Saturday, September 1, 2007

The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president is at the head of the executive branch of the federal government, whose role is to enforce national law as given in the Constitution and written by Congress. Article Two of the Constitution establishes the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and enumerates powers specifically granted to the president, including the power to sign into law or veto bills passed by both houses of Congress, to create a Cabinet of advisors, to grant pardons or reprieves, and, with the "advice and consent" of the Senate, to make treaties and appoint federal officers, ambassadors, and federal judges, including Justices of the Supreme Court. As with officials in the other branches of the United States government, the Constitution restrains the President with a set of checks and balances designed to prevent any individual or group from taking absolute power.
The United States was the first country to create the office of president as head of state of a modern republic. Since the adoption of the Constitution, forty-three presidents have been elected or succeeded into the presidency, the first being George Washington. The current president is George W. Bush, inaugurated on January 20, 2001 to a first term and on January 20, 2005 to a second. His term expires at noon on January 20, 2009, after which he will be replaced by the winner of the 2008 presidential election. From the middle of the twentieth century, the United States' status as a superpower has led the American president to become one of the world's most well-known and influential public figures. U.S. presidential elections are regarded by many as events of international as well as national significance and are closely followed in many places around the world.

Article Two of the Constitution sets the qualifications required to become president. Presidents must be natural-born citizens of the United States, at least thirty-five years old, and must have been resident in the United States for at least fourteen years. Citizens at the time of adoption of the Constitution were also eligible to become president, provided they met the age and residency requirements as well; the Constitution was adopted over 200 years ago, so this rule does not apply to any person living today. While not an official requirement, the vast majority of presidents had prior experience as vice presidents, members of Congress, governors, or generals; in addition, thirty-one of forty-two presidents served in the military, all but one of them, James Buchanan, as an officer. During the electoral process, experience or lack thereof is often given as a point in a presidential candidate's campaign.
Candidates usually must receive the backing of a major political party. This is not strictly required in order to be considered a serious candidate, however; third-party candidate Ross Perot received nearly 19% of the vote in the 1992 election.

President of the United States Qualifications

Main article: United States presidential election Election
Article Two of the Constitution originally established the method of presidential election. It also used an electoral college, but there was a major difference in the voting system. Each elector cast two votes, with the intention that one would be used for a presidential and the other for a vice presidential candidate. The candidate with the highest number of votes would become the president, while the second-place candidate becoming the vice president.
However, the 1796 and 1800 elections highlighted flaws in the electoral system in use at the time. In particular, the tie in the electoral vote that resulted from the lack of separation between presidential and vice presidential votes in the latter election was an issue. The Democratic-Republican Party's candidates, who won the election, were tied with each other, and as a result, the election was thrown to the House of Representatives in the outgoing Federalist Party-controlled 6th Congress. Federalist representatives attempted to elect Aaron Burr, the Democratic-Republican candidate for vice president, over Thomas Jefferson, the presidential candidate. Jefferson eventually won after Alexander Hamilton managed to swing one state delegation's vote to him. As a result, Congress proposed the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution in 1803, and it was ratified in 1804. This amendment created the electoral system used today.

Voters in each of the states elect a president on Election Day, set by law as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, once every four years; elections for other offices at all levels of government also occur on this date. Each state holds a number of electoral votes which correspond to electors in the Electoral College. Tickets of presidential and vice presidential candidates are shown on the ballot; each vote for the tickets actually corresponds to a vote for a slate of electors chosen by the candidates' political party. In most states, the ticket that wins the most votes in a state wins all of that state's electoral votes, and thus has their slate of electors chosen to vote in the Electoral College. Maine and Nebraska do not use this method, opting instead to give two electoral votes to the statewide winner and one electoral vote to the winner of each Congressional district. Neither state has split electoral votes between candidates as a result of this system in modern elections. In any case, the winning set of electors meets at their state's capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, a few weeks after the election, to vote, and sends a vote count to Congress.
The vote count is opened by the sitting vice president, acting in his capacity as President of the Senate, and read aloud to a joint session of the incoming Congress, which was elected at the same time as the president. Members of Congress can object to any state's vote count, provided that the objection is supported by at least one member of each house of Congress. A successful objection will be followed by debate; however, objections to the electoral vote count are rarely raised.
In the event that no candidate receives a majority of the electoral vote, the House of Representatives chooses the president from among the top three contenders. However, the House does not vote normally; instead, each state delegation is given only one vote, marginalizing the importance of more populous states. The vice president is chosen through normal voting in the Senate, where each state delegation is already of equal size.

Electoral College
When the Constitution was written, the framers disagreed on the selection of the president: some favored national popular vote, while others wanted Congress to choose the president. The Electoral College was created as a compromise between the two proposals. It gave rural areas and smaller states a slightly larger role in determining the outcome of the election, and it continues to do so today; for example, the largest state by population, California, only has about one electoral vote for every 660,000 residents, while the smallest, Wyoming, has an electoral vote for about every 170,000.
Today, most of the electoral process is a formality in the public eye, as the choice of electors determines the result of the election, with a few exceptions. However, the Twelfth Amendment was written in a time when voters at large had little knowledge of candidates outside their state. As a result, the amendment accommodated this; the electors that voters had chosen were supposed to learn about the other candidates, and make an informed decision that represented the wishes of their constituents. Modern communication has rendered this unnecessary, and as a result, voters now choose between electors that are already pledged to a presidential candidate.

