Strengths and Weaknesses of the Analysis of “The Imperial Presidency” by Schlesinger – Research Paper Sample



No additional source other than reading attached is required.

valuate the strengths and weaknesses of the analysis presented within the reading. 

Identify the central claim of the reading, and ask yourself if the evidence and logic provided supports this claim. 

This is a critical engagement with the text, DO NOT simply summarize the text. 

Some other things you may want to consider (but you do not need to consider all): many of these readings are old – does the analysis still hold up? Does the conclusion flow naturally from the evidence? Are there any questions raised by the text that aren’t answered? Is the argument in the text relevant to the study of American politics? What, if anything, does the analysis offer to the study of American politics? 

Reading:- Schlesinger- The Imperial Presidency






In the 21st century, national politics of USA is said to be in the hands of the presidency. In the recent past, several scholars and political analysts have brooded over the fact that the role of the president is assuming more power as compared to the ones that have been allocated by the constitution. However, the concept of presidential totalitarianism undermining the US Democratic setup was brought into the light by the best selling work of historian Arthur M. Schlesinger. The Imperial Presidency is a book that spoke about the grave implications of the Watergate scandal even before Nixon had resigned the office. The essay will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the analyses made in the book and will identify whether the central claim of the book is justifiable or not. The essay will conclude by analysing whether the central claim of the book still holds true in the 21st century.

Imperial Presidency

The book starts by addressing the fact that the concept of separation of powers was relatively new to the people and the society in the 18th century. As pointed out in the Foreword section of the book, has identified the contribution of the American Political setup in the art of politics and government in the 18th century. The book is not a detailed explanation of the loopholes that can be identified in the American constitution. It does not even deal with the idea of shift of balance of power from Congress to the president. Instead, the main strength of the book is in identifying the role of the president in moving away from its constitutional realm. The Author of the book Arthur Schlesinger has specifically identified the perils of the Presidency in assuming more power than it is already assigned by the constitution-the power to declare frequent wars. According to Schlesinger (2004, p. 2), the founding fathers have bestowed congress with the absolute power in declaring war. However, the increasing hegemony of the president had led the USA to enter into wars that have affected the world politics, the national economy and altered America’s role in international politics forever. However, the relevance of the book in the 21st century is something which still needs to be evaluated in details.

The book has significantly addressed a very major issue that even though the USA’s decision to go on war depended on the Congress, the US President slowly but very steadily assumed absolute power on this arena. By the end of the 1960s, the US president became an unidentified and unconstitutional monarch with whom the foreign policy and war decisions finally rested. The identification of the source of presidential powers was the main strength of the book. The author has clearly identified the spillover of the imperial presidency from the foreign to the domestic political waters. According to Schlesinger (2004, p. 5), the war will be declared by the Congress but the commander in chief will be the president. This factor, however, has formed the very foundation of the book. Thus, the central claim of the book identifies which acts of the president makes it assume more power than that has been already assigned to it by the constitution. The idea that has been highlighted in the book hold true in the 21st century because if the president or the executive does not remain within the realms of the constitution then the political scenario of the country will go back to the age of Monarchy. The only difference would be that the monarchy would be chosen by the people and will not be hereditary in nature.

The author has provided several pieces of evidence to support his claim. First, the American president and his cabinet members laid great importance on the idea of national security. The uncertain international political setup has provided the US Executive with a justification for war. The war was a state of emergency and demanded regulations that were originally different from that of the normal state of affair. According to Schlesinger (2004, p. 14), in the name of, the national security of the American presidency and the cabinet demanded executive secrecy, which meant that few confidential documents would not be shared with the Congress. The state of war also demanded the seizure of the existence of the constitutional checks and balances that the US Congress is entitled to exercise of the presidency. Other instances like the use of Whitehouse for gove4rnmental espionage services and suppression of the opposition were other examples that suggest the depth of the claim. It seemed that with the turn of the 19th century, America slowly moved into the realm of presidential imperialism and the outbreak of the Watergate scandal was the mirror manifestation of the abuse of power by the presidents of the USA.

The American constitution has allowed separation of powers between the President and the Congress. However, in the matter of war, there has been certain ambiguity in the situation. According to Schlesinger (2004, p. 4), the constitution has not denied the president the right to assume supremacy in cases of surprise attacks from the foreign entities nor has the constitution bestowed the executive with the power to declare wars. The reason for bestowing the foreign policy powers on the president and the war-related powers on the Congress is something that remained unanswered in the question. Schlesinger (2004, p. 4), again pointed out that the idea of the separation of powers was established only to safeguard the country from the war and not push it towards it. However, the inability of the founding fathers to develop a backup plan was a major shortcoming of the US constitution. The book addressed the problem of the ambiguity in the constitution in details and developed a detailed analysis of the events that finally contributed to the hegemony and the imperialistic outlook of the US executive.

The author in the book has identified that it is the constitution that need to be blamed to allow the president hegemony to a certain extent. According to Schlesinger (2004, p. 5), the constitution has stated that the power to declare the war lies with the president but the decision has to be ratified by Congress. Again, the power to go on war lies with the Congress with the advice of the president. However, the constitution has not explicitly said anything about the absolute powers of the president that arise in case the nation is facing a crisis related to national security. According to Schlesinger (2004, p. 5), Hamilton has agreed that the right of national defense lies completely with the president because it will be nearly impossible for the government or the founding fathers to determine the extent of the national emergency and it is the duty of the president to protect the nation from the chances of external imperialism. The book has based its foundations on the concept of inherent powers and pointed out that the concept was highly misinterpreted and corrupted to form the actions of various presidents especially the Nixon administration. According to Schlesinger (2004, p. 10), Congress has the power to impeach the president on the grounds of treachery, bribery or high crimes. However, to date that has not happened.

The question now arises how relevant is the book in the 21st century under the realm of presidents likes Obama. The answer is a big yes. However, there can be a few modifications. For instance, Obama’s Executive War-Making Power had three different phases starting from a positive approach to maintaining the constitutional premises to departing completely from it and inflicting stances like torture and detaining activities to help the USA win the war against terrorism. The President along with Joe Biden has stated that it can allow the Congress to interfere in the working of the President only if the Congress agrees to the leadership role of the President. However, in later cases, the adoption of torture and detainee activities proved that the Obama administration was following the steps of the predecessors. The Obama administration made a very promising start in terms of the executive secrecy. Obama stated that his administration would introduce a new era of openness. However, with the passing of time, the Obama administration appealed for the state secrecy privilege in favour of national security.


Thus, to conclude, the essay is based on the evaluation of the Presidency rule in the USA. It will provide a detailed analysis of the president’s leadership in the history of the USA. The author of the book, THE IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY claims that in several times in history when USA is termed as a superpower, the president of USA has misused its powers and has gone beyond the powers that have been originally assigned to him by the constitution. On the 46th year after the book has been published, the imperial rule of the president in the USA still holds true because of the traditions that have been established by the predecessors have made it mandatory for the presidents to act that way. It can be said that the people of the country has accepted the imperial rule of the president. However, one should not misinterpret the president with that of the Monarchy. The president is still chosen by the people and will be in power until the people accept him to be in power.


Schlesinger, A. M. (2004). Chapter 1: What the Founding Fathers Intended. In The imperial presidency. Boston, Massachusetts, United States: HMH.

Schlesinger, A. M. (2004). Chapter 2: Where the Founding Fathers Disagreed. In The imperial presidency. Boston, Massachusetts, United States: HMH.

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