In what ways is the public image of the president's power false? Explain the difference between the public’s image of the president and the actual limitations of the president's power as discussed by the author.

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Hendrick Smith's 1988 political exposé, The Power Game: How Washington Works, demonstrates how the president's power has changed dramatically since the Reagan administration. The conventional political wisdom holds that the presidential power is naturally restricted by the institution of democracy, and that the president, as representative of the executive branch, is naturally kept in check by other branches of government. However, Smith contends that the president is not accountable to his people and can abuse campaign law. It's not only that presidential power is unchecked; the real power lies with congressional staffers, lobbyists and fund-raisers. Lobbyists, Smith argues, have more power than party leaders in Congress, owing to the development of political action committees (PACs). According to Smith, the president is notionally accountable to his people (reflected in the institution of democratic voting); however, the last few decades have given rise to a "video president" who is not really accountable to his or her country.

In brief, Smith claims that the president is perhaps less powerful—and certainly less accountable—than public image would suggest. The real power, according to Smith, lies with the lobbyists and the media—both unelected powers.

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