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The U.S. Presidency

Some interesting questions depicting the hardest job in the world.

By Kayla CharlesPublished 5 years ago 18 min read

1. Understanding Obama

David Remnick’s article provides stimulating insight on the many reasons as to why Barack Obama is regarded as a weak executive with attitudes that influence his sense of power, as well as dictate his motives and outcomes he has pursued as the 44th president of the United States. The body of text provided an opportunity to understand the varied perspectives within the United States. We are presented with many examples throughout his years as president which showcase the opportunity for individuals to continuously criticize all that he has done, or what he has failed to accomplish. Coming to terms with it all, some concerns become apparent with Obama, who at the beginning of his run for president was typified as an individual who would finally ignite change in the States. However, there are aspects within this paper that would lead to disagreeing with Remnick. In terms of the claim in which it is said that Obama does not understand power, I disagree.

By this, I believe that Obama just recognizes the fact that he has limited power when the GOP controls both houses. Power is also not measured in the levels of fear you can instill in other countries’ minds; better cooperation is perhaps a possible outcome if countries are not dominant over each other. Obama really exemplifies the perception that has been spoon fed to the American public, which has birthed an incredible ignorance as to how policies, especially foreign, should be construed; simply put, just plain old civilian interrelations’ ignorance that creates hostility within the states itself. Even more so, what good is it for the House and the Senate to fear the President? I believe this causes distrust, instead of achievable cooperation. To counter, his said detachment would insinuate he was never even interested in making amends, let alone efforts, with the very people he should be wanting to cooperate with. This ties in with the matter of him having issued the fewest executive orders of any modern president except for George H.W. Bush (Remnick, 2014).

Something that is deemed to have weakened the political system of the United States is healthcare, in which many individuals argue that he is getting as far away as the constitution, and his “disrespect” for this body of work appears. However, Obamacare is a considerable advancement in “the history of social justice to provide access to health care for over 30 million Americans” (Remnick, 2014). This may radically change if the GOP wins. Even so, this is but a small achievement that was completed in his 8 years of presidency, which does not seem to impress many people. The bigger picture shows that his medical plans were something that has helped Americans, even with the fact that it was his most disastrous year as President. Evidently, presidents are continuously victimized by the media, as well as by people of whom they govern. Comparisons arise, and the ones presented in this article are mostly to Bill Clinton, as well as Lyndon B. Johnson. Remnick states that he opposes “Clintonian retail politics”, or that the now valorizing opinions people have of LBJ create imbalance and disappointment with Barack Obama. I believe the comparisons to President Johnson may in fact have some connections.

For one, both presidents had promised a lot for their country. With that being said, after the Vietnam war; Lyndon B. Johnson was not able to accomplish much, same goes with Obama after the Iraq war. Similarly, though, Johnson did launch a progressive campaign to fight poverty, which is something Obama has often discussed, as well as attempted to resolve. In other regards, he is also closely tied to Bill Clinton. David Remnick discusses how a vast majority are not only unaccepting of Obama’s policies, but Clinton’s as well. It is only fair to assume that presidents are usually given the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of their terms. Nevertheless, an interesting point Remnick brings up is that of race. By this, he quotes Obama and says that some Americans simply do not like him because he is black, while others only try to keep an open mind because he is black. I think the involvement and comparison with other presidents is inevitable. Unfortunately, individuals within the older generations of America tend to romanticize the past. Often, the comparisons are not founded, and a lot of the times, untrue. It is also evident that he had known great success in enacting some policy change, and even began to jumpstart the economy; this changed once Republicans became in charge of the House. This led to American government being “virtually unworkable” (Nelson 2014, 155).

I believe the polarization within the United States creates a heavy burden on the works the president must undergo. Obama’s wish to rid the idealistic images of having blue and red states is “in practical terms, a fantasy”, as Remnick says. I think this is a bigger issue at large. Many Americans and even executives all over the world do not have anything to applaud when it comes to his accomplishments. Conversely, others may argue that there was no “major scandal” as every presidency seems to have, or would be at risk of having. I believe that the article tunes in to various ideas that would validate the reasons as to why there are reasons to think Obama is disdain, leading him to be a poor executive. Yet, Obama understands the nature of his position as president, and the unfortunate reality when it comes to what has been promised; they are not always able to accomplish everything that is intended.

