The President of the United States of America (POTUS) is the elected head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.
The President of the United States is considered one of the world's most powerful people, leading the world's only contemporary superpower. The role includes being the commander-in-chief of the world's most expensive military with the largest nuclear arsenal and leading the nation with the largest economy by real and nominal GDP. The office of the president holds significant hard and soft power both in the United States and abroad.
Article II of the U.S. Constitution vests the executive power of the United States in the president. The power includes execution of federal law, alongside the responsibility of appointing federal executive, diplomatic, regulatory and judicial officers, and concluding treaties with foreign powers with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president is further empowered to grant federal pardons and reprieves, and to convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress under extraordinary circumstances. The president is largely responsible for dictating the legislative agenda of the party to which the president is enrolled. The president also directs the foreign and domestic policy of the United States. Since the founding of the United States, the power of the president and the federal government has grown substantially.
The president is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term, and is one of only two nationally elected federal officers, the other being the Vice President of the United States. The Twenty-second Amendment, adopted in 1951, prohibits anyone from ever being elected to the presidency for a third full term. It also prohibits a person from being elected to the presidency more than once if that person previously had served as president, or acting president, for more than two years of another person's term as president. In all, 43 individuals have served 44 presidencies (counting Cleveland's two non-consecutive terms separately) spanning 56 full four-year terms. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th and current president. On November 6, 2012, he was re-elected and is currently serving the 57th term. The next presidential election is scheduled to take place on November 8, 2016; on January 20, 2017, the newly elected president will take office.
In 1776, the Thirteen Colonies, acting through the Second Continental Congress, declared political independence from Great Britain during the American Revolution. The new states, though independent of each other as nation states, recognized the necessity of closely coordinating their efforts against the British. Desiring to avoid anything that remotely resembled a monarchy, Congress negotiated the Articles of Confederation to establish a weak alliance between the states. As a central authority, Congress under the Articles was without any legislative power; it could make its own resolutions, determinations, and regulations, but not any laws, nor any taxes or local commercial regulations enforceable upon citizens. This institutional design reflected the conception of how Americans believed the deposed British system of Crown and Parliament ought to have functioned with respect to the royal dominion: a superintending body for matters that concerned the entire empire. Out from under any monarchy, the states assigned some formerly royal prerogatives (e.g., making war, receiving ambassadors, etc.) to Congress, while severally lodging the rest within their own respective state governments. Only after all the states agreed to a resolution settling competing western land claims did the Articles take effect on March 1, 1781, when Maryland became the final state to ratify them.
In 1783, the Treaty of Paris secured independence for each of the former colonies. With peace at hand, the states each turned toward their own internal affairs. By 1786, Americans found their continental borders besieged and weak, their respective economies in crises as neighboring states agitated trade rivalries with one another, witnessed their hard currency pouring into foreign markets to pay for imports, their Mediterranean commerce preyed upon by North African pirates, and their foreign-financed Revolutionary War debts unpaid and accruing interest. Civil and political unrest loomed.
Following the successful resolution of commercial and fishing disputes between Virginia and Maryland at the Mount Vernon Conference in 1785, Virginia called for a trade conference between all the states, set for September 1786 in Annapolis, Maryland, with an aim toward resolving further-reaching interstate commercial antagonisms. When the convention failed for lack of attendance due to suspicions among most of the other states, the Annapolis delegates called for a convention to offer revisions to the Articles, to be held the next spring in Philadelphia. Prospects for the next convention appeared bleak until James Madison and Edmund Randolph succeeded in securing George Washington's attendance to Philadelphia as a delegate for Virginia.
When the Constitutional Convention convened in May 1787, the 12 state delegations in attendance (Rhode Island did not send delegates) brought with them an accumulated experience over a diverse set of institutional arrangements between legislative and executive branches from within their respective state governments. Most states maintained a weak executive without veto or appointment powers, elected annually by the legislature to a single term only, sharing power with an executive council, and countered by a strong legislature. New York offered the greatest exception, having a strong, unitary governor with veto and appointment power elected to a three-year term, and eligible for reelection to an indefinite number of terms thereafter. It was through the closed-door negotiations at Philadelphia that the presidency framed in the U.S. Constitution emerged.
