Greetings from Long Beach Island New Jersey! What fun I’ve been having reading the Federalist Papers on the beach! And what interesting looks I get from passersby who take the time to glance at the cover of my book.
Federalist Papers 68-77 are especially interesting to me personally, as I have been fascinated by the Presidency for as long as I can remember. My first “political” experience was writing to President Nixon when I was in grade school, telling him I was praying for him during his struggles. In Junior high, I begged my father to take me to SMU, in Dallas near where I grew up, to stand in a rope line in order to catch a glimpse of President Gerald Ford. I voted for the first time in 1980, proudly casting my ballot for Ronald Reagan. My first college course in political science at Texas A&M was taught by an expert in the Presidency, and although regretfully I can’t remember his name, I loved the course so much, I switched my major from business to political science that semester!
During the last decade, I got an even closer look at the Presidency through my husband’s work with President George W. Bush, and opportunities our family had to interact with him. I had always admired President Bush’s steady leadership, and his unwavering commitment to certain values and principles, most notably keeping America safe. But getting to know him personally, I admired the way he carried the office of the Presidency. When you are President, you are always President, whether relaxing in a small group or at public events. President Bush respected the office, and lived every day in a way that could make our country proud.
Thank you to Professor Joerg Knipprath for your enlightening and thorough essays on Federalist Papers No. 69 (The Real Character of the Executive ) and 70 (The Executive Department Further Considered ). The historical background you provide gives a useful prism from which to view these two papers that explore the President’s powers versus those of the British Monarch and the New York Governor, and the decision of the founders to have a unified executive, versus two or more heading that branch.
In Federalist No. 69 Publius makes a convincing argument that the United States Presidency, while powerful enough to head the country, is not as powerful as the King, or even the New York Governor (with the exception of the power to make treaties). This is a fascinating comparison, and reveals the founders’ thought process on why the Presidency of our country is vested with certain powers and limited in others.
Some of the President’s powers originally outlined by the founders have waned, while others have increased. The President’s term in office still remains at four years, but is now limited to two terms by the twenty-second Amendment.
The President’s power to
“nominate, and, WITH THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE, to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and in general all officers of the United States established by law, and whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution,”
has been expanded over the years by the President’s ability to create “Czar” positions. These “Czar” positions sound eerily similar to the power Publius ascribes to the King, and denies the President having:
”The king of Great Britain is emphatically and truly styled the fountain of honor. He not only appoints to all offices, but can create offices.”
Time Magazine provides an interesting history of “Czars” in the United States at this link: http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1925564,00.html
Time states the first Czar existed in President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet during World War I, when Wilson appointed Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries board, and was known as the Industry Czar. This must have been the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, as the use of “Czars” has mushroomed from that point forward.
In Federalist No. 70, Publius defends the decision of the founders to have a single executive in the office of the Presidency head the executive branch, versus two or more individuals. The benefits of a unified executive make an extraordinary amount of sense, especially in protecting the people’s liberty through transparency, and accountability. As difficult as it was to pinpoint blame in Watergate, for example, imagine how much more difficult it might have been had there been two Chief Executives. Professor Knipprath quotes Harry Truman’s famous line, “the buck stops here,” and that indeed is one of the most important attributes of the United States Presidency.
The founders’ grasp of history, as they detail the failures of past plural executives, such as the Achaens, or the dissensions between the Consuls and the military Tribunes in Roman history once again illuminates their arguments. And their grasp of human nature is equally as profound –
“Wherever two or more persons are engaged in any common enterprise or pursuit, there is always danger of difference of opinion. If it be a public trust or office, in which they are clothed with equal dignity and authority, there is peculiar danger of personal emulation and even animosity.”
“Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty of self-love. They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments. Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind. Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.”
Our United States Presidency is a unique institution, crafted thoughtfully and skillfully by our founding fathers!
On to Federalist #71!
Good night and God Bless,
Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010