“Buuuut mooooom! I want to have my cake and I want to eat it too!” Such is the mindset of most Americans. And to whom do they direct this whiny outburst? The president of the United States of America. Being the single person that he is, and having the amount of visibility that he has, it’s no wonder we Americans tend to blame all of the problems of society on him: He’s an easy target. But it is this very notion, that the president should be the sole provider and great “fixer of society” that has landed the president in more and more power over the years.
With the public’s shift in mindset towards the president, he gains more legitimacy when he attempts to overstep his constitutional bounds. As seen with president Andrew Jackson, and his ventures to expand presidential power, many presidents now notice the ambiguity of the language surrounding his post and tend to interpret for themselves what the language of the constitution means, somewhat based on their presidential popularity: if they are popular, then they tend to overstep the normal bounds of a president, and if they are not popular, they tend to lie low in the hopes of not exacerbating the problem. But in the case of a popular president, one can see how the most basic of powers can be abused: the power of the veto has become a legislative force field, through which none but the favorable to the president may pass. Likewise, in the cases of granting pardons, with the case of Bill clinton’s “midnight pardons,” Nixon’s impoundment of funds and executive privilege, and, more recently, executive signing statements, the presidents have continued to take one step farther every time, with little or no discipline by congress.
This notion that the president should be the “Great Fixer of Society” has also contributed to the underuse of the presidential impeachment option. As seen with commander in chief George W. Bush… Though he committed crimes under current law, he was not impeached or ever tried for his executive orders, no matter how heinous they were. The fact that he was supposed to be the leader of the free world had inflated him to the point of feeling he could do no wrong in the service of justice, and according to the lack of impeachment, it would appear that he was right. Thus the power to unscrupulously command American troops was handed back to the president.
Lastly, the president has gained power through his successors own doing: with the bureaucracies set up to the point that they are now, the president now gets to appoint and un-appoint, at his discretion (sometimes), people that help him to run the country. The White house office, the Executive office of the President, and the Cabinet all work under the president, and since these divisions all handle more power than the president has ever had, and being that the president gets to place the head of these organizations with whomever he chooses, this plops a considerable amount of power into his lap. Even with the other executive agencies, like the independent agencies, at least owe some form of respect to him, and thus giving him even more power.
It would seem that the only power gone un-abused would be the power to make treaties, however this may only be my limited scope and knowledge base preventing me from making an accurate claim. Be that as it may, even through gridlock, a president has an enormous amount of power relative to not only their own predecessors, but to what the actual Framers of the Constitution intended in the first place. The president has become ominously powerful, and only time will tell if this position will continue to evolve into the monarchy that they feared would come.