Presidential Decisions

Regents Prep: U.S. History: Presidential Decisions: Presidential Decisions

Regents Prep Presidential Decision Topics


As Commander-in-Chief of the United States’ armed forces, the President is ultimately at the head of the chain of command for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard. While many former military generals such as Washington,Click To Download Jackson, Grant and Eisenhower have served as president, there is no requisite of former military service to become Commander-in-Chief. This is an important concept in the Constitution, making the ultimate head of the armed forces an elected civilian and not a member of the forces directly under his command. Civilian control of the military serves to balance the needs of defense and security with accountability to the democratic populace.

Chief Executive

As Chief Executive the president is technically the head of all Federal agencies, departments and bureaucracy within the executive branch. Examples of these would include the Department of Justice and the agencies of the FBI and the ATF under that department’s control, the Internal Revenue Service and hundreds of other government offices. The president issues executive orders to these agencies and directs the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court. The president also appoints and removes the government officials responsible for heading these various and diverse government offices.

Head Diplomat

As Head Diplomat the president represents the United States in negotiations with foreign countries. Article II of the Click To DownloadConstitution grants the President the power to negotiate and sign treaties on behalf of the United States (treaties do require ratification by the Senate to take effect). The president also extends or removes recognition of nations and their governments. As head diplomat the president sets US foreign policy, to be carried out by the Department of State, via the Secretary of State, US Ambassadors and US envoys around the globe.

Chief Lawmaker

As Chief Lawmaker the president’s main responsibility is proposing the federal budget. By directing the spending of the federal government the president effectively determines what programs and policy areas are to receive funding priority. The president also proposes legislation to be considered by Congress. While it is Congress’s role to craft and pass all legislation, proposals from the president are usually given special consideration and have been the origin of many of our significant laws and policies throughout US history. Finally, the president has the power of the veto, or the rejection of legislation passed by Congress, giving him the power to strike down proposals with which he does not agree. While vetoes can be over ridden by Congress, the veto remains a power lawmaking weapon.

Special Judicial Powers

As a check on the judicial branch of government, the Constitution endows the president with a few special judicial powers.Click To Download The president has the ability to pardon anyone convicted of a crime, effectively nullifying their conviction and freeing them from their sentence. Also given the president is the power to grant amnesty from a type or class of crime. In the case of amnesty, a general forgiveness for all persons convicted of a particular crime is granted, not to a specific individual. These two judicial powers are used sparingly by most presidents and usually only in special circumstances, as they effectively overturn an indictment or conviction in a court of law and potentially grant guilty parties their freedom.

Head of State

As the Head of State, the office of the presidency serves as the symbolic or ceremonial representation of the United States. An analogy can be made to the Queen of England or the Emperor of Japan, individuals who serve to represent the government to its people, or to represent that government symbolically to the world. In this capacity the president may attend ceremonies or funerals for the heads of foreign governments, or toss the first pitch on baseball’s opening day.

Bully Pulpit

The concept of the Bully Pulpit is not found in the Constitution or any actual law, it instead developed as an extension of the Click To Downloadpresident’s position and meaning in American society. Coined by President Teddy Roosevelt, the bully pulpit is the use of the prestige and public authority of the president to advocate for a particular agenda or idea, not by legislation but by persuasion of the American people. Public speeches in which the president may ask the American people to undertake a specific request, not because of a government action, but because of a presidential appeal, is an example of the bully pulpit. The ability to use the ‘Bully Pulpit’ is based purely on the president’s moral authority and respect for the office of the presidency.