What is the Role of the President?

There has no doubt been a great deal of criticism against President Trump over his NFL comments. The Democrats and the left jumped on the comments with full force and have called him everything from a tyrant to a racist. That was predictable. What was not expected is all the criticisms I’ve seen from many conservatives and libertarians. The main complaint from my side of the political spectrum is that they might agree with Trump’s sentiment, but they don’t think it’s the role of the President to tell a business to fire their employees. I have to admit, this is an excellent point.

I bashed President Obama’s farewell speech for the same reason many are bashing Trump. Obama went out to a fawning crowd in dramatic fashion. His speech seemed more like a sermon from a pastor or a lecture from a father rather than a proper farewell address from a President. He was treated more like the father of the country’s children rather than the head of one branch of our federal government.

This demagoguing of the President obviously didn’t start with Obama or Trump. Ever since Teddy Roosevelt the power and prestige of the Presidency has grown. It’s natural for human beings to respond to strong leadership and the Presidency is pretty effective at filling that role. Even the first Vice President John Adams tried to get a motion pushed through the Senate to give the President an official title like “Your Highness.” The Senate and President Washington wisely shut that idea down.

The role of the Presidency was a hotly debated issue at the Constitutional Convention on 1787. Coming out of the British monarchy many there were fearful that giving the President too much power would inevitably lead to an American king. Some didn’t want a President at all while others thought the role should be filled by more than one person at a time. This would also be an issue the Anti-Federalists would use in the ratifying conventions to try and convince people to vote against the new Constitution. Luckily our wise founders were able to strike a proper balance.

So what is the proper role of the President? Well let’s look at what the Constitution says in Article II Sections 2 and 3.

SECTION 2

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The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

SECTION 3

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

That’s it. The President is supposed to be the head of the executive branch, American foreign policy, and the military, and even those powers are limited because they require approval by Congress. They are not supposed to make laws, not supposed to make negotiations with private businesses or unions, not supposed to tell private organizations what to do, not supposed to lecture the country on morality, and not supposed to lead the fundamental transformation of America. The President is not America’s CEO, America’s pastor, America’s anchorman, America’s doctor, America’s builder, America’s father, or America’s savior.

Just imagine if President Obama came out and told the NFL they should ban the Washington Redskins until they change their name. There is no doubt in my mind all the Trump supporters would be up in arms! They would decry that he is acting like a dictator and should know his role! Is it really any different here?

So while our gut reaction is to support Trump every time he shouts something in a rally or on twitter, we need to ask ourselves if this is really something the head of just one branch of our federal government should be doing.

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