Powers and duties
Article I legislative role
The first power the Constitution confers upon the president is the veto. The Presentment Clause requires any bill passed by Congress to be presented to the president before it can become law. Once the legislation has been presented, the president has three options:
- Sign the legislation; the bill then becomes law.
- Veto the legislation and return it to Congress, expressing any objections; the bill does not become law, unless each house of Congress votes to override the veto by a two-thirds vote.
- Take no action. In this instance, the president neither signs nor vetoes the legislation. After 10 days, not counting Sundays, two possible outcomes emerge:
- If Congress is still convened, the bill becomes law.
- If Congress has adjourned, thus preventing the return of the legislation, the bill does not become law. This latter outcome is known as the pocket veto.
In 1996, Congress attempted to enhance the president's veto power with the Line Item Veto Act. The legislation empowered the president to sign any spending bill into law while simultaneously striking certain spending items within the bill, particularly any new spending, any amount of discretionary spending, or any new limited tax benefit. Congress could then repass that particular item. If the president then vetoed the new legislation, Congress could override the veto by its ordinary means, a two-thirds vote in both houses. In Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. (1998), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such a legislative alteration of the veto power to be unconstitutional.
Article II executive powers
War and foreign affairs powers
Perhaps the most important of all presidential powers is the command of the United States Armed Forces as its commander-in-chief. While the power to declare war is constitutionally vested in Congress, the president has ultimate responsibility for direction and disposition of the military. The present-day operational command of the Armed Forces (belonging to the Department of Defense) is normally exercised through the Secretary of Defense, with assistance of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Combatant Commands, as outlined in the presidentially approved Unified Command Plan (UCP). The framers of the Constitution took care to limit the president's powers regarding the military; Alexander Hamilton explains this in Federalist No. 69:
The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. ... It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces ... while that [the power] of the British king extends to the DECLARING of war and to the RAISING and REGULATING of fleets and armies, all [of] which ... would appertain to the legislature. [Emphasis in the original.]
Congress, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, must authorize any troop deployments longer than 60 days, although that process relies on triggering mechanisms that have never been employed, rendering it ineffectual. Additionally, Congress provides a check to presidential military power through its control over military spending and regulation. While historically presidents initiated the process for going to war, critics have charged that there have been several conflicts in which presidents did not get official declarations, including Theodore Roosevelt's military move into Panama in 1903, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the invasions of Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1990.
Along with the armed forces, the president also directs U.S. foreign policy. Through the Department of State and the Department of Defense, the president is responsible for the protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals in the United States. The president decides whether to recognize new nations and new governments, and negotiates treaties with other nations, which become binding on the United States when approved by two-thirds vote of the Senate.
Although not constitutionally provided, presidents also sometimes employ "executive agreements" in foreign relations. These agreements frequently regard administrative policy choices germane to executive power; for example, the extent to which either country presents an armed presence in a given area, how each country will enforce copyright treaties, or how each country will process foreign mail. However, the 20th century witnessed a vast expansion of the use of executive agreements, and critics have challenged the extent of that use as supplanting the treaty process and removing constitutionally prescribed checks and balances over the executive in foreign relations. Supporters counter that the agreements offer a pragmatic solution when the need for swift, secret, and/or concerted action arises.
The president is the head of the executive branch of the federal government and is constitutionally obligated to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." The executive branch has over four million employees, including members of the military.
Presidents make numerous executive branch appointments: an incoming president may make up to 6,000 before taking office and 8,000 more while serving. Ambassadors, members of the Cabinet, and other federal officers, are all appointed by a president with the "advice and consent" of a majority of the Senate. When the Senate is in recess for at least ten days, the president may make recess appointments. Recess appointments are temporary and expire at the end of the next session of the Senate.
