President of the United States

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President of the United States of America
Official Portrait of President Joe Biden
Acting President
Joe Biden
since January 20, 2021
Official seat White House
Term of office 4 years
Creation of office March 4, 1789
Last choice 3rd November 2020
Next choice November 5, 2024
Salutation The Honorable (formal)
Mr. President (informal)
His Excellency (in diplomatic correspondence)
Deputy US Vice President
Official List of Presidents of the United States

The President of the United States of America ( English officially President of the United States of America , acronym POTUS ) is an office in the United States of America . The official is head of state , head of government and commander in chief of the armed forces in one person . An electoral term is four years; re-election is only permitted once. The current incumbent and 46th president since January 20, 2021 is Joe Biden .

The president is elected indirectly: Citizens in each state elect electors for an electoral college. This then chooses a candidate. If no candidate wins a majority in the electoral college, the House of Representatives decides as it did in the 1800 and 1824 presidential elections . A vice-president is elected at the same time as the president. According to the constitution, his only task is to chair the Senate. However, if a president terminates his office prematurely (for example by resigning), then the vice-president becomes the new president for the remainder of the term.

The President appoints ministers ( English secretaries ) who together with him form the government. They require confirmation by the Senate. It is similar with the highest judges: If a judge's position becomes vacant, the incumbent president occupies the office with confirmation by the Senate.

Constitutional position

The position of the President is described in Article II of the Constitution . The 12th , 20th , 22nd , 23rd and 25th amendments to the Constitution contain provisions on his election and term of office .

The president is head of state , head of government and commander-in-chief at the same time. He embodies the executive, the executive power of the American federal level. The President is controlled by Congress (legislature, parliament) and the federal courts (judiciary).

In accordance with the idea of ​​the separation of powers , the President may therefore not be a member of Congress or a federal court. However, the areas are not completely separated from one another. For example, the President can temporarily prevent individual Congress resolutions through his veto (see below ) and also appoints all federal judges, even if only with the approval of the Senate. The principle of checks and balances applies, i.e. control and compensation, so that none of the state organs becomes overpowering.

The presidential directives Executive Order and Presidential Proclamation are not included in