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Executive Branch & Presidents
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Discussion and Essay Questions Available to teachers only as part of the Teaching the Executive Branch & PresidentsTeacher Pass
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Sample of Discussion and Essay Questions
The Presidency What do you think of the formal qualifications for the presidency?
Should there be an age requirement?
Given the growing complexity of the office, should the age requirement be higher? Why can’t a naturalized citizen run?
Why do you suppose the framers insisted on this? Why not let the voters decide? Wouldn’t that be the democratic thing to do? Considering the range of responsibilities, is the job of president too big for one person? Some proposed (and a few continue to propose) a dual executive—would this work?
How would you carve up the responsibilities? Would each one have any input or check on the other’s turf? The president can only be impeached for committing crimes—should Congress have more flexibility in deciding when to impeach a president?
( Under a parliamentary form of government like Great Britain’s, the executive (the prime minister) can be removed when Parliament decides that it no longer has “confidence” in the executive.) How about impeachment for incompetence?
The most menial employee can be fired for incompetence—why not the president? How about when the president’s approval rating falls below a certain point? How would modifying America’s impeachment process change the balance of power within the federal government? The Presidential Election Process One reason for the Electoral College was that the framers worried that the people were not adequately informed to make sound electoral decisions—is this still a valid concern?
Has the modern media left us better or worse informed? Is it time to dump the Electoral College?
What feature of the Electoral College is most problematic?
The winner-take-all allocation of state Electors? The two extra electors awarded each state? Defend the Electoral College. What parts of this system are worth retaining? Growth of Presidential Powers How has the media enhanced the powers of the presidency? Has this made government more or less democratic?
Has it weakened the legislative branch (the branch in which the people are more directly represented) and consequently made government less democratic? Or has it put the president more directly in touch with the people—and strengthened the public’s voice in government? Has the media changed the presidency in other ways?
Has it unofficially changed the “qualifications” for office? Would Barack Obama have been elected without the modern media? Would Sarah Palin have been selected as John McCain’s running mate?
Did the modern media strengthen or weaken her candidacy? The Cabinet and Executive Agencies and The Power of Appointment Why should the president have to obtain Senate approval for his cabinet appointees? Does this represent excessive congressional intrusion on the executive branch? Or is this a necessary check on executive power? The State Department and the Growth of American Foreign Policy The president has a great deal of unilateral power in conducting foreign policy.
Why is this necessary? Why is this dangerous? Why has it become more necessary and more dangerous over time? Why was the CIA created? What made the CIA a very “generous” gift from Congress to the president?
What was the CIA authorized to do? To whom did the CIA report? Limits on Presidential Power How did Congress rein in the president’s use of the CIA? How did Congress attempt to rein in the president through the War Powers Act?
How exactly does the War Powers Act work?
Can Congress force the troops to return home in less than 60 days? What happens if Congress cannot decide what to do and takes no action? Does the War Powers Act appropriately balance the president’s and Congress’s war powers?
Or does it tie the president’s hands?
Can the president be “commander-in-chief” if Congress can force him to withdraw troops?
Does the Congress really have the sole power to declare war if the president can provoke a conflict by deploying troops in international hotspots? The Unitary Executive What will the presidency look like in fifty years?
Will it be even more powerful?
What developments are likely to strengthen the presidency? Will the balance of powers be thrown completely out of whack? What might strengthen the legislative branch? Will we need to rethink the presidency?
What about a dual executive? What about some sort of elected executive council?