Pre-University (CIE) Comparative Government: Specimen Questions with Answers 13 - 13 of 53

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Question 13


Describe in Detail


“The American president rules but does not reign” . Discuss the position of US President in the light of this statement.


  • A perusal of the powers of the US President from Washington to George Bush proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is one of the most powerful heads of the state. His powers are both real and effective unlike that of his prototype, the Indian President or the Queen of England. Here lies the justification of Sir Henry Maine՚s remark that “The American President rules but does not reign” . The Fathers of the American Constitution took all the powers of the British King and gave them to President, only restraining them where they seemed to be excessive.
  • This probably is the best explanation of the huge powers of the American President. In the words of President Wilson himself, the nation as a whole has elected him and the nation is conscious that it has no other political spokesman. His is the only voice in the national affairs. Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country and no other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces can easily overpower him. He is the representative of no constituency but of the whole nation.
  • He is also the ceremonial head of the republic and performance of any dignified function is incomplete without his presence or message. A comparative study of the American President vis-à-vis British King and the Prime Minister prompts us to agree with Laski՚s remark that “the President of the United States is both more or less than a King; he is both more or less than a Prime Minister. The more carefully his office is studied the more does its unique character appear?”
  • It may not be however, out of place to point out that much of the President՚s authority accrues from the factors beyond his formal powers. “President as Chief Representative of the American people and as leader of his political party makes him strong leader if he chooses the role and has the personal qualities to fill it” . President Wilson rightly remarked, “The Presidency has been one thing at one time varying with the man who occupied the office and with circumstances that surrounded him.”
  • There have been strong Presidents like Jackson, Lincoln, both the Roosevelt and Reagan. They led and the Congress toed their line. There have been weak Presidents like Hoover, Buchman, Pierce and Carter who followed while Congress led. Thus, much depends upon the personality of the President and the circumstances through which the country is passing at a particular time. A period of crisis necessitates a strong President whereas a person of mediocre ability can also quite succeed in a tranquil period. Roosevelt՚s greatness as a leader lies in his vigorous personality and capacity to tide over economic crisis and meet early challenges of the War.

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