Top 5 Myths About Being President

Written by Michael Wynands

They’ve been portrayed as heroes, gentlemen, patriots… and dastardly super villains. But what are they really capable of? Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Myths […]. In today’s instalment we’re counting down the top 5 myths about Being President that got us asking for a recount.

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For better or worse, we often expect a lot from the President of the United States of America. You can blame the depiction of POTUS in the media, film and television, and in some cases, presidential candidates, for these larger than life projections of power. The sobering reality is… the president is human just like the rest of us…well, sorta.

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Written by Michael Wynands

Top 5 Myths About Being President


They’ve been portrayed as heroes, gentlemen, patriots… and dastardly super villains. But what are they really capable of? Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Myths […].

In today’s instalment we’re counting down the top 5 myths about Being President that got us asking for a recount.

For better or worse, we often expect a lot from the President of the United States of America. You can blame the depiction of POTUS in the media, film and television, and in some cases, presidential candidates, for these larger than life projections of power.

The sobering reality is… the president is human just like the rest of us…well, sorta.

#5: Broken Campaign Promises Are Intentionally Broken

President Obama made a lot of big promises when he took office in 2008. His plans for the nation were such a progressive deviation from those of George W. Bush that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Sadly, his ambitious and sometimes lofty goals put him at odds with not only the Republican party, but some Democrats as well. As the years went by it became increasingly clear that some Obama goals would go unachieved. Voters are quick to call foul when a President fails to follow through on their campaign promises, but for the most part, the Prez really is trying their best. In practice, they can do very little without the support of Congress, and if an idea is controversial, like closing Guantanamo Bay, the President is facing a long trek up Capitol Hill, with plenty of backsliding.

#4: The President Can Simply “Rollback” The Work Of Their Predecessor

You see… the White House isn’t Walmart. You can’t just send a happy face bouncing around the building to roll the nation back. The baseline left by any administration contains some structurally weak policies, and others that are essentially ironclad. Any regulation issued in the last 8 months of a presidency can be subjected to a Congressional review, but it’s not a guaranteed repeal. A President can issue NEW regulations that undermine past ones, but this can be a lengthy process, and numerous, high-priority regulations have been rejected by the courts under administrations past. Congress can also pass new laws to replace old ones, but that requires a strong filibuster-proof Senate majority. As President, it’s best to pick your battles. Almost anything can be undone… but it requires a serious time investment - time that could be spent building rather than tearing down.

#3: Article II Empowers The President To Unilaterally Initiate War

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution reads “The president shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States”. That, in the mind of many Americans, including a number of Presidents, makes the President all-powerful when it comes to military matters. Article I, Section 8, however, states clearly that Congress is the only governing body with the power “to declare war”. The President was never meant to make this life or death decision alone - and for years, they respected that law. President Truman was the first to circumvent Congress by invoking Article 2, Section II, to justify illegally starting war, and subsequent Presidents have followed suit ever since. Vietnam actually prompted Congress to create the War Powers Act in an attempt to rein in these “Presidential wars”, but it was to little effect.

#2: The U.S. President Is “The Leader Of The Free World”

Damn Cold War. This period of extreme tension between the Western and Eastern Bloc never resulted in all-out war, but the ideological battle was certainly colossal. From the U.S. perspective, it was Democratic Freedom fighting against Communist Dictatorships. As the most powerful Democratic nation, the United States and its leader adopted the de-facto role of global defender of democracy and freedom… or “Leader of The Free World”. But America has increasingly been criticized for its military action abroad in recent years, nowadays, outside of patriotic American cinema, the term is only used sarcastically. In 2015, Time Magazine named German Chancellor Angela Merkel “Person of the Year” and “Chancellor of the Free World”. Other publications, such as the Guardian and the New York Times written similar pieces declaring Merkle the real “Leader Of The Free World” in the wake of Trump’s election.

#1: The President Is All-Powerful

There’s no denying the unique role the President plays in government. But while we often project superhero-like powers onto them... in practice, their position comes with more “great responsibility” than “great power”. They serve as a lightning rod for their administration, being personally blamed or credited for all successes or failures, even if they’ve had little say in the matter. Yes, they can sign executive orders, but Congress can block those. The President can veto Congressional legislation, but Congress can override that veto. In the words of President WIlliam Howard Taft “The President cannot make clouds to rain and cannot make the corn to grow.” The president might ride around in Air Force One and hold the nuclear codes, but when push comes to political shove, making America “great” is a team effort.

So which of these myths did you believe? For more elected top 10s and Senate-approved Top 5s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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