Imperial Presidency

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The Imperial Presidency is a term which has been used from the 1960s to describe the presidency of the United States and the President's aides. It was based on a number of observations.

  • As late as the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt the Executive Branch of the president of the United States had few staff, most of them based in the Capitol, where a president traditionally has an office (it is no longer used except for ceremonial occasions, but nineteenth and early twentieth century presidents were based there with their small staff on a day-to-day basis). However, the modern day president has a much larger Executive staff, which is usually cramped in crowded conditions in the West Wing, or basement of the White House, or in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, a building beside the White House that used to house the Departments of Defense and State. Such is the modern overcrowding in the West Wing that President Richard Nixon had the former presidential swimming pool covered over and converted into a press room.
  • As staff numbers grew, many people were appointed who held personal loyalty to the person holding the office of president, and who were not subject to outside approval or control.
  • The office of White House Chief of Staff has evolved into what is in many (though not all) administrations a dominant executive position, turning the office into a virtual 'prime minister' on the occasions when it was held by a strong-willed dominant figure and the presidency was held by a hands off president who left day to day governance to his cabinet and his Chief of Staff. Donald Regan as Chief of Staff and Ronald Reagan as president was seen as an example of this presidential-quasi prime ministerial relationship.
  • A range of new advisory bodies developed a