Presidents' terms of office begin at noon on January 20 of the year following the election. This date is known as Inauguration Day in the United States, and it marks the beginning of the president's four-year term, alongside the vice president. Before assuming office, the president-elect is constitutionally required to take the following oath:
George Washington, the first president, set an unofficial term limit of two terms, which was generally followed by subsequent presidents as precedent. After the twelve-year presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected four times, but died shortly after beginning his fourth term, the Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, barring presidents from being elected more than twice, or once if they served more than half of another president's term. Prior to Roosevelt, several presidents had campaigned for a third term, but none were elected. Harry S. Truman, who was president at the time of the amendment's ratification and thus not subject to its terms, also briefly sought a third term before withdrawing from the 1952 race.
Since the amendment's ratification, three presidents have served two full terms: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon was elected to a second term, but resigned before completing it; George W. Bush will become the fourth upon completion of his current term on January 20, 2009. Lyndon B. Johnson was the only president under the amendment to be eligible to serve more than two terms in total, having only served for 14 months following John F. Kennedy's assassination. However, he chose not to run in the 1968 election.

Term of office
See also: Impeachment in the United States and United States presidential line of succession
Vacancies in the office of President may arise due to death, resignation, or removal from office. Articles One and Two of the Constitution allow the House of Representatives to impeach high federal officials, including the president, for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors", and give the Senate the power to remove impeached officials from office, given a two-thirds vote to convict. Two presidents have thus far been impeached by the House, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither was subsequently convicted by the Senate; however, Johnson was acquitted by just one vote.
Per the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet may remove the president from office once they transmit a statement declaring the president to be incapable to hold office to the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate. If this occurs, then the vice president will assume the powers and duties of President as Acting President; however, the president can declare that no such inability exists, and resume executing the Presidency. If the vice president and Cabinet contest this claim, it is up to Congress, which must meet within two days if not already in session, to decide the merit of the claim.
By Act of Congress, presidents may also resign if their resignation is delivered in writing to the Secretary of State. The only president to resign was Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974; he was facing imminent impeachment and likely subsequent conviction in the midst of the Watergate scandal. Just before his resignation, the House Judiciary Committee had reported favorably on articles of impeachment against him.
The Constitution states that the vice president is to be the president's successor in the case of a vacancy. If both the president and vice president are killed or unable to serve for any reason, the next officer in the presidential line of succession, currently the Speaker of the House, becomes president. The list extends to the President pro tempore of the Senate after the Speaker, followed by every member of the Cabinet in a set order.

Removal from office

Main article: Powers of the President of the United States Duties and powers
The president is entitled to use the White House as his living and working quarters, and its entire staff and facilities, including medical care, kitchen, housekeeping and security staff. While traveling, the president is able to conduct the functions of the office from one of two custom-built Boeing 747 aircraft, known as Air Force One. For ground travel, the president uses an armored presidential limousine, currently a heavily modified Cadillac DTS which uses the call sign "Cadillac One."

Privileges of office
The First U.S. Congress voted to pay George Washington a salary of $25,000 a year, about $531,000 in 2005 terms. Washington, already a wealthy man, refused to accept his salary. Theodore Roosevelt spent his entire $50,000 salary on entertaining guests at the White House. The FPA, as amended, also provides former presidents with travel funds and mailing privileges.

The United States Secret Service is charged with protecting the sitting president and his family. Until 1997, all former presidents and their families were protected by the Secret Service until the president's death. The last president to have lifetime Secret Service protection is Bill Clinton; George W. Bush and all subsequent presidents will be protected by the Secret Service for a maximum of ten years after leaving office. However, debates in Congress have been raised concerning this decision. Following the increase in terrorism and threats to the president in general since 1997, lifetime protection is being reconsidered.

Secret Service

Main article: Presidential library Presidential libraries
Many presidents have had significant careers after leaving office. Some prominent examples include William Howard Taft's tenure as Chief Justice of the United States and Herbert Hoover's work on government reorganization after World War II. More recently, Jimmy Carter has become a global human rights campaigner and a best-selling writer. Other former presidents have served in elected office after leaving the White House; Andrew Johnson was elected to the Senate after his term was over, and John Quincy Adams served in the House of Representatives. Grover Cleveland, whose bid for reelection failed in 1888, was elected president again four years later in 1892. John Tyler served in the provisional Confederate States Congress during the Civil War, and was elected to the official Confederate Congress but died before it convened.

After the presidency

List of Presidents of the United States
Curse of Tippecanoe
Executive privilege
Fiction regarding United States presidential succession
Historical rankings of United States Presidents
President of the Continental Congress
Presidential $1 Coin Program
United States presidential election, 2008
Category:Lists relating to the United States presidency
Category:United States presidential history See also


A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns, 1787-1825 - Presidential Election Returns including town and county breakdowns
The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara. Retrieved on 2005-10-07. - A collection of over 67,000 Presidential documents
Presidential Documents from the National Archives. Retrieved on 2007-03-21. - A collection of letters, portraits, photos, and other documents from the National Archives
Life Portraits of the American Presidents. C-SPAN. Retrieved on 2005-10-07. - A companion website for the C-SPAN television series: American Presidents: Life Portraits

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