The issue of the American presidential role in conducting polices in the country has been a widely contested subject along the history of the United States. It represented one of the most important aspects the constitution of the 18th century America tried to deal with. The debate focused on the actual prerogatives that the president of the Union was entitled to own especially in regard to waging war, declaring war, and the conduct of foreign policy in general.
The issue of the presidential powers in relation to the Supreme Court and the Congress was of great interest to the drafters of the Constitution from the point-of-view of the previous historical experience which eventually led to the American Revolution. The fear of a new authoritarian regime such as the one imposed by the British rule on the American colonies made the Founding Fathers consider a different set of rules and norms that would establish a clear delimitation between the three powers in the State: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial powers. In this sense, the President was given limited attributions and they were to be exercised in cooperation and in coordination with the Congress. However, the historical circumstances in time established a deviation from this line of action. More precisely, the president became more and more engaged in the conduct of foreign policy, without always having the consent of the legislative part. This came to be called an "imperial presidency," a set of political norms and actions which changed the direction of foreign policy and more importantly the actors that came to decide on it. In this sense, the president became the main actor in this respect. To this day, the issue of presidential powers as opposed to the legislative and the judicial ones is still in question and represents an essential aspect of the democratic balance the society and the political scene is based on.
There are various assessments written on this subject which deal with this aspect of foreign policy and the presidential role in the matter. In this sense, it is important to analyze part of their considerations in order to have a better comprehension of the issues under discussion. More precisely, one of the most important pieces of writing on this matter belongs to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. who in 1973, in the midst of the war in Vietnam wrote one of the most appreciated books on the issue of the political power of the president, its limits and scope, as well as its relation with the other powers in the state.
Another important point-of-view is the one given by Forrest McDonald in his "The American Presidency: an intellectual history." It represents in fact a proper account of the U.S. history from the point-of-view of its presidential figures, with a wide accent placed on the issue of presidential responsibility and coherence of the foreign policy aspects.
Finally, Arthur Rudalevige is the author of an essential work in this area, "The New Imperial power: renewing presidential powers after Watergate." He tries to describe the evolution of the issue of the presidential prerogatives following the scandal which included Richard Nixon and his administration.
In order to have a better view of the arguments discussed in these three books, it is important to have in mind a series of matters that will eventually pinpoint to a conclusion drawn from the perspective offered by the arguments presented in the three books. In this sense, the analysis and comparison will focus on discussing the theme of the three books, the arguments supporting the challenges each of the authors try to address, as well as the evidence used to support the thesis of each of the three books.
One of the most important works in the area of the history of the presidential conduct of politics is that of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. As a renowned historian and a deeply passionate individual in terms of politics and foreign affairs, Schlesinger was the first one to elaborate on the term of "imperial presidency." His 1973 book on this issue, which states its theme from the very title, comes to underline the change that occurred in the presidential role and in general in the scope the actions of the president came to have.
The main idea of the book revolves around the issue of the imperial presidency considered to be an emerging subject during and following the Vietnam War. The author considered the motivation of the book through the perspective of the current situation at the time of the writing of the book. In this sense, it is meant to be an alarm sign to the extensive powers of the presidency especially taking into account the actions President Nixon and his Administration underwent during the Cold War. However, the author discusses the issue of the increase of presidential powers starting with the period preceding the Second World War. In this sense, he makes an account of the presidencies from George Washington onwards up to Richard Nixon's scandal and his eventual resignation. However, the general view of the book takes into account the fact that the presidential role and the scope of his actions deviated from the initial situation advocated in the Constitution.
There can be two issues identified in the context of the book. In this sense, on the one hand there is the matter of the history of the presidential administration; on the other hand however, there is also the matter of underlining the limits of the Constitution and the lack of limitation of the presidential prerogatives. More precisely, he notes that "the weight of messianic globalism was indeed proving too much for the American Constitution." Thus, he underlines the impossibility of a constitutional text drafted in reaction to historical events that marked a particular time frame to adapt and be an official framework for all the events that would eventually follow on the course of history. Therefore, it was practically impossible for such a text, which was drafted in the attempt to prevent the intrusion of the British forces any longer in the independent actions the United States would take after the establishment of the Constitution, to resist in time without any modification or interpretative situations.
The author goes on to argue that in fact the change or at least the extension of the presidential prerogatives without the full consent of the Congress or the Supreme Court was inevitable. However, he does consider this extension of the prerogatives to have a negative impact on the well being of the American society and population. Thus, "perhaps the Constitution itself would have to be revised. In fact, the policy of indiscriminate global intervention, far from strengthening American security, seemed rather to weaken it by involving the United States in remote, costly and mysterious wars, fought in ways that shamed the nation before the world and, even when thus fought, demonstrating only the inability of the most powerful nation on earth to subdue bands of guerrillas in black pajamas. When the grandiose policy did not promote national security and could not succeed in its own terms, would it not be better to pursue policies that did not deform and disable the Constitution."
In support for his overview of the presidential power and its relation with the other powers of the state, Schlesinger employs three concepts which are used to demonstrate its main argument that the constitutional text has been widely eluded and interpreted to increase the presidential powers. In this sense, he introduces the idea of imperial presidency, the constitutional presidency, and the revolutionary presidency.
The constitutional presidency revolves around the idea that the most important text in the country must be the constitutional text and the powers in the state must function according to the limits the Constitution imposes and in respect for the cooperative and collaborative between the president and the Congress as the Constitution regulates. In this sense, the advice he offers in relation to the presidential time of Nixon who has often been accused of having overridden the Constitution is "to contain the Presidency and preserve the Constitution." Form this point-of-view, a constitutional presidency views the authority of the constitution is supposed to be reigning over all the powers of the state.
The revolutionary presidency, on the other hand, is related to the issue of the centralized powers that are to be established both at an internal level as well as the foreign policy level. In this sense, it was considered the power of a certain must be responsible for internal policy as well as foreign policy. Therefore, the conduct of foreign policy is in this context of the duty of the resident, without any regard for the authority of the Congress.
The imperial presidency comes to underline and complete this argument by stating that the prerogatives of the president have changed to such an extent from the initial constitutional aims that they have become a tool of imperial rule. Considering the aspect of the revolutionary presidency and the…