How much credit/blame to presidents REALLY deserve?

A few common conceptions:

FDR gets credit/takes for ending the depression.
LBJ gets blamed for escalating the Vietnam war.
Nixon gets credit/takes for opening up China.
Carter gets blame for the economic downturn of the late 70’s.
Reagan gets/takes credit for bankrupting the Soviet union, thus ending the cold war.
Clinton takes credit for the boomin’ 90’s.

When one considers all the variables (including Congress, other nations’ policies, etc.), how much blame and/or credit do Presidents really deserve, or are they mostly just in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time?

Well, at least my first attempt at UBB codes worked (note the italicized “really”), but my editing sucked. Those examples should read:

gets/takes credit, not

gets credit/takes.

Oh, well. I’m a morning person.

The American people often find it easy to blame a president for the nation’s troubles and give him credit for sucess. This is most likely because he has the largest influence that a single person in the government can have. So it is easy to single out the President’s influence than, say, members of Congress or a Supreme Court Justice.

An exception, IMO
FDR ending the Depression: He played a large part but also failed on many tries (I’ll break out the history book when I’m back in school mode) It could also be said that Hitler ended it by starting WWII (but that is another topic, possibly another GD?)

We must blame them and cause a fuss before somebody thinks of blaming us.
Sheila Broflofski

It’s like asking why the head coach gets fired when the QB leads th league in interceptions.

We always praise leaders too much and condemn them too strongly, even when there are many people around them (and in a lot of cases, dumb luck) that ontributes to success and failures.

It may not be right, but it’s human nature, and dare I say that anyone who runs for president (or wants to be an NFL coach) realizes this before they get into that situation.

Yer pal,

I love sports analogies! Very succinctly put, although a coach does have more direct control over a team than the Prez has over the nation. (I still don’t think Jerry Jones shoulda fired Chan, though, but I digress…) But you’re both right.

Perhaps a better (and more attractive) way to have phrased the title of this thread would’ve been: “C’mon… does it really matter who the next President is?” Would Bush have done Kosovo differently? Probably not. And so on.

The president has to matter somewhat. First of all, he has the veto power, and not many bills can override a presidential veto. That being said, the President’s views are seen by congress as a test as to which way the public is leaning. Notice that all of the steam left the Republican congress after Clinton was re-elected.

“The large print givith, and the small print taketh away.”
Tom Waites, “Step Right Up”

A president’s ‘results’ should be tested against his potential, as set forth in the Constitution. To understand what a President is actually capable of doing, read Article II of the Constitution, wherein his powers and limitations are listed.

For a good place to read the Constitution, go to this link:

You will quickly note there aren’t too many things he CAN do. He is Commander in Chief. He can grant pardons and reprieves. He can make treaties (subject to advice and consent of the Senate). He appoints (again, with advice and consent) ambassadors, ministers and judges. He fills vacant Senate seats. He is required to let the Congress know the ‘state of the union’ ‘from time to time.’

Oh, yeah. He has the executive power of the country and shall see that the laws of the land are faithfully executed. Kind of a big catch-all. :wink:
I always love elections for president, because all the candidates trot out these very impressive sounding plans for governing the country, all of which assume that they can get the Congress to do what they wish, which it RARELY ever does. No president EVER enacts a tax cut; Congress does that. All the president can do is veto bad laws.
So, when you are measuring a past president, or thinking about voting for a new one, remember: he makes foreign policy (but suffers the power of Congress to screw it up with tariffs and duties, etc.), he commands the troops (subject to Congress enacting laws that limit his ability to use them abroad), he appoints judges, and he administrates the laws Congress adopts. When Clinton makes a new National Monument, which requires no help from Congress, THEN he is being presidential. When Bradley promises health-insurance for all, he’s blowing it out his wazoo. :wink: