Social Policy & Programs Consulting
Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice
What Does the President Do?
Our schools are supposed to teach this, but they don’t want you to know it.
March 22, 2017
Another presidential election has recently passed, and most Americans still don’t know what the president does, and doesn’t do. Americans should just read the Constitution. But they won’t.
THE CONSTITUTION SAYS …
The requirements and process to be president, and her/his duties, are defined in the Constitution’s Article II. The president:
THE CONSTITUTION DOESN’T SAY …
THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
The president is the chief executive officer of the United States, and functions much like a corporate CEO.
The executive branch executes the laws that Congress enacts and manages the nation's daily business, under the president's direction. To make that work, Congress established fifteen cabinet departments, with each specializing in one area of national affairs. A secretary leads each department, and advises the president. Each department includes many sub-agencies which manage specific areas of their jurisdiction.
We call those departments and agencies the bureaucracy. They are the departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.
Six more agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Trade Representative, Mission to the United Nations, Council of Economic Advisors, and Small Business Administration – have cabinet rank.
The Executive Office of the President comprises several additional offices. Their purpose is to manage White House communications, personnel, administration, the Vice President’s office, legislative affairs, and other matters. The Presidential Czars are part the EOP.
The term “czar” dates to World War I, but is not the official title for a presidential adviser. The official title is “Assistant to the President for (whatever) Policy”. It’s purely a creation of the media. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has appointed special advisers. The MEDIA calls them "czars" because the actual job titles are too long for newspaper headlines.
The president leads regular cabinet meetings, at which the secretaries report on their departments’ activities and the group discusses policy and management. The president uses two tools, called executive actions, to give formal instructions to the staff on her/his priorities and how they are to do their jobs. They are the Presidential Memoranda and Executive Orders.
Legally, they’re pretty similar. Executive Orders are published in the Federal Register and stored at the National Archives. Presidential Memoranda don’t have to meet those requirements, and follow a more informal process. The president can communicate her/his instructions in any manner, but those in writing are more clear, concise, and easily accessible to all concerned. They must abide by existing law. They are not laws themselves and can not violate or circumvent any existing laws. Congress has already authorized the president to do anything contained in any order or memo.
In June 2000, President Bill Clinton instructed every Executive Branch office to develop a website for public use.
Today, the United States government has just about the largest internet presence on earth.
USA.gov links every individual government site into a single place. It can connect you with public information in every government office at every level – federal, state, local, and even American Indian tribal governments. The site includes a search function, a Help page, a Frequently Asked Questions page, an index, and tutorials. You can even email questions to the managers. However, I've found that the best way to use it is to spend just a few minutes poking around and getting used to it.
BEYOND THE CONSTITUTION
And then there are all of the other things we expect the president to do. They are the optional, but traditional, activities that always make the news. The president pardons turkeys, gives awards, cuts ribbons, meets with athletes who win championships, issues proclamations for special events, meets with foreign leaders, holds press conferences, makes speeches to support administration initiatives, campaigns for members of Congress and governors from her/his party, and performs other ceremonial duties.
We expect the president to be an expert in everything the federal government does or oversees. So s/he must be a diplomat – -war veteran – attorney – park ranger – doctor – social worker – teacher – coal miner – farmer – scholar – astronaut – business owner – bus driver – airline pilot – mail carrier – banker – economist – doctor.
S/he must also dance well, look good in a suit, have some endearing qualities, and please everyone.
Only Barbie could pull that off.
Oh yeah. S/he has to fight with Congress to get anything done.
Do you want the job?
* Ask.com, boundless.com, C-SPAN, California State University at Sacramento, College Board, JimmyCarterFreeservers.com, The Pearson School, Scholastic.com, SparkNotes.com, Study.com, the Washington Examiner, Weebly.com, the Weekly Standard
Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting ~ Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803 ~ Pittsburgh, PA 15227 ~ 412-310-4886 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Patricia A. O'Malley ~ All rights reserved