The power of a president to fire executive officials has long been a contentious political issue. Generally, a president may remove purely executive officials at will. However, Congress can curtail and constrain a president's authority to fire commissioners of independent regulatory agencies and certain inferior executive officers by statute.
The president additionally possesses the ability to direct much of the executive branch through executive orders that are grounded in federal law or constitutionally granted executive power. Executive orders are reviewable by federal courts and can be superseded by federal legislation.
To manage the growing federal bureaucracy, Presidents have gradually surrounded themselves with many layers of staff, who were eventually organized into the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Within the Executive Office, the President's innermost layer of aides (and their assistants) are located in the White House Office.
The president also has the power to nominate federal judges, including members of the United States courts of appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. However, these nominations do require Senate confirmation. Securing Senate approval can provide a major obstacle for presidents who wish to orient the federal judiciary toward a particular ideological stance. When nominating judges to U.S. district courts, presidents often respect the long-standing tradition of Senatorial courtesy. Presidents may also grant pardons and reprieves, as is often done just before the end of a presidential term, not without controversy.
Historically, two doctrines concerning executive power have developed that enable the president to exercise executive power with a degree of autonomy. The first is executive privilege, which allows the president to withhold from disclosure any communications made directly to the president in the performance of executive duties. George Washington first claimed privilege when Congress requested to see Chief Justice John Jay's notes from an unpopular treaty negotiation with Great Britain. While not enshrined in the Constitution, or any other law, Washington's action created the precedent for the privilege. When Richard Nixon tried to use executive privilege as a reason for not turning over subpoenaed evidence to Congress during the Watergate scandal, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. (1974), that executive privilege did not apply in cases where a president was attempting to avoid criminal prosecution. When President Bill Clinton attempted to use executive privilege regarding the Lewinsky scandal, the Supreme Court ruled in Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. (1997), that the privilege also could not be used in civil suits. These cases established the legal precedent that executive privilege is valid, although the exact extent of the privilege has yet to be clearly defined. Additionally, federal courts have allowed this privilege to radiate outward and protect other executive branch employees, but have weakened that protection for those executive branch communications that do not involve the president.
The state secrets privilege allows the president and the executive branch to withhold information or documents from discovery in legal proceedings if such release would harm national security. Precedent for the privilege arose early in the 19th century when Thomas Jefferson refused to release military documents in the treason trial of Aaron Burr and again in Totten v. United States 92 U.S. (1876), when the Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by a former Union spy. However, the privilege was not formally recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court until United States v. Reynolds 345 U.S. (1953), where it was held to be a common law evidentiary privilege. Before the September 11 attacks, use of the privilege had been rare, but increasing in frequency. Since 2001, the government has asserted the privilege in more cases and at earlier stages of the litigation, thus in some instances causing dismissal of the suits before reaching the merits of the claims, as in the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. Critics of the privilege claim its use has become a tool for the government to cover up illegal or embarrassing government actions.
The Constitution's Ineligibility Clause prevents the President (and all other executive officers) from simultaneously being a member of Congress. Therefore, the president cannot directly introduce legislative proposals for consideration in Congress. However, the president can take an indirect role in shaping legislation, especially if the president's political party has a majority in one or both houses of Congress. For example, the president or other officials of the executive branch may draft legislation and then ask senators or representatives to introduce these drafts into Congress. The president can further influence the legislative branch through constitutionally mandated, periodic reports to Congress. These reports may be either written or oral, but today are given as the State of the Union address, which often outlines the president's legislative proposals for the coming year. Additionally, the president may attempt to have Congress alter proposed legislation by threatening to veto that legislation unless requested changes are made.
