF THE PRESIDENCY Constitutional provisions limited the early presidency, although the personalities of the first three presidents – George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson – shaped it into an influential position by the early 1800s. However, all through the 1800s up until the 1930s, Congress was the dominant branch of the national government. Then, in the past seventy years or so, the balance of power has shifted dramatically, so that the executive branch currently has at least equal power to the legislative branch. How did this shift happen? C. THE PRESIDENCY IN THE CONSTITUTION Article II of the Constitution defines the qualifications, powers, and duties of the president and carefully notes some important checks of the executive branch by the legislature. Qualifications The president must be a "natural-born citizen." Only individuals born as citizens may seek the presidency; all others are excluded from consideration. This provision has become controversial in recent years, with a movement backing California Governor Arnold Schwartznegger, a naturalized citizen, for president. Recent Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger were also unqualified for the presidency under this constitutional provision. The president must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years before his election, although the years don't have to be consecutive. The president must be at least 35 years old (in contrast to a minimum age of 30 for a senator and 25 for a representative). This provision has never been seriously challenged, since presidents tend to be considerably older than 35. The youngest presidents were Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, who both took office at the age of 43.
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1. Powers and Duties The Constitutional powers and duties of the president are very limited. Those specifically granted are as follows: According to Article II, Section One, the president holds "the executive power" of the United States. The "executive" was meant to "execute", or administer the decisions made by the legislature. This phrase at least implies an executive check on the legislature, and in fact, has been the source of presidential power over the years.
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