Presidential Power: Crash Course Government and Politics #11
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Presidential Power: Crash Course Government and Politics #11

This episode of Crash Course is brought to you by SquareSpace. Hi. I’m Craig and this is Crash Course: Government and Politics. And today, we’re gonna talk about the most powerful person in the U.S. No, not Chris Hemsworth, although he is powerful, in a physical sense. We’re talking about the President of the United States, who right now is Barack Obama But that’s the last we’ll mention of him specifically. Instead, we’ll examine the office of the Presidency and what makes whoever holds the office so powerful. We’re also gonna talk about what makes him (and so far the President has always been a him) less powerful than you might think. [Theme Music] So you might have noticed a bit of a trend in these episodes that we like to start with what the Constitution says about the branches of Government. That’s not just because it’s what appears on tests or what strict constructionist Justice Scalia would want us to do. We start with the Constitution because it gives us a
formal description of the branch, in this case the executive, upon which we can build. Right Clone: What do you mean upon which we
can build? That’s nonsense. The Constitution is a limited document. It lays the framework
and the rules and that’s all. All this extra stuff is an unconstitutional power grab.
Center Craig: Oh, Clone from the Right, I was wondering what happened to you clones.
That’s a good point you make… Left Clone: But really the world is a more
complicated than it was in 1787, and we need to have a more flexible government. The Constitution
provides a framework for understanding it, but it needs to change with the times. Besides,
if the President becomes more powerful than what’s suggested in the Constitution, whose
fault is that? Congress! That’s who! Center Craig: Okay clones, we get the picture.
There’s a debate about the role of the Constitution in setting up the government and we’re not
gonna solve it today. For now, we’re gonna start with the Constitution and what it says
about the President. Left Clone: You win this round, Clone from
the Right. Center Craig: All right, let’s try to keep
those convos in the clone zone going forward? Thank you. Anyway, as with Congress, the Constitution
lays out certain qualifications for the presidency. If you want to be President of the US, and I know
you do, you must be 35 years old, which in the 1780s was actually pretty old. You were expected to
have moved out of your parents’ house by that point… And you must be a citizen of the US who
was born in the United States, or one of its territories. The President is not elected directly by the
American people. Yeah, your mind is blown. In the Constitution, as originally written, only
members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by qualified citizens. The President is actually chosen by the Electoral
College, which is complicated and frustrating for many Americans, and we’re not gonna
go into it now, except to say that the reason it exists is because the Framers didn’t
trust the popular vote all that much, so they built in the Electoral College as a safeguard
against the people electing scary demigods or the person.. they wanted… elected. Some people say this is not particularly democratic,
mostly because it’s not particularly democratic. So democratically elected or not, the President
is pretty powerful, but he has different categories of powesr. What are they? First, he has military powers to send soldiers
and planes and ships to do military things. He also has judicial powers, in that he appoints
federal judges and Supreme Court judges, subject to Senate approval, of course. He’s the nation’s chief diplomat, which
is the source of his foreign policy power. The president can also propose laws, although
he has to get a Congressmen or Senator to actually introduce them into Congress. This
is a legislative power. And since he’s the chief executive, he also has
executive power, which means he’s supposed to to ensure that the laws are carried out. This
is his most far reaching power, probably because it’s the least well defined. Executive power is a pretty
big deal, so we’re gonna give that its own episode. Another way to describe the president’s
powers is as either formal or informal. Formal powers are the ones we can find in the Constitution
itself, mainly in Article 2. The informal powers come either from Congress or the President
himself, but for now, let’s look at the formal powers, which like those given to Congress, are also knwon
as expressed powers. Let go to the Thought Bubble. Unfortunately, presidents don’t derive their
powers from the sun, like Superman. Or from exposure to radiation like the Fantastic Four
or the Hulk. The powers come from the constitution, which again, unfortunately doesn’t have
any super natural or mystical power, although some people like to think it does. The first power given to the President in
the Constitution is that he is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, which at the time was
just the Army and Navy, since there were no airplanes. There’s a reason that this should be the first
power. If there’s one thing that almost everyone can agree on, it’s that the first job of government
is to keep the citizens safe, especially from foreign invasion. The US has had a lot of
generals become president: Washington, Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Taylor, Grant, Eisenhower,
and many others have served in the military, but only one president has led the US troops
in the field while he was President, and that was George Washington. The Whiskey Rebellion.
That’s something worth fighting over. The President has diplomatic powers, although
he doesn’t actually do most of the diplomacy. The President has the power to make treaties,
which are mostly written by the State Department officials, but he takes credit. He appoints
ambassadors and those State Department officials I just mentioned. His most visible foreign
policy power is to receive ambassadors, which not only makes for great photo opportunities
– selfie!- but also is a significant power because receiving an ambassador effectively
means recognition of that ambassador’s country’s existence. So the President can actually legitimize
a nation-state. Maybe he does have superpowers. The Constitution requires that the President
from time to time inform Congress of the state of the Union. This takes the form of an annual
State of the Union address. Historically, presidents did this in writing, although George
Washington made a formal address. We have Woodrow Wilson to thank for reviving the practice
of making the State of the Union an actual speech, which now appears on television early
each year. This may not seem like much of a power, but the State of the Union is a chance
for the President to set a policy agenda for the next year, and it can put some pressure on
Congress to make policy. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So the President has a couple of other powers
we’ve already talked about. The President has a form of legislative power to veto laws
passed by Congress. He also has the power to convene Congress into special sessions.
The President also has judicial powers. He can appoint judges, but only with the consent
of the Senate. He does have the power to grant pardons and reprieves, which doesn’t sound
like a big deal, unless you’re in jail or threatened by criminal prosecution, in which
case it’s a very big deal. So there you have it. Those are the formal
constitutional powers of the President of the United States. You may have noticed that
there aren’t all that many of them. Which is kind of the point. The framers of the Constitution
wanted a limited government. One that couldn’t oppress the people. They were especially afraid
of a strong executive, like a king, in charge of a standing army, so they deliberately tried
to curtail his powers by not giving him very many. But as we’ll see in the next few episodes,
over the course of the last 240 years or so, the powers of the President have expanded
far beyond what framers probably envisioned. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Mmm. I can feel my powers expanding.
Is this radioactive coffee? Crash Course Government and Politics is produced
in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course US Government comes from
Voqal. Voqal supports nonprofits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn
more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course was with the help of all these
superheroes. Thanks for watching.


