The President of the United States is considered to be "The Leader of the Free World." The character of the President deeply defines his role as this leader. The character of Congress or the Judiciary gradually changes, as they are bodies of minds that work together and come to conclusions. The President, being one man, holds the fate of the nation, and the world, in his own personal decisions. To decide if current presidential power is equal to the other branches, we must look at modern presidents as men and see how they fill their roles as compared to their predecessors.
The constitutional framers were fearful on the Virginia Plan of the constitution. Both constitutional plans said the president should be a committee; the framers were fearful of placing decisions in an all-powerful man. The framers created the "Committee on Detail," which adopted the Executive Branch.
There were seven details for the president. He must be one person. He must be independently selected by the electoral college (a concession to the Southern States). He is elected to a fixed term. He is eligible for more than one term. He is removable by Senate impeachment. He has the power of veto. He is not required to appoint an advisory council.
There are three constitutional requirements for the President. He must be a natural born citizen, 35 years old that has lived in the United States for 14 years.
There are many powers of the President. He has the power of the veto. He can use this to check congress. He has appointment power. The President can appoint judges and ambassadors whom his is loyal to. The senate has the power to deny these appointments with a simple majority "no" vote.
Modern Presidents don't use the power of treaties, as these take the cooperation of the Senate. Presidents now use Executive Agreements, which allow them to by-pass Senate Cooperation when negotiating with other countries.
The President also has Executive Privilege, which is not in the Constitution. The President and his executive branch can withhold information from the country at his concession. This does not apply to criminal information. Nixon and his tapes where subpoenaed, Clinton was subpoenaed during his impeachment, as well as Regan and Oliver North when they tried to use executive privilege.
The president is also entitled to pardon. The average president gives 150 pardons. Ford, for instance pardoned Nixon, as did Clinton pardon a campaign financier/insider trader Mark Rich.
The President can convene congress, however, he does not have the power to set the agenda of Congress. His is the commander in chief of the armed forces-a civilian in charge of the military. He also has a "vague mandate," as the head of the executive branch and its bureaucracy.
The President has various roles-in a sense; we set him up for failure with our expectation to live up to these roles. He is the Chief of State; the man who speaks at the tomb of the unknown soldier. He is the commander in chief; we call on him to secure and defend the nation. Only Congress can declare war, however, the president can deploy troops. He is the chief diplomat. Congress handles mostly domestic issues, we trust the president with the world. He is the crisis leader. He is the only "person," in a government of bodies. Only he can act swiftly in natural disasters/unrest. He is the chief legislator. We expect him to nudge congress and use his power of veto when he sees fit. He is the chief executive as the head of the executive branch and the person to carry out congressional law. He is his party's leader. Bush campaigned for eleven people in 2006; all eleven won. He raised 21 million in two two-hour stops in California. The President is the moral leader of the nation. American's don't want a leader who brings shame. They want satisfaction from their president.
The President, some argue, is too powerful of a position. However, his hands are often tied. His bureaucracy is very inefficient. The courts are perhaps his biggest limit. Eisenhower, when asked what his two worst decisions were, once said, "They are sitting on the Supreme Court." The courts can nullify acts of government. The president does have the power to go to congress and make new law if the courts do not agree, however, only if congress, at the time, is working with him. The media is a huge limit on the president. We know far more about the president than we need to know. FDR could likely not have been elected in today's media. The president, however, can address the nation through the media and get his way with congress by telling the country that, "This is what he wants congress to do."
The power of these roles depends on how each president wants to use them and what the situation of the country is at the time. If the president is a steward, such as many of the modern presidents, then his ability to convene and nudge congress is important. In 2004, Bush said about his Republican congress, "I have earned political capital, and now I am going to spend it." When congress works with the president, he has the power to make his ideas become the law of the land, which isn't the intent of the executive branch.
Reagan, an actor, used the media to his advantage. Reagan on the TV almost every night told the country, "This is what we want to do." Reaganomics turned him into one of our most popular presidents. This came about, mostly, as he made his constant public appearances at Arlington, West Point, and was always seen wearing his cowboy hat at his Santa Barbara ranch. Even though he was our oldest president, we all knew he would pull through when he had colon cancer. He was a president that we could relate to. He was constantly on TV with Goberchev, using the press as our diplomatic leader as he ended the cold war. He clearly became the party leader, the moral leader, and the emotional leader of the country in the 1980's-winning all but Mondale's Minnesota in the 1984 reelection.
Bush carried the torch of the Reagan administration, but, as is the case with many vice-presidents, he was kind of like a movie sequel. We wanted another Reagan and just kind of got something that wasn't quite the same. We left the theatre. Bush didn't have the power and charm to move the country, and, although his first election was strong, he just didn't have the charisma. The presidency is big shoes to fill.
The country was ready for a democrat, and Clinton was ready for the Country. The country likes presidents it can relate to. When one bottles the charm with intellect, the result is a shoe in for high office. Clinton showed that he had the heart for domestic policy and the fist for foreign policy, which easily made him a two-term president.
George W. is probably one of the mostly progressive presidents as far as having his way with congress and the courts; however, I just wish he had a little bit more insight of what to do with the power he once had. If he had had that insight, I think he would have held a little stronger onto his political piggy bank.
I think a powerful president is more powerful than the legislative or judicial branches of congress. As a steward, a president does not let the nullification of the courts or the bullying of congress stop him. He uses his role to get the people behind him, which allows him to have good press when the other two branches try and stop him; to the point that the other branches don't dare get in his way.
Custodial presidents are at the mercy of the other two branches, as the people are not behind the president. These presidents govern with excuses for why they cannot govern and the people relish the constitutional control that the courts and the legislature have over these presidents.