The position of the President of the United States has long been regarded as the pinnacle of executive power, yet its limits and vulnerabilities have been increasingly scrutinized in recent years. This paper delves into the dynamics of presidential power, exploring historical case studies and the influence of big tech. A particular focus is on the events surrounding the presidency of Donald J. Trump, including General Mike Milley's reported readiness to intervene militarily and the unprecedented silencing of a sitting president by tech companies.
Presidential Power and Its Limits: The Case of General Mike Milley
Historically, the president's authority as the commander-in-chief has been considered nearly absolute. However, during the Trump administration, questions arose about the capacity of other figures, such as General Mike Milley, to intervene in military actions. According to Woodward and Costa's book "Peril" (2021), Milley was prepared to circumvent the president's orders if he deemed them dangerous. This instance reveals the latent checks and balances within the executive branch, particularly in the context of national security, demonstrating the potential limitations of presidential authority in extreme scenarios.
Stripping Presidential Powers: A Historical Overview
The power of the presidency, while vast, is not without checks and balances. In the Watergate Scandal of the 1970s, President Richard Nixon was forced to resign due to impeachment proceedings, demonstrating the potential for Congress to check presidential power. The impeachment trials of Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump further exemplify this mechanism.
More recently, Trump's attempts to use executive orders to circumvent Congress on issues like the border wall funding and immigration policy were met with significant judicial resistance, further highlighting the judiciary's role as a check on executive authority.
The Power of Big Tech: Silencing the President
The advent of social media has provided an unprecedented platform for political communication. Yet, this has also led to new dynamics in the balance of power. In early 2021, after the Capitol Hill riots, social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook suspended Trump's accounts, effectively silencing him. This was a significant event, marking the first time a sitting U.S. President had been de-platformed.
This act by big tech highlighted their ability to influence political discourse and raised questions about their power relative to the state. Meanwhile, figures like Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, continued to maintain their social media presence, further fueling debates on the neutrality and consistency of tech companies' content moderation policies.
The power of the U.S. President is vast but not unlimited. History has shown that other actors within the political system, such as Congress, the judiciary, and even military officials, can exert significant checks on presidential authority. Furthermore, the rise of big tech has introduced a new player capable of influencing presidential communication. While the balance of power continues to evolve, these case studies illustrate the complex dynamics at play in the exercise and limitation of presidential power.
Future research should delve deeper into the implications of these limitations and explore potential reforms to ensure a balanced and functioning democracy. In addition, the role of big tech in politics merits further scrutiny, given its potential to reshape the landscape of political communication and power.