In the 20th century critics began charging that too many legislative and budgetary powers have slid into the hands of presidents that should belong to Congress. As the head of the executive branch, presidents control a vast array of agencies that can issue regulations with little oversight from Congress. One critic charged that presidents could appoint a "virtual army of 'czars' – each wholly unaccountable to Congress yet tasked with spearheading major policy efforts for the White House." Presidents have been criticized for making signing statements when signing congressional legislation about how they understand a bill or plan to execute it. This practice has been criticized by the American Bar Association as unconstitutional. Conservative commentator George Will wrote of an "increasingly swollen executive branch" and "the eclipse of Congress."
According to Article II, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution, the president may convene either or both houses of Congress. If both houses cannot agree on a date of adjournment, the president may appoint a date for Congress to adjourn.
As head of state, the president can fulfill traditions established by previous presidents. William Howard Taft started the tradition of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in 1910 at Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C., on the Washington Senators' Opening Day. Every president since Taft, except for Jimmy Carter, threw out at least one ceremonial first ball or pitch for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series, usually with much fanfare.
Other presidential traditions are associated with American holidays. Rutherford B. Hayes began in 1878 the first White House egg rolling for local children. Beginning in 1947 during the Harry S. Truman administration, every Thanksgiving the president is presented with a live domestic turkey during the annual national thanksgiving turkey presentation held at the White House. Since 1989, when the custom of "pardoning" the turkey was formalized by George H. W. Bush, the turkey has been taken to a farm where it will live out the rest of its natural life.
Presidential traditions also involve the president's role as head of government. Many outgoing presidents since James Buchanan traditionally give advice to their successor during the presidential transition. Ronald Reagan and his successors have also left a private message on the desk of the Oval Office on Inauguration Day for the incoming president.
During a state visit by a foreign head of state, the president typically hosts a State Arrival Ceremony held on the South Lawn, a custom begun by John F. Kennedy in 1961. This is followed by a state dinner given by the president which is held in the State Dining Room later in the evening.
The modern presidency holds the president as one of the nation's premier celebrities. Some argue that images of the presidency have a tendency to be manipulated by administration public relations officials as well as by presidents themselves. One critic described the presidency as "propagandized leadership" which has a "mesmerizing power surrounding the office." Administration public relations managers staged carefully crafted photo-ops of smiling presidents with smiling crowds for television cameras. One critic wrote the image of John F. Kennedy was described as carefully framed "in rich detail" which "drew on the power of myth" regarding the incident of PT 109 and wrote that Kennedy understood how to use images to further his presidential ambitions. As a result, some political commentators have opined that American voters have unrealistic expectations of presidents: voters expect a president to "drive the economy, vanquish enemies, lead the free world, comfort tornado victims, heal the national soul and protect borrowers from hidden credit-card fees."
Critics of presidency's evolution
Most of the nation's Founding Fathers expected the Congress, which was the first branch of government described in the Constitution, to be the dominant branch of government; they did not expect a strong executive. However, presidential power has shifted over time, which has resulted in claims that the modern presidency has become too powerful, unchecked, unbalanced, and "monarchist" in nature. Critic Dana D. Nelson believes presidents over the past thirty years have worked towards "undivided presidential control of the executive branch and its agencies." She criticizes proponents of the unitary executive for expanding "the many existing uncheckable executive powers – such as executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements – that already allow presidents to enact a good deal of foreign and domestic policy without aid, interference or consent from Congress." Activist Bill Wilson opined that the expanded presidency was "the greatest threat ever to individual freedom and democratic rule."
- be a natural-born citizen of the United States;
- be at least thirty-five years old;
- be a resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.
The Twelfth Amendment precludes anyone ineligible to being the president from becoming the vice president.
A person who meets the above qualifications is still disqualified from holding the office of president under any of the following conditions:
- Under the Twenty-second Amendment, no person can be elected president more than twice. The amendment also specifies that if any eligible person serves as president or acting president for more than two years of a term for which some other eligible person was elected president, the former can only be elected president once. Scholars disagree over whether a person precluded by the Twenty-second Amendment to being elected president is also precluded to being vice president.
