Inside The Presidency

The Cold War | Secrecy | Separation of Powers | Veto Power | Pardoning Powers | War Powers


The Cold War

President Gerald Ford video clip
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"When I was in the White House, or Kennedy or Johnson or Nixon or Reagan or Carter were in the White House," says Gerald R. Ford, "we faced one enemy, the Soviet Union. It was a formidable enemy. We knew what their military capabilities were and they knew a lot about our military capability."



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Presidents Ford, Carter, and Bush all held office during The Cold War. In his interview, President Ford describes how his perceived enemy, the USSR, differs from the current Administration's global security conundrum. Both Ford and Carter achieved diplomatic success with the SALT treaties, and George Bush's administration saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the events at Tiananmen Square.



For more information on The Cold War:


PBS Frontline: The Gate of Heavenly Peace


SALT Treaties
(Federation of American Scientists)



Secrecy

President George Bush video clip
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Throughout history, secrecy, and access to sensitive information, has been an extremely important issue to the Executive branch.


In Presidential Conversations on the Constitution, President George H.W. Bush tells Cokie Roberts, "You have to have a certain amount of secrecy if you're going to get the best intelligence. You have to deal with bad guys if you're going to get the best intelligence. I have worried in terms of the Constitution about encroachment on that Presidential authority over the CIA."



President Jimmy Carter video clip
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Jimmy Carter continues to take a differing approach: "I tried to mandate then and since I left the White House a maximum openness in reports and to declassify as much information as was possible. And I have been certainly aware of the fact that since I left office there has been a re-imposition of a great deal of secrecy of material that should be made public. But I tried to have as much openness as possible. I would like to declassify all my records from the White House."



Separation of Powers

Both Presidents Bush and Ford served in the House of Representatives and having served in two branches of government, they hold unique perspectives on the separation of powers.


President Gerald Ford video clip
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President Ford describes his personal journey from the Capitol to the White House: "When I was a member of the House for 25 years I used to look at the President and the Vice President as those dictators at the other end of Constitution Avenue. How can they be so arbitrary and difficult? Then when you shift from the legislative to the executive branch of government you're at the other end of Constitution Avenue and you look at the Congress and you wonder why all of those house and senate members are so irresponsible?"



President Jimmy Carter video clip
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President Jimmy Carter reflects on the importance and changing significance of the separation of powers mandated by the constitution: "Well the checks and balances and the separation of powers have been issues ever since the first president took office and I think it's a very wise decision that our founding fathers made to have those separations. After World War II when the President became so powerful, because of instantaneous movements of troops and because of instant communications in dealing with security matters, the Congress had decided after Watergate that they would monitor very carefully the activities of the Executive branch of government in executing laws that they had passed."



For more information on the Separation of Powers:


Exploring Constitutional Conflicts
(University of Missouri Kansas City)


Separation of Powers and a System of Checks and Balances
(National Constitution Center)



Veto Power

One of the most notorious of the Presidential powers is the power to veto bills that successfully pass through Congress. Both Presidents Ford and Bush discuss the issue as more than an important power given to the President, but as a responsibility to use it for the good of the people.


President Gerald Ford video clip
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"I set a record for the number of vetoes while I was in the White House," said President Ford. "I think during 2 and a half years of my Presidency I vetoed 67 or 68 measures and most of them were upheld even by a Democrat House and Senate. One thing that most people don't realize is - a veto is not a negative action. Now the Press generally calls it a negative action. But it is an affirmative action by President to reflect views of all the people in the country. When [a] Senator or member of the House votes for a piece of legislation it is for his state or for his district. The Veto is action taken by the chief executive to reflect views of the public as a whole."



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President Bush comments: "That's a power that's given the President in the Constitution and that's something that you have to exercise if you're going to try to do for the American people that what you told them you'd do when you were running for office."



Pardoning Powers

Ever since George Washington pardoned the leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion the presidential power to pardon has stirred controversy. In more recent times, Ford pardoned Nixon and Carter pardoned those who evaded military service in the Vietnam War. In Presidential Conversations on the Constitution, all three Presidents discuss their power to grant pardons and how they deliberated over its use. Each provides an interesting perspective on this unique and controversial power.


President Gerald Ford video clip
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"I finally decided as a new President under very difficult circumstances I had a obligation to spend all of my time - all - on the problems of 200 million Americans," said President Ford, "and the only way to clear the deck to get to the substantive problems that I faced was to pardon Mr. Nixon and get his problems off my desk in the oval office."



President Jimmy Carter video clip
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"I used the pardon authority very liberally in the number of pardons I gave," said President Carter. "Some Presidents since then have pardoned practically no one because of the controversies involved. Others have abused the pardon."



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"I was very proud of the fact that I pardoned those people," said President Bush, "and the Congress couldn't do a damn thing about it. I loved that. I loved it. I loved it."



For more information on Presidential Pardoning Powers:


The Presidential Pardon Power
(University of California Berkeley)


Frequently Asked Questions about Presidential Pardons
(University of Pittsburgh)


Presidential Clemency Actions, 1789-2001
(University of Pittsburgh)



War Powers

President Gerald Ford video clip
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"Not one of the Presidents, either Democrat or Republican, has ever really lived up to terms of War Powers Act." In his interview, President Ford questions compliance and execution of the 1973 War Powers Act, which requires the President to inform Congress when committing United States forces into combat.



For more information on Presidential War Powers:


War and Treaty Powers
(University of Missouri, Kansas City)


NPR The Connection: War Powers, Congress and the President