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Because these presidents are so relatively recent, our attitudes toward how well they did will generally be informed to a great degree by our political opinion of them. In other words, if we are conservative, we will think that President Clinton did a poor job whereas if we are liberal, we will think that Clinton did well and that President Reagan did badly.
We can clearly make cases that both Reagan and Clinton did not do a good job of respecting the office. Article II of the Constitution requires presidents to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Both of these presidents did this badly in some instances. For example, members of Reagan’s administration broke laws when they participated in the events that led to the “Iran-Contra Scandal.” Reagan either did not take care to know what his subordinates were doing or he allowed them to do it. Either way, he did not take care to make sure that his subordinates were obeying the law. Clinton clearly broke the law, though we can argue about how important his law-breaking was. Clinton lied under oath, thus obstructing justice and committing perjury. These actions make it harder for the law to be enforced. This is the opposite of taking care that they laws be faithfully executed.
During this time, President Carter and President Bush did not do anything that showed a lack of respect for the office. However, it is hard to argue that either of them did anything that was particularly great. I suppose that we can argue that President Carter did a good job of respecting the job because he was active in negotiating at least two treaties. One was the treaty with Panama returning control of the Panama Canal to that country. The other was the SALT II arms limitation treaty. Since the president is responsible for making treaties with other countries, we can say that Carter did a good job in making these treaties. However, this is not a very strong argument. None of the presidents in this era were conspicuously good at respecting the president’s job as outlined in Article II.
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