- Under Article I, Section 3, Clause 7, upon conviction in impeachment cases, the Senate has the option of disqualifying convicted individuals from holding federal office, including that of president.
- Under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, no person who swore an oath to support the Constitution, and later rebelled against the United States, can become president. However, this disqualification can be lifted by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress.
Campaigns and nomination
The modern presidential campaign begins before the primary elections, which the two major political parties use to clear the field of candidates before their national nominating conventions, where the most successful candidate is made the party's nominee for president. Typically, the party's presidential candidate chooses a vice presidential nominee, and this choice is rubber-stamped by the convention. The most common previous profession by U.S. presidents is lawyer.
Nominees participate in nationally televised debates, and while the debates are usually restricted to the Democratic and Republican nominees, third party candidates may be invited, such as Ross Perot in the 1992 debates. Nominees campaign across the country to explain their views, convince voters and solicit contributions. Much of the modern electoral process is concerned with winning swing states through frequent visits and mass media advertising drives.
Election and oath
The president is elected indirectly. A number of electors, collectively known as the Electoral College, officially select the president. On Election Day, voters in each of the states and the District of Columbia cast ballots for these electors. Each state is allocated a number of electors, equal to the size of its delegation in both Houses of Congress combined. Generally, the ticket that wins the most votes in a state wins all of that state's electoral votes and thus has its slate of electors chosen to vote in the Electoral College.
The winning slate of electors meet at its state's capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, about six weeks after the election, to vote. They then send a record of that vote to Congress. The vote of the electors is opened by the sitting vice president—acting in that role's capacity as President of the Senate—and read aloud to a joint session of the incoming Congress, which was elected at the same time as the president.
Pursuant to the Twentieth Amendment, the president's term of office begins at noon on January 20 of the year following the election. This date, known as Inauguration Day, marks the beginning of the four-year terms of both the president and the vice president. Before executing the powers of the office, a president is constitutionally required to take the presidential oath:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Although not required, presidents have traditionally palmed a Bible while swearing the oath and have added, "So help me God!" to the end of the oath. Further, although the oath may be administered by any person authorized by law to administer oaths, presidents are traditionally sworn in by the Chief Justice of the United States.
Tenure and term limits
The term of office for president and vice president is four years. George Washington, the first president, set an unofficial precedent of serving only two terms, which subsequent presidents followed until 1940. Before Franklin D. Roosevelt, attempts at a third term were encouraged by supporters of Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt; neither of these attempts succeeded. In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt declined to seek a third term, but allowed his political party to "draft" him as its presidential candidate and was subsequently elected to a third term. In 1941, the United States entered World War II, leading voters to elect Roosevelt to a fourth term in 1944. But Roosevelt died only 82 days after taking office for the fourth term on 12 April 1945.
After the war, and in response to Roosevelt being elected to third and fourth terms, the Twenty-second Amendment was adopted. The amendment bars anyone from being elected president more than twice, or once if that person served more than half of another president's term. Harry S. Truman, president when this amendment was adopted, was exempted from its limitations and briefly sought a third (a second full) term before withdrawing from the 1952 election.
Since the amendment's adoption, four presidents have served two full terms: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Barack Obama has been elected to a second term, and will complete his term on 20 January 2017, if he does not die or resign before that date. Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush sought a second term, but were defeated. Richard Nixon was elected to a second term, but resigned before completing it. Lyndon B. Johnson was the only president under the amendment to be eligible to serve more than two terms in total, having served for only fourteen months following John F. Kennedy's assassination. However, Johnson withdrew from the 1968 Democratic Primary, surprising many Americans. Gerald Ford sought a full term, after serving out the last two years and five months of Nixon's second term, but was not elected.