  • MicrosoftCPU3

    Google " Define: Hillary Clinton – a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument."

    Hillary Won the Popular Vote 2:17 Framers of the Constitution got it Right "safe guard against the people electing Scary demagogue"

  • akshiv gulati

    I don't get how the framers thought having an omnipotent leader was too powerful when they created an omnipotent congress which elects presidents based on attitudinal views

  • Todd Stilwell

    President Madison also rallied and directed the troops during the evacuation of Washington, DC and our subsequent counterattack during the War of 1812.

  • Will Way

    Tech has evolved, but the Constitution is still just as relevant as it always was, ensuring a framework that keeps us a free society

  • Caro

    Hey, my name is Carolin and I'm from Germany. I'm currently watching your videos for my oral exam in politics tomorrow (in english) and I really want to thank you for making these!

    I'd like to make a suggestion though:

    I'd love to see videos about how the EU works (with all the institutions and stuff) because it would have helped me and it might help out other viewers. 🙂

  • WeirdWorld

    Here's a thought.
    If the U.S.A.'s President was like the Hokage from the Natuto Universe.
    You best bet there would be fewer wars if it meant it would risk the President's life like the Hokage's.
    But no the President has pawns like in chess, willing to go to war for the sake of resources and the elites interest.
    Instead of compromise and peace. More praise should be given to George Washington since he literally risked his own life, for the greater good of the people, according to history.

  • Marxist Productions

    Crash Course, I know you are trying to not be biased against the left or right, but you are over compensating your liberal tendencies by trying to make the left wing guy worse than the right.

  • listen2meokidoki

    Few USA-Americans (seem to?) appreciate the extent to which the executive Presidential system reflected the existing British monarchical system. The Westminster system came after.  It appears to me that the executive presidency was mostly a means of replacing the King. So it was not a political revolution.

  • Robin Chesterfield

    Destroy the Electoral College! It's a remnant of old, aristocracy-style government–being told what we "really" want by our "betters". Can't let the peasants ACTUALLY decide for themselves, the silly little children! The whole concept itself is SO patronising! Every other democracy on Earth has ACTUAL democratic voting–why don't we?

  • Alex Ray

    Error: The founders didn't trust the people so they created the electoral college. This isn't entirely wrong, but you're also forgetting that the fastest way for information to travel back then was the fastest horse. The electoral college made it easier to get up to date information to those who were doing the actual voting.
    Also, "its not democratic" would only be a valid argument against the electoral college if America was a democracy instead of a constitutional republic.

  • Delta Side

    You know, one of the reasons the American colonists became an independent country apart from Great Britain, was to separate church and state. That did not seem to happen. Its all a big lie. The government is now corrupt.

  • Leah Peregrino

    This is helping me with my friends and my game about politics and astronomy and being president of a fictional country (fictional means pretend ) now I know what my presidential powers are

  • Niccolo' Seilo

    How is this hyperactive, speed talking, meandering style of teaching supposed to help high school students learn? Slow the format down and try and make it an interesting learning experience. All of these crash course videos are the same, the speakers ramble all over the place speaking a mile a minute.

  • Feynstein 100

    But what if the president decided to go Caesar and lead the army against the senate? Are there safeguards to prevent that from happening?