After Remnick mentions a long list of matters that were resolved by Obama; the president says that there are strengths and weaknesses in all humans, not just the higher ranking. Based on the article, he is also aware of the idea that our fast paced society desires change faster. After 6-7 years, he realizes that he is in the position that just nullifies the idea of a good or bad president; Americans just want him out. I believe the presidents will always be criticized, for as long as the States remains heavily polarized, the more opposition and struggle the entities of the Presidency will face. In regards to the thousands of pieces one can find on the leader of the United States, I believe a lot of them argue the point of view that Obama is a bad president. Although some pertain to the actual details of Obama’s presidency, a lot of it is simply jargon. It is fluffy unsubstantial rhetoric that seems to have been written by a prepubescent teenager who is angry with their parents. David Remnick agrees; he argues that a lot of it is not validated, no proof which confirms Obama’s wrongdoing.

At this point in Barack Obama’s presidency, and for any other president nearing their end, they are referred to as “lame duck”; Remnick validates this point by saying people just do not care what Obama does anymore. Compared to other bodies of work, I feel as though this one was written to showcase both the good and bad the President has offered Americans.

In the end, it becomes difficult to evaluate what makes a president right for the country. I agree with Remnick, as his points deliver a fair argument and a non-biased view of Obama. Although the article provides personality traits or certain achievements that should not be applauded, Remnick certainly paints a good picture on who Barack Obama is. I believe that he notices several people giving him the short end of the stick. This can be seen at the end of the article, after he enumerates all the good he has done, or rather all the bad he has avoided.

2. The President and Foreign Policy

The President of the United States has been a constant influence as well as a dominating force behind issues of foreign policy. These policies usually do not change that much with presidents. Views may be different, but there is always a direction they must follow no matter who they are. Moreover, the needs and the country’s national interest have changed throughout time. Although Presidents keep in mind the ideals of national interest, they are not necessarily bound to them. This means that Presidents can persuade and influence major topics in regards to foreign policy. The President does drive foreign programs; the last few presidential candidates expressly stated what their foreign policy would be during an election campaign. Nevertheless, individuals have different concerns when it comes to this aspect of politics.

Many Americans argue that Obama is a weak international player; they see the Iran agreement as a point of weakness, as well as an insult to Israel. This argument stems from a very conservative approach in which they argue that Obama is very politically correct. The Cuban agreement also sparked a long debate on the strength of Obama when it came to foreign policy, as many argued that it was pointless and harmful. However, others believed that this would eventually help the economy; all of a sudden, the U.S. has a market of 25 million to sell stuff to. This was also accomplished for inner motive, perhaps. Why now? Florida was always a key state in elections; you win Florida; you probably win the country. When Castro took power, many “wealthy” Cubans fled to Florida. They would never support a President who tried to normalize relations with Cuba, considering there were repercussions. It’s been over 50 years of economic embargo, and it has not really achieved anything. These are a few examples of the most recent acts involving foreign policy. However, there has been a long stem of Presidents making good decisions, as well as very bad ones. Michael Cohen’s article enumerates his 5 best and 5 worst Presidents whom he believes are deemed to have shaped an ideal example when it comes to foreign policy. Unsurprisingly, George W. Bush got put into a category on his own. Cohen states that that it is rather difficult to fight a war that does not subsequently push the country forward (Cohen 2011). The whole notion of foreign policy is to focus on a national interest, which Bush failed to realize. One does not know how other Presidents may have reacted. Nonetheless, Andrew Polsky argues two things: other choices could have been made given the actors, and these different choices would have had different outcomes (Nelson 2014, 526).

Foreign policy is a complex aspect within the government of the United States. They are the most important economy, with the strongest army, and the country of which many aspire to be like. As the military grows, the President’s role grows with it. However, given the tragedies that have arisen, one cannot help but wonder what the President actually does in order to benefit Americans. As such, I believe Peter Irons touches this matter. He argues that the institution itself holds more of an influence than anything else, even the President. It becomes increasingly difficult to believe certain Presidents hold the country’s interest. Instead, many believe there is controversy and mere cooperation between industries who need to wage war in order to continue driving in profits.