Vacancy or disability
Vacancies in the office of President may arise under several possible circumstances: death, resignation and removal from office.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution allows the House of Representatives to impeach high federal officials, including the president, for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 gives the Senate the power to remove impeached officials from office, given a two-thirds vote to convict. The House has thus far impeached two presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither was subsequently convicted by the Senate; however, Johnson was acquitted by just one vote.
Under Section 3 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the president may transfer the presidential powers and duties to the vice president, who then becomes acting president, by transmitting a statement to the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate stating the reasons for the transfer. The president resumes the discharge of the presidential powers and duties upon transmitting, to those two officials, a written declaration stating that resumption. This transfer of power may occur for any reason the president considers appropriate; in 2002 and again in 2007, President George W. Bush briefly transferred presidential authority to Vice President Dick Cheney. In both cases, this was done to accommodate a medical procedure which required Bush to be sedated; both times, Bush returned to duty later the same day.
Under Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the vice president, in conjunction with a majority of the Cabinet, may transfer the presidential powers and duties from the president to the vice president by transmitting a written declaration to the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate that the president is unable to discharge the presidential powers and duties. If this occurs, then the vice president will assume the presidential powers and duties as acting president; however, the president can declare that no such inability exists and resume the discharge of the presidential powers and duties. If the vice president and Cabinet contest this claim, it is up to Congress, which must meet within two days if not already in session, to decide the merit of the claim.
The United States Constitution mentions the resignation of the president, but does not regulate its form or the conditions for its validity. Pursuant to federal law, the only valid evidence of the president's resignation is a written instrument to that effect, signed by the president and delivered to the office of the Secretary of State. This has only occurred once, when Richard Nixon delivered a letter to Henry Kissinger to that effect.
Section 1 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment states that the vice president becomes president upon the removal from office, death or resignation of the preceding president. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 provides that if the offices of President and Vice President are each either vacant or are held by a disabled person, the next officer in the presidential line of succession, the Speaker of the House, becomes acting president. The line then extends to the President pro tempore of the Senate, followed by every member of the Cabinet. These persons must fulfill all eligibility requirements of the office of President to be eligible to become acting president; ineligible individuals are skipped. There has never been a special election for the office of President.
|Date established||Salary||Salary in 2012|
|September 24, 1789||$25,000||$673,451|
|March 3, 1873||$50,000||$992,777|
|March 4, 1909||$75,000||$1,954,850|
|January 19, 1949||$100,000||$967,315|
|January 20, 1969||$200,000||$1,254,610|
|January 20, 2001||$400,000||$519,979|
Since 2001, the president has earned a $400,000 annual salary, along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment. The most recent raise in salary was approved by Congress and President Bill Clinton in 1999 and went into effect in 2001.
The White House in Washington, D.C., serves as the official place of residence for the president. As well as access to the White House staff, facilities available to the president include medical care, recreation, housekeeping, and security services. The government pays for state dinners and other official functions, but the president pays for personal, family and guest dry cleaning and food; the high food bill often amazes new residents. Naval Support Facility Thurmont, popularly known as Camp David, is a mountain-based military camp in Frederick County, Maryland, used as a country retreat and for high alert protection of the president and guests. Blair House, located next to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House Complex and Lafayette Park, is a complex of four connected townhouses exceeding 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2) of floor space which serves as the president's official guest house and as a secondary residence for the president if needed.
For ground travel, the president uses the presidential state car, which is an armored limousine built on a heavily modified Cadillac-based chassis. One of two identical Boeing VC-25 aircraft, which are extensively modified versions of Boeing 747-200B airliners, serve as long distance travel for the president and are referred to as Air Force One while the president is on board (although any U.S. Air Force aircraft the President is aboard is designated as "Air Force One" for the duration of the flight). In-country trips are typically handled with just one of the two planes while overseas trips are handled with both, one primary and one backup. Any civilian aircraft the President is aboard is designated Executive One for the flight. The president also has access to a fleet of thirty-five U.S. Marine Corps helicopters of varying models, designated Marine One when the president is aboard any particular one in the fleet. Flights are typically handled with as many as five helicopters all flying together and frequently swapping positions as to disguise which helicopter the President is actually aboard to any would-be threats.