  • mathew idicula

    I think we took a historical erring as a country when we fused the executive branches office of President, and vice president. They used to be of separate statures running on their own merits and yes the outcome was at many times to have a truly split ticket. Right now there is no incentive for that. In our present time there has been two recent presidents and how have won by the smallest margin George the Dubbya 43 Bush and Donald is our nightmare over yet Trump they have won by slivers but yet in Machiavellin poetry come to o please god make it stop politics. They have been the most destructive presidents EVER. Now why did we stop the practice of split ticket executive seats, well political parties are at worst big business and both sides have long ago through Rube Goldberg like measure scratch the other ones back yet keep the other at bay, sort of like X Files the coming alien invasion and the old farts meeting gathering around a room. I hope Alex Jones does not read too much into this, but then again there it goes. Yes people of ordinary scheme to enact there own plans, but if your going to have power, over people you need their consent and that means transparency. And yes we may hesitate but even the Moe, Larry, and Curly crowd have their say, if it only test the resolve of the stalwart among us.

  • Ryan

    Why doesn’t this video have YouTube’s new warning about government supported government? PBS is partially funded by the government and this show is funded by PBS.

  • Dannyboyz

    Why is your first video called "Presidential Power:" but your second video is called "Presidential Powers 2:" (note the absence and then presence of the letter s on the word "power")

  • FOPGlobal

    An update is needed. A Natural Born citizen does not have to be born in the US or it's territories. In addition to being born in the US or it's territories a Natural Born citizen is anyone born to a parent that is already a US citizen. So in regards to President Obama it doesn't matter where he was born since there's never been a question his mother was a US citizen.

  • Frenchcadien homme

    Electrical college is for each state to have a fair share of the power to vote for a president. Did this guy even go to college or study government

  • TheThroneofJudgement

    From this day forward after Trump absolutely no more billionaire nor multi billionaires will be allowed to even run for President Senate Congress to hold positions in cabinet ever again. The suffering caused to the world by all former Presidents living and dead will ensure that no man or woman described even enter, this energy will also be used to stop Biden, any of the Obamas or any antichrist NWO Vatican puppet from ever running again

  • Able Bodied

    Loved this, so much.
    Please tell me your opinion. With Trump saying he wants the wall for National Security, and as he has now shut down the American government, can't he use presidential powers, to build the wall WITHOUT Congress approval?
    I believe so, and this government shut down has much more far reaching reasons and consequences, how about you?

  • tony torres

    A special council instead of using the d.a. is Congress power that can kill a presidents power with a time limit that 22nd adm. can be used against the president..

  • Jesse Collins

    Dude don’t give your opinion on the electoral college. It’s terrible to use your authority to just imply that it’s a bad unfair system instead of actually clarifying what the intent is, and hen letting people decide for them self. That is biased and that is bad.

  • Jesse Collins

    The point of the electoral college is to retain states rights and so that highly populated states don’t get what they want over less populated states. Yes mob rule is terrible… I’m sorry you Democrats don’t like the sovereignty of states and for some reason and you care so damn much wood South Carolina does with their healthcare is like with their gun rights or like what speech laws they have what drugs they canning can’t use. California and New York passed your own walls leave Alabama and Georgia Texas alone it’s that simple…

  • Bailey Elise Davis

    I actually love that these episodes start from the Constitutional law and spin outward, because that's how the whole system (is supposed to) work(s) 🙂


    As we look at our past and all of the freedom lost. Why and how was it so easy. I would like to believe our father's fathers wanted the best for us future generations!! ((Mother's​ mothers, Their's Their ,)) We all have the right to vote ?? What percentage of the voting population should Vote??As we look at
    When a majority of the population (poor, middle class) are not willing, uninformed, misinformed have not a clue who or what they are actually voting for!!!
    Did you see them on TV or hear them on the radio??? WHO PAID FOR THE ADD AND WHY??
    Did they offer a hot dog and a lemonade for your vote?? Was it Shade of Skin, Gender, Free Phone, Jobs or maybe Healthcare???
    Should people vote for me just because I am a Christian??
    Do Politicians Seek Informed voters?? Of course not!! Do you really know who or what you are voting for??
    They can make you think you are Free!! When you are bond with the heaviest chains that will bind you through generations!!
    But you got the free phone!!!
    Add a comment../or/ Just don't care?

  • Patrick Cassidy

    "But only one president has led the U.S. troops in the field while he was president and that was George Washington." Not true.

  • Catalina Mella

    Wonder how would this section go if it were filmed today, with Trump as president… For my upcoming exam I have to consider him >.<

  • Edward Brotherton

    Being born in the US or one of it's territories does not make you necessarily a Natural Born Citizen which is the actual requirement not just being born in the US. Natural Born Citizen means a person who is born of Citizen parents. Specifically the citizenship flowing from the citizenship status of the father.

  • Robert Boekee

    I am kinda tired of crash course telling me that The founding fathers created the electoral college because they didn't want Al Gore to be president. they created the EC because they thought it would stop the tyranny of the majority over the minority.

  • nutiketgotc

    I think you got the electoral college thing wrong. In 2016 the electoral college elected a scary demagogue in opposition to the popular vote.

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