The Public Presidency

Summary

Despite the obvious fact that the president is the head of state, the U.S. Constitution actually empowers the occupant of the White House with very little authority. Apart from the president’s war powers, the office holder’s real advantage is the ability to speak to the nation with one voice. Technological changes in the twentieth century have greatly expanded the power of the presidential bully pulpit. The twentieth century also saw a string of more public first ladies. Women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson greatly expanded the power of the first lady’s role, although first ladies who have undertaken more nontraditional roles have encountered significant criticism.