Presidential Power

I may have to look more into Watergate, based on this.

Why is it important? It tells us volumes about the limits of presidential power. The president may be presented in the civics books as sitting at the top of a pyramid, with executive-branch departments and agencies below him, but in reality the people at the next level down, such as Cabinet secretaries, are also responsive to Congress and to the permanent bureaucracy below them. In short, that means that presidents cannot give them orders and assume they’ll be carried out.

That doesn’t mean that presidents should simply accept their limited influence; to the contrary, effective presidents work hard to increase their influence over Congress, over the courts — and, yes, over the bureaucracy. But that takes hard work — what Alexander Hamilton famously called “energy in the executive.” It doesn’t come with the job. And it only works, Watergate tells us, if the president accepts that the inherent constraints of the office — and the other players in the policy-making system — are just as legitimate as the occupant of the Oval Office.

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