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Qualifications And Powers Of The President

Constitutional Qualifications of the President

According to Article 2 of the US Constitution, the President must:

  • be at least 35 years of age
  • be a natural-born citizen, and
  • be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years

Under a constitutional amendment in 1951, the President is restricted to two 4-year terms in office. Hence, President Clinton is not permitted to run for re-election in 2000.

Powers of the President (Article 2)

  • Head of State – The President symbolises the government of the United States and the unity of the nation. In Australia, this role is performed by the Governor-General. The President presides over important ceremonies, such as laying a wreath upon the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, throwing the first ball in the major-league baseball season (!) or opening the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

  • Foreign Policy Leader – The President is able to handle foreign policy in a relatively unencumbered manner compared to domestic policy. Note President Clinton’s role in brokering peace agreements between the Israelis and the Arabs in the Middle East over recent years.

  • Commander-In-Chief – The President is the commander of the United States military forces, although only Congress can declare war. Congress passed the War Powers Act in 1973 (over the veto of President Nixon) that, amongst other things, requires Presidents to consult the Congress before sending troops into combat overseas. President Bush consulted the Congress before sending troops into combat in the Gulf War in 1991. However, Presidents have tended to disregard many provisions of the War Powers Act and have rarely been challenged by Congress.

  • Chief Legislator – Particularly since President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45), the President now is expected to propose legislation to the Congress for its approval. Annually, the President now submits a Budget to the Congress and makes an Annual State of the Union address.

  • Presidential Veto – The President may reject legislation passed by Congress. He can do this by giving a statement of his objections to the Bill and presenting this to Congress. Alternatively, he may “pocket” the bill without signing it and if the Congress has adjourned within ten days then the bill is defeated. Note: President Clinton now has the ability to exercise a line item veto as a result of a law passed by the 104th Congress in 1996. This means that he may veto a specific part of a bill without having to reject the entire bill.

  • Party Leader – The President is the national leader of his party and is able to articulate its philosophy and policies. He is expected to campaign for candidates in congressional and state elections and be involved in raising funds for his party. President Clinton has been one of the most active presidents in this regard and is under scrutiny in 1997 as a result of fundraising ventures during the 1996 election.

  • National Father Figure and Moulder of Public Opinion – Presidents are able to use their “bully pulpit” to speak to and on behalf of the nation. Unlike any other political figure in the US, a president is able to command media attention, although not all presidents have been successful at this. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were particularly accomplished exponents in this area.

  • National Economic Manager – The President is now expected to be the nation’s economic guardian, despite not having direct authority over many of the key economic agencies. Forceful presidents, however, are able to shape economic forces.


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