Today the Torch of TyrannyTM will be passed from George Bush to Barack Obama. There will be many parties, plenty of speeches and far too much pointless news coverage of both. There will also, most likely, be many questions asked. But I have only one question: why do we need a President, anyway?
This question most typically arises after I’ve been told that “someone has to be President”. Unfortunately, despite posing the question to dozens of people over decades I have yet to receive a decent answer. The vast majority of the answers come down to: well, who would handle the duties of The Office if we did not have a President. Of course, few of these people can actually list these duties. So I’ve returned to the beginning: The United States Constitution.
Article Two of the Constitution covers the Executive Branch. Sections one and four deal with putting people into the office and removing them from it, so all of the President’s duties are covered in sections two and three-
- 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…
- In other words, the President is in charge of the military. Since the United States military has not been used to actually defend the United States since the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, and there are no countries that are both capable and interested in invading the United States, I don’t see why we need a military leader.
- …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…
- Since these “executive Departments” are not listed in the Constitution I don’t see why it’s vital that they all report to one person. Why not simply let their current heads be the final word. Besides, this clause doesn’t give him any real power over these Departments. It only declares that they must submit a report to him whenever he so desires.
- …and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States , except in Cases of Impeachment.
- Why must the President be the final arbiter of pardons? It seems the judges themselves could do this job just as easily, or some form of independent panel. The power to pardon is, after all, widely judged to be the most abused power of the Executive branch.
- He shall have Power, … to make Treaties, … and he shall nominate, and … 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…
- Considering each of the “powers” granted in this clause must be approved by Congress it certainly seems such things could be handled by an individual or committee chosen by Congress as well.
- The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate
- Modern communication has made this a pointless power. Since such Vacancies would occur doing Recess there would be plenty of time for the states represented to fill these seats on their own.
- He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…
- Refer above to the section on “executive Departments”. We can dissolve two “duties” with one action by having these department heads report directly to Congress.
- …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;
- So, he can call Congress into session and tell them when they can go home (assuming they can’t decide for themselves). Seems like a pretty pointless and largely ceremonial power to me.
- And he’s the guy who “receives” foreign leaders. Ditto the ‘ceremonial power’ portion above.
- he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
- I’m not even sure what this means. Doesn’t the Judicial Branch decide if laws are “faithfully executed”?
- And since the phrase “Officers of the United States” is not used in any other article of the Constitution it seems fairly meaningless as well.
So, there you have it. The President of the United States has a grand total of 11 duties or job responsibilities, none of which actually seem very vital. So would anyone care to defend this “highest of offices”? What, exactly, makes the President of the United States the “most powerful man in the world:?