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Basically, presidential powers have expanded during times of crisis. This has been seen most clearly in times of war, but it was also seen in the Great Depression.
During times of crisis, people seem to want strong leadership. They look to the president as the one identifiable leader who can get them out of trouble. They tend to feel that it is okay to give him more powers than usual so that he can get them out of the crisis.
The two biggest crises since the Civil War both involved Franklin D. Roosevelt and saw him expand presidential power. These were the Great Depression and WWII. In both cases, the size of the US government expanded greatly and with it the power of the president as the leader of that government.
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