Politicians and Leaders

Politicians are interested in power and positions and all the entitlements that go with it for self-serving reasons. Leaders are interested in developing and emancipating their people. Politicians mix lies with truths leaving the people confused. Leaders build friends based on competence, shared visions and values. Leaders make good neighbors.

2. The Vice President

The Vice President serves as an important senior adviser on domestic and foreign policy. The role has also evolved since the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter gave Walter Mondale an office in the White House and brought him into the inner circle of the administration as a trusted advisor. Many of the Vice Presidents who followed him took on executive tasks, traveling as presidential emissaries and serving as chairmen of task forces, commissions, and councils.

For example, Dick Cheney had extraordinary influence on the administration’s national security policies during the George W. Bush administration, and he was a regular participant in NSC principals meetings and lower-level interagency forums.

Some Presidents, like Garret Hobart, Martin Van Buren, and Richard Nixon, have a close relationship with their VPs and often listen to their advice; others keep a cooler relationship with their running mates and tend to push them aside. Regardless of their constitutionally defined powers, contemporary Vice Presidents are highly influential policymakers.

3. The Speaker of the House

The Speaker of the House holds one of the most powerful jobs in Congress. He serves as the institution’s presiding officer and administrative head while leading the majority party in the House. Speakers are responsible for airing and defending their party’s legislative agenda.

They also enact legislation, oversee nonlegislative House activities and serve on a number of boards and commissions. The Speaker, or his designee, appoints Members to conference committees and often serves as the formal recipient of reports and other communications from government agencies, boards and commissions.

The Speaker has the power to recognize Members to speak on the House floor, make rules decisions and administer oaths to newly elected Members. Despite their powerful positions, Speakers are elected as Members of the House and have the same rights and responsibilities as other Members. They may debate and vote but are required to abstain from voting on certain institutional business. By tradition, Speakers do not serve on a standing House committee.

4. The Senate

The Senate is the upper chamber of Congress, and each state gets two senators. The Senate, which is part of the Legislative branch of government, has many responsibilities, including proposing legislation, amending bills, voting on treaties and impeachment proceedings against high officials.

The president and vice president serve as the “presiding officers” of the Senate, but other non-member officers also run the day-to-day operations of the body. The presiding officer carries out certain powers, such as calling on senators to speak, ruling on points of order (challenges by senators that a rule has been violated) and announcing the results of votes.

At the Constitutional Convention, delegates discussed how to structure the Senate. Most agreed that it should be a smaller body than the House of Representatives, but debate over how small and how members should be selected raged on. John Dickinson of Delaware favored state selection, arguing that it would prevent the formation of a national party and keep the nation from growing too large. James Madison of Virginia, however, argued that long terms of seven years were necessary for the body to achieve “coolness, system, & wisdom” in governing.

Delve deeper into the text

Values Shaping Political Behavior
The Influence of Business on Politics: Strategies for Quiet Power

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