In the United States, presidents are expected to play a number of roles. Most of these roles cannot be performed in isolation from one another. Let us look at some of these roles and some of the ways in which they are inextricably intertwined.
Some of the president’s roles include:
- Chief legislator. The president is seen as the person who is responsible for proposing new policies and advocating for Congress to pass them.
- Manager of the economy. Regardless of what powers he (or someday she) actually has to affect the economy, we expect the president to make sure that the economy is running smoothly. We tend to blame the president for things like recessions.
- Chief diplomat. The president is in charge of managing our relations with foreign countries.
- Commander in chief. The president is the overall head of our armed forces.
- Party leader. The president is also typically seen as the most important person in their political party. They are expected to care how their party does in elections and to work ensure that it does well.
It is very difficult to perform any of these roles in isolation. For example, President Obama is currently under intensive pressure from Republicans over the deaths of American diplomats in Libya last year. They are criticizing his actions as chief diplomat and commander in chief. The criticism is at least partly due to the fact that he is party leader. The Republicans want to tear him down as much as possible because they feel that that will hurt the Democratic Party. The same problem applies when Obama tries to propose economic policies as part of his role as manager of the economy. Both the President and the Republicans act partly because they want to help the economy. But they also keep their party interests in mind and try to propose policies that will hurt the other party politically.
In these ways and many others, it is clear that it is hard for a president to perform any of these roles in isolation.