President of the United States George W. Bush
President of the United States
George W. Bush.
First president: George Washington
Formation: April 30, 1789
The President of the United States of America (sometimes referred to as POTUS) 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 president is elected indirectly through the United States Electoral College to a four year term, with a limit of two terms imposed by the Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1951. Under this system, each state is allocated a number of electoral votes, equal to the size of the state's delegation in both houses of Congress combined. The District of Columbia is also granted electoral votes, per the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution. Voters in nearly all states choose a presidential candidate through the plurality voting system, whom then receives all of that state's electoral votes. A simple majority of electoral votes is needed to become president; if no candidate receives that many votes, the election is thrown to the House of Representatives, which votes by state delegation.
While in office, the White House in Washington, D.C. serves as the place of residence for the president. The president is also entitled to use its staff and facilities, including medical care, recreation, housekeeping, and security services. One of two Boeing VC-25 aircraft, which are extensively modified versions of Boeing 747-200B airliners, serve as long distance travel for the president, and are referred to as Air Force One while the president is on board. A salary of $400,000, along with other benefits, is paid to the president annually.
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-two individuals have been elected or succeeded into the presidency, the first being George Washington, serving forty-three different presidencies altogether (since Grover Cleveland was the twenty-second and twenty-fourth president(s) of the U.S.A.). 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.
The Treaty of Paris (1783) left the United States independent and at peace but with an unsettled governmental structure. The Second Continental Congress had drawn up Articles of Confederation in 1777, describing a permanent confederation but granting to the Congress-the only federal institution-little power to finance itself or to ensure that its resolutions were enforced. In part this reflected the anti-monarchy view of the Revolutionary period, and the new American system was explicitly designed to prevent the rise of an American tyrant to replace the British King.
However, during the economic depression that followed the Revolutionary War the viability of the American government was threatened by political unrest in several states, efforts by debtors to use popular government to erase their debts, and the apparent inability of the Continental Congress to redeem the public obligations incurred during the war. The Congress also appeared unable to become a forum for productive cooperation among the States encouraging commerce and economic development. In response a Constitutional Convention was convened, ostensibly to reform the Articles of Confederation but that subsequently began to draft a new system of government that would include greater executive power while retaining the checks and balances thought to be essential restraints on any imperial tendency in the office of the president.
Before the 1788 ratification of the Constitution, there was no comparable figure with executive authority. Individuals who presided over the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary period and under the Articles of Confederation had the title "President of the United States of America in Congress Assembled", often shortened to "President of the United States". They had no important executive power. The president's executive authority under the Constitution, tempered by the checks and balances of the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government, was designed to solve several political problems faced by the young nation and to anticipate future challenges, while still preventing the rise of an autocrat over a nation wary of royal authority.
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. 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. Third-party candidate Ross Perot received nearly 19% of the vote in the 1992 election.
A map of the United Statesshowing the number of electoral votes currently allocated to each state; 270 electoral votes are required for a majority out of 538 overall
Unlike most other