Throughout the Presidency, many presidents were in favor of an isolationist policy, in which involved the idea that America should stay out of foreign affairs, and not occupy themselves with another countries’ logistics and their own economy. An example of this President is George Washington. Conversely, the expansionist ideology is deeply rooted in the hopes of acquiring land, power, as well as drive an economy in order to benefit one’s own. To tie this all in, the Manifest Destiny- a policy where the United States wanted to control all of North America, was an ideology supporting expansionism. John Adams, an influence to the constitution, was a strong believer in this but eventually opposed. I think this connects with my reasoning behind why I believe the United States should be less involved in international affairs. After the whole ordeal of President Bush commencing a war that was not justified. This war “deeply divided Americans along partisan lines” (Milkis and Nelson 2014, 495). Another instance can be found within the media, which in part rallies Americans to want to go to war with a country they consider to be a threat; they have strong media support (Nelson 2014, 531).

Nonetheless, the Presidency was shaped by men who may or may not have interpreted foreign policy differently. Interestingly, the founding fathers gave constitutional power to the sole commander in chief, the President (Nelson 2014, 528). In 2015, I believe many individuals across the globe believe that foreign policy is an essential aspect of a country’s success. But, the United States has not been impressing many people. I believe many Presidents would have avoided certain outcomes or would have indeed handled the problems differently. In Cohen’s article, he provides insight as to why he believes Franklin Roosevelt tops his list. For one, he is regarded as the best foreign policy president of the 20th century (Cohen 2011). The reason for FDR topping the list derives from him winning World War 2, as well as handling allies within this time frame, as well as achievements that were not as influential, but still just as important (Cohen 2011). In terms of Obama, I do not know where he would fit on this list. It seems as though he has done a better job in domestic achievements, as he was also put in a very difficult position as the successor of George W. Bush.

Barack Obama is the President who has to steadily deal with the horrific acts of ISIS. It is assumable that this terrorist group continues to try and infiltrate into North American culture. However, what is Obama doing in order to make it stop? His military actions during his last two years of presidency will persist to challenge executive power (Milkis and Nelson 2014, 500). I think after the attacks on 9/11, foreign policy has adopted the Bush Doctrine, in which the President today adopts Bush’s “military surge” (Milkis and Nelson 2014, 496). The founding fathers sought to create a country with a strong executive, as well as being a country that is feared. However, I believe that America has become a country that lives in fear; they no longer focus on issues that can better their society. They are caught up in a war they are still trying to win. As such, I personally believe the States should begin to shy away from foreign policy because their heavy influence impedes on the development and sustainability of other countries. America has become a violent member when comparing them to other countries around the world.

3. Policymaking and the Other Branches

The modern presidency focuses on Franklin Roosevelt. It is said that he changed things, and that Presidents are expected to lead, not only the ability to do so. Even throughout the 5 regimes that we were presented with, Presidents have the power to accomplish a lot for their countries. As such, the President holds an effective role when it comes to domestic policies. Roger Porter determines a President’s success in non-foreign policies is based on three things; the expertise in initiating action, his ability to outline legislation and create coalitions, and the readiness to impede on others from acting if indeed necessary (Nelson 2014, 505). There has been a huge change in the legislative aspect of the presidency, and that is the polarization in Congress; by this, it becomes increasingly difficult to form legislation (Nelson 2014, 505). As a result, the executive branch rebutted by promising to take on more independently. From this, it is clear to imagine how difficult it must be for Presidents to pass laws that can please everyone involved in the American government. Throughout the decades and history of the presidency, it is hard to find a good stance on what a good domestic policy plan would look like. The reason for this is simple: society is in a constant flux of change, it is fluid. The media plays an essential role in domestic policy. Decades ago, the media did not have the type of power they hold today. Another aspect within the presidency are the interest groups who tend to stimulate the President and his directives, in order to benefit themselves.