The U.S. Secret Service is charged with protecting the sitting president and the first family. As part of their protection, presidents, first ladies, their children and other immediate family members, and other prominent persons and locations are assigned Secret Service codenames. The use of such names was originally for security purposes and dates to a time when sensitive electronic communications were not routinely encrypted; today, the names simply serve for purposes of brevity, clarity, and tradition.
Beginning in 1959, all living former presidents were granted a pension, an office, and a staff. The pension has increased numerous times with Congressional approval. Retired presidents now receive a pension based on the salary of the current administration's cabinet secretaries, which was $199,700 each year in 2012. Former presidents who served in Congress may also collect congressional pensions. The Former Presidents Act, as amended, also provides former presidents with travel funds and franking privileges. Prior to 1997, all former presidents, their spouses, and their children until age 16 were protected by the Secret Service until the president's death. In 1997, Congress passed legislation limiting secret service protection to no more than 10 years from the date a president leaves office. On January 10, 2013, President Obama signed legislation reinstating lifetime secret service protection for him, George W. Bush, and all subsequent presidents. A spouse who remarries is no longer eligible for secret service protection.
Some presidents have had significant careers after leaving office. Prominent examples include William Howard Taft's tenure as Chief Justice of the United States and Herbert Hoover's work on government reorganization after World War II. Grover Cleveland, whose bid for reelection failed in 1888, was elected president again four years later in 1892. Two former presidents served in Congress after leaving the White House: John Quincy Adams was elected to the House of Representatives, serving there for seventeen years, and Andrew Johnson returned to the Senate in 1875. John Tyler served in the provisional Congress of the Confederate States during the Civil War and was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, but died before that body first met.
Presidents may use their predecessors as emissaries to deliver private messages to other nations or as official representatives of the United States to state funerals and other important foreign events. Richard Nixon made multiple foreign trips to countries including China and Russia and was lauded as an elder statesman. Jimmy Carter has become a global human rights campaigner, international arbiter, and election monitor, as well as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Bill Clinton has also worked as an informal ambassador, most recently in the negotiations that led to the release of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, from North Korea. Clinton has also been active politically since his presidential term ended, working with his wife Hillary on her 2008 and 2016 presidential bids and President Obama on his reelection campaign.
Since Herbert Hoover, each president has created a repository known as a presidential library for preserving and making available his papers, records and other documents and materials. Completed libraries are deeded to and maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); the initial funding for building and equipping each library must come from private, non-federal sources. There are currently thirteen presidential libraries in the NARA system. There are also presidential libraries maintained by state governments and private foundations and Universities of Higher Education, such as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is run by the State of Illinois, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, which is run by Texas A&M University and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, which is run by the University of Texas at Austin.
As many presidents live for many years after leaving office, several of them have personally overseen the building and opening of their own presidential libraries, some even making arrangements for their own burial at the site. Several presidential libraries therefore contain the graves of the president they document, such as the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The graves are viewable by the general public visiting these libraries.
Timeline of Presidents
Lists relating to the United States presidency
- Presidency of George Washington
- Presidency of Thomas Jefferson
- Presidency of Andrew Jackson
- Presidency of Abraham Lincoln
- Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant
- Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt
- Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Timeline of the presidency of John F. Kennedy
- Presidency of Richard Nixon
- Presidency of Ronald Reagan
- Presidency of Bill Clinton
- George W. Bush's first term as President of the United States
- George W. Bush's second term as President of the United States
- Presidency of Barack Obama
- Curse of Tippecanoe
- Executive Office of the President of the United States
- Imperial Presidency
- The Imperial Presidency
- Imperiled presidency
- President of the Continental Congress
- Presidential $1 Coin Program
- Second-term curse
- United States presidential line of succession in fiction
- Vice President of the United States
- White House Office