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In practice there are no constraints on the power of a popular President

Evaluate this statement (30 marks)


Constraints can be seen as the controls placed upon the President
exercised by the other branches of Government. Historically, popular Presidents
are John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower when using Gallup polls of average
approval rating. JFK and Eisenhower polled 70.1% and 65% respectively, the two
highest pollsters since Gallups inception in 1935. In practice can be defined as
in reality, which suggests that the quotation states that in reality, certain
Presidents had fewer checks and balances imposed to limit their power due to
their high approval ratings.
Checks and balances were enacted by the Founding Fathers in 1788 with
the Constitution, to allow the legislative, executive or judiciary to hold controls
over the other branches, in order to stop any abuse of power. The President has
many constitutional constraints upon his actions. While the President negotiates
treaties, the Senate must ratify them with a 2/3rds majority is an example of a
clear constraint on the Presidents powers. The President appoints members to
the Supreme Court and executive however his selections can be rejected by the
Senate or filibustered, which Obama has experienced. By 2013, the Republicans
had filibustered 81 of Obamas prospective appointments showing that recently
the constitutional constraints are used by Congress. Congress control the passing
of the Presidents budget and without their approval a government shutdown can
occur, like that in 2011, when the Republicans were against the government
funding of Obamacare, one of the Presidents most personal bill. This highlights
that even with the Presidents support a bill cannot simply steamroller through,
which is possible in the UK system of government. The Supreme Court can rule
Presidential action as unconstitutional, highlighted by Clinton versus the City of
New York, where the Presidents power of the line-veto was ruled unconstitutional
by the Court. The most extreme constraint placed upon the President is the
power of impeachment by the House of Representatives when a federal official is
accused of unlawful activities. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton have been
impeached by Congress. Clinton was accused of perjury and obstruction of
justice however President Clinton was found not guilty by the Senate. Through
the constitution there are many constraints placed upon the power of the
President which have been used consistently throughout history appearing to be
regardless of President.
However, in practise popular presidents such as Roosevelt were supported
strongly and potentially overstepped their powers. George W. Bush was not a
popular president upon his inauguration due to the controversies in the election
as he was actually a minority president. Following the 11 th September terror
attacks Bush was given advanced foreign policy powers through the
Authorisation for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists. The bill gave Bush the
power to use all necessary and appropriate force against terror subjects and
was written by his vice-president Dick Cheney. Bushs handling of the 9/11
attacks with the aggressive bill and the creation of Homeland Security led to
Bush having mass public and media support. By the end of 2001 following a

difficult start, Bush received a 91% approval rating in the Gallup polls. Following
his popularity Bush was supported heavily until the end of his first term in office,
which allowed him to have the mandate to enter Iraq without too much difficulty.
Bush received a large victory in his bill to enter Iraq with military action with 297133 victory in the House and 77-23 victory in the Senate. Bushs powerful
position was due to support from Americans as he registered the highest
approval rating of any President. The power to veto can show that popular
presidents have fewer constraints. Kennedy held a 70.1% approval rating and
passed 21 vetoes to 0 overturns by Congress. This can be compared to Ford who
can been seen as an unpopular president with only 47.2% and with his 78
vetoes, 12 were overturned, showing that a more unpopular president are more
likely to have their constraints imposed upon them. Constraints could be seen as
reduced when a popular President is in power.
Popularity could be seen as a negligible factor on the constraints of the
President. Jimmy Carter received a 45.5% approval rating during his tenure of
office from 1977-1981. During his 4 years, there were 53 cloture motions to end
a filibuster. President H.W. Bush had an approval rating of 60.9% from 1989-1993
but had 109 cloture motions. During Carters reign the Democratic Party
controlled Congress and during Bushs reign the Houses were split. Regardless of
the Presidents popularity, when Government is divided, the president could
suffer more constraints upon his power than a President who reigns under a
unified government. While Kennedy received 0 overturned vetoes during his
tenure with an approval rating of 70.1%, the power of Congress to overturn
vetoes could be seen as hypothetical because many Presidents did not receive
any overturns regardless of their approval ratings because vetoes are commonly
used on issues which the President believes will not be overturned. Truman was
one of the most unpopular president in terms of Gallup polls with only 45.4% due
to his second term having only a 22% approval rating because economic
problems and the Korean war. Truman vetoed 262 times during his tenure, with
only 12 being overturned by Congress. This highlights that unpopular presidents
have similar constraints as popular ones but other factors such as certain
situations are a greater factor on the level of constraints Even popular presidents
such as George W. Bush during his first term (with a 62.2% approval rating) still
had strong constraints placed upon him with four vetoes being overturned during
his tenure due to the bills he vetoed regardless of his high support from the
public.
H.W. Bush was the third most popular president in the Gallup polls with
60.9% approval rating. He only filed 1 motion to end a filibuster against one of
his presidential candidates which could show that he was popular which led to
only one filibuster despite divided government.. Therefore it could be seen that
as a popular president there are fewer constraints placed upon the position
however the quote of In practice there are no constraints on the power of a
popular President is not wholly correct as unpopular presidents have had fewer
constraints placed upon their power, normally due to their partys power in
Congress due to the separation of powers. The imperial presidency theory by
Arthur Schlesinger refers to a Presidency with misuse and abuse of their powers,

particularly in relation to foreign policy. Kennedy was seen as an imperial


presidency due to the Vietnam War which would highlight that imperial
presidents had fewer constraints placed upon them, especially in foreign affairs.
Therefore whether a President is an Imperial President would affect the
constraints of his power, rather than his popularity. When compared to the UK
system, the popularity of the Prime Minister is regardless because of their party
holding the majority in Parliament, which is similar to the US system because a
unified government practices fewer constraints on their own President.
Presidents cannot simply have fewer constraints due to their popularity but the
level of constraints imposed upon them is related to other factors such as unified
government, economic situation and certain events such as 9/11 or wars. The
theory of imperial presidencies could further develop the ideas of constraints on
the President.