As we’ve also learnt this semester, the system in which the President functions is extremely intricate and complex. As an example, gun control is a dominating discussion Americans are having, as there has been a surge in horrific attacks, and a surge of mobilization against it. Effectively, even with public support, Obama, his party, and their administrative authority, was restricted (Nelson 2014, 515). It feels as though the polarization within the United States completely shuns the idea out of having a President who can accurately tackle the problems that lead up to domestic aspects that need change. Presidents have essentially learned how to carefully oppose the parts of government they work for. For example, even though Obama said that he would want to find common ground with Republicans, he stated that he would vow to “bypass Congress and use his executive authority to change the nation’s immigration system” (Baker and Davis 2014, 59). He got heat for this, because to act alone does not necessarily mean good for the people; Obama must not forget he was elected by the people, for the people. Nevertheless, it becomes fairly obvious to notice that the Presidency has evolved to make sure the President acts alone. Another example of this can be found with George W. Bush, in which he declared war with consulting only two other people. The executive has weakened their strategies domestically. A survey conducted by the PEW research center showed that 67% of Americans accentuated the idea that the President should be more concerned with domestic policy; in comparison, 20% want a focus to be on foreign policy (PEW 2015, 14). They also conduct other surveys which entail how both parties have similar interests when it comes to domestic policy. These ideologies have certainly evolved since George Washington onward. The presidency was uncomplicated, but was slowly starting to develop into a body that would be able to govern accordingly. I believe that with the development in the country, that being economic, social, political, and individual, many Presidents of the past would have a hard time running the country.

As for the founding fathers and their opinions on the policies that have been implemented, I do see a problem that would arise. Their minds came together in order to write bodies of work that would defend citizens of their country. But, certain things that have been accepted through a modern eye may not have pleased any of the founding fathers too profoundly. For example, the legalization of Gay Rights is something that would have been viewed as scary if it were legal back then. I believe if the founders were present in today’s society, they would give every single American a reason as to why there would be problems with making this act legal. Of course, it is not assumable to say that they would, but it is the impression one would get. After all, Obama was even opposed before he even made it legal (Toobin 2014, 66). Who is appointed in bodies of the government will also have a heavy influence on which laws can go through. As such, it is said that Obama’s appointments are mostly made up of women and nonwhite males (Toobin 2014, 65). I also have a hard time believing they would be in favor of the quite recently implemented healthcare system, simply because it opposed their way of thinking. What stood out in one of the readings was the quote “just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership (Milkis and Nelson 2014, 487). This was said by Obama while both houses in congress were heavily opposed to the bill; was it with reason?

The President holds the constitutional authority to foresee laws being implemented and fulfilled. The influence he holds from these domestic policies is created by the mere power of being the President. However, it can also be argued that the influence he holds simply comes from the idea that he embodies the leader of the United States. Throughout what we have learned, I believe that domestic policy should be something the next President should make a priority. It seems as though most Americans agree on this subject, and the only individuals who tend to oppose the power of domestic relations, are the people who only preoccupy themselves with foreign policy directives. The founding fathers made it so that the Presidency would have clear cut opportunity to implement foundations that would only benefit different types of policies, in this case, domestic. Of course, presidents have a different way of approaching all issues regarding the United States, as we have seen with the comparison between the two last presidents. It is crucial to start acknowledging the true issues behind the United States, in order to solve the real problems every day citizens are faced with.

Works Cited

Cohen, Michael. “The Best & Worst Foreign Policy Presidents of the Past Century.” Atlantic. July 30th 2011.

Dodds, Grahm G. U.S. Presidency, Poli 313. Course Pack.

Milkis, Sidney M. and Michael Nelson. 2014. The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776 -2014. Los Angeles. Seventh Edition.

Nelson, Michael. 2014. The Presidency and the Political System. 10th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

PewResearchCenter. U.S. Politics & Policy. 2015.”Public’s Policy Priorities Reflect Changing Conditions at Home and Abroad”

Remnick, David. “Going The Distance.” TheNewYorker. Jan27, 2014.


About the Creator

Kayla Charles

Born and raised in MTL

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