• President of the United States of America

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Leader of the free world

Often cited as the most powerful man in the world. The office of the President of the United States of America (POTUS) has often had the most varied characters in politics. From the legendary George Washington, to 'Tricky Dick' Richard Nixon or the graceful, yet deceptive 'martyr' John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Presidents are elected to four year terms, and are constitutionally bound to not serve more than two terms (post 1945). They are elected by the electoral college, which often creates more decisive victories than the actual percentage of the popular vote (see the elections of 1960; 1968; 1976...).

In the U.S.A., the executive and legislative branches of the Government are separated, whereas in the U.K. they are not (i.e. the Prime Minister is part of the legislative branch - Parliament). The legislative branch is located in the Capitol - divided into a lower House: The House of Representatives and the upper house, the Senate (100 members, two from each state). Yet, this can be misleading. The President can and does often set the legislative agenda and often sends bills 'up to the hill' forming large scale legislative programmes, like Roosevelt's 'New Deal'; Kennedy's 'New Frontier'; Johnson's 'Great Society' etc.

POTUS is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, yet cannot alone declare war - he must do so in conjunction with the legislative branch. There are various exceptions to this, such as Lyndon Johnson's War in Vietnam - which, while a full scale war (500,000 U.S. Soldier's were in Vietnam at one point - 50,000 died from 1963-74) many troop escalations were done in isolation - i.e. without the approval of Congress (he, instead, used the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution as a precedent on his own powers to declare war).

The Modern Presidency

The modern Presidency has evolved since the days of Theodore Roosevelt (1900s), most notably under the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (TR's distant cousin)from 1933-45. From a symbolic leader (akin to a Monarch) to a political heavy weight, setting legislative agendas and becoming a great deal more independent of the Congress. This happened gradually over time - to the office in its current form. The evolution was especially rapid in the 1960s, under the Presidencies of: Eisenhower; Kennedy; Johnson & Nixon. Where the Presidency went from being a 'Do nothing' administration and fiscally conservative to setting dramatic and massive legislative agendas, and using Keynesian economics to influence the country under Johnson, using the media to carry favour under Kennedy (although, eventually, during the Vietnam War, after 1968, the media became more probing and questioning, eventually turning against the Government) and ultimately creating the Imperial Presidency under Richard M. Nixon.

After the investigations of Bernstein and Woodward, two New York Times reporters, what become known as 'Watergate' (the break in at the Democrat National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel) caused Richard M. Nixon to resign the office of POTUS, the only man to have done so thus far. This was, arguably for two reasons - the first being to stop an almost certain impeachment, to attempt to protect the tapes of conversations he had recorded since 1968, as a Private Citizen (under the U.S. Constitution) - many tapes are still classified and as he claimed (source: Frost/Nixon) for the good of the American People. He was succeeded by Gerald Ford (described by Lyndon Johnson as unable to "walk and chew gum at the same time"), who was Vice President at the time. He replaced Spiro Agnew, who had resigned that office pleading no contest to tax offenses. One of his first acts, was to pardon the former President, Nixon, who faced a lengthy trial for lying to the American people and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. This act, as many historians have suggested, was the right and action - to stop Nixon and, more importantly the office he symbolised, being dragged through a lengthy and highly public trial (compare with O.J. Simpson or Clinton years later). What followed was economic crisis, under a President struggling to hold a bitter nation together - in a distinctly weak office (end of the Imperial Presidency, onset of the 'Imperilled Presidency'). Ford eventually lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976, after struggling to get the nomination from his party, over the Californian Governor, Ronald Reagan.

Generally, Carter's period in office is seen as uneventful, although, his losing the 1980 election is almost certainly down to the holding of American hostages (for over a year!) in Iran. Carter, admirably, used his last days in office to struggle to free the men. On inauguration day, 1981 - as Carter left office and Reagan assumed the Presidency, the hostages were released. And so, Ronald Reagan and successor (who was also his Vice-President), George H.W. Bush led the USA from 1981-93 under a Republican administration. Both oversaw the rebuilding of the Presidency, especially Reagan, back to its Nixon years. Reagan also created the 'Teflon presidency' - 'non-stick' that is. In that any allegations of dodgy acts who almost never be attributed to him (see Iran-Contra affair), although this if of course not true of the Clinton's administration and his acts with Monica Lewinsky.

Oath of Office

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Recent Presidents

  • William (Bill) Clinton (Democrat - 2 Terms)
  • George H.W. Bush (Republican - 1 Term)
  • Ronald Reagan (Republican - 2 Terms)
  • Jimmy Carter (Democrat - 1 Term)
  • Gerald Ford (Republican - never elected to that office)
  • Richard Nixon (Republican - 2 Terms, resigned)
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson (Democrat - 1 Term, served one year of JFK's term as well)
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Democrat - 1 Term, assassinated, Dallas 1963).
  • Dwight Eisenhower (Republican - 2 Terms).
  • Harry S. Truman (Democrat - 1 Full Term, succeeded the deceased FDR)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat - 4 Terms, World War Two - died in office).

image:Bush.jpg

Presidential Election Results

Results are formatted as follows: Amount of votes / Percentage of the Popular Vote / Electoral College Votes. The winning candidate is placed first. I have only included candidates who break into the electoral college.

  • 1932:
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat: 22,829,277 / 57.4% / 472
    • Herbert C. Hoover, Republican: 15,761,254 / 39.7% / 59
  • 1936:
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat: 27,752,648 / 60.8% / 523
    • Alfred Mossman Landon, Republican: 16,681,862 / 36.5% / 8
  • 1940:
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat: 27,313,945 / 54.7% / 449
    • Wendell Lewis Willkie, Republican: 22,347,744 / 44.8% / 82
  • 1944:
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat: 25,612,916 / 53.4% / 432
    • Thomas Edmund Dewey, Republican: 22,017,929 / 45.9% / 99
  • 1948:
    • Harry S. Truman, Democrat: 24,179,347 / 49.6% / 303
    • Thomas Edmund Dewey, Republican: 21,991,292 / 45.1% / 189
    • James Strom Thurmond, Dixiecrat: 1,175,930 / 2.4% / 39
  • 1952:
    • Dwight David Eisenhower, Republican: 34,075,529 / 55.2% / 442
    • Adlai Ewing Stevenson II, Democrat: 27,375,090 / 44.3% / 89
  • 1956:
    • Dwight David Eisenhower, Republican: 35,579,180 / 57.4% / 457
    • Adlai Ewing Stevenson II, Democrat: 26,028,028 / 42.0% / 73
  • 1960:
    • John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Democrat: 34,220,984[see note] / 49.7% / 303
    • Richard Milhous Nixon, Republican: 34,567,157 / 49.5% / 219
  • 1964:
    • Lyndon Baines Johnson, Democrat: 43,127,041 / 61.1% / 486
    • Bartholomew Morris Goldwater, Republican: 27,175,754 / 38.5% / 52
  • 1968:
    • Richard Milhous Nixon, Republican: 31,783,783 / 43.4% / 301
    • Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Democrat: 31,271,839 / 42.7% / 191
    • George Corley Wallace, American Independent: 9,901,118 / 13.5% / 46
  • 1972:
    • Richard Milhous Nixon, Republican: 47,169,911 / 60.7% / 520
    • George Stanley McGovern, Democrat: 29,170,383 / 37.5% / 17
  • 1976:
    • James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., Democrat: 40,831,881 / 50.1% / 297
    • Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., Republican: 39,148,634 / 48.0% / 240
  • 1980:
    • Ronald Wilson Reagan, Republican: 43,903,230 / 50.7% / 489
    • James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., Democrat: 35,480,115 / 41.0% / 49
  • 1984:
    • Ronald Wilson Reagan, Republican: 54,455,472 / 58.8% / 525
    • Walter Frederick Mondale, Democrat: 37,577,352 / 40.6% / 13
  • 1988:
    • George H. W. Bush, Republican: 48,886,597 / 53.4% / 426
    • Michael S. Dukakis, Democrat: 41,809,476 / 45.6% / 111
  • 1992:
    • William Jefferson Clinton, Democrat: 44,909,806 / 43.0% / 370
    • George H. W. Bush, Republican: 39,104,550 / 37.4% / 168
  • 1996:
    • William Jefferson Clinton, Democrat: 47,400,125 / 49.2% / 379
    • Robert Joseph Dole, Republican: 39,198,755 / 40.7% / 159
  • 2000:
    • George W. Bush, Republican: 50,460,110 / 47.9% / 271
    • Al Gore, Democrat: 51,003,926 / 48.4% / 266
  • 2004:
    • George W. Bush, Republican: 62,040,610 / 50.7% / 286
    • John F. Kerry, Democrat: 59,028,111 / 48.3% / 251


[Note on the 1960 Election]: unusual voting methods in Alabama at the time make determining the amount of actual votes JFK got from there difficult.

image:250px-Electoral_map.png

The Electoral College, pictured above. A candidate must win 270 votes to win an election without any judicial processes being involved. The larger a states population, the greater its electoral college vote.

Recommended Reading

  • The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush (Graubard).
  • President Nixon: Alone in the Whitehouse (Reeves).
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, Portrait of a President (Dallek).
  • LBJ: Architect of American Ambition (Woods).
  • John F. Kennedy, Unfinished Presidency (Dallek).
  • Eisenhower: Soldier and President (Ambrose).
  • All the President's Men (Bernstein and Bob Woodward).
  • White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President (Prados).

Recommended Viewing

Many are fictional, but can give insights into the nature of the Presidency.

  • The American President [1995] (Michael Douglas).
  • All The President's Men [1976] (Robert Redford).
  • Truman [1995] (Gary Sinise).
  • The West Wing [1999] (Martin Sheen).
  • Kennedy [1983] (Martin Sheen).
  • Path To War [2002] (Michael Gambon).
  • Primary Colors [1998] (John Travolta).

Also See

Revision Notes: Presidents of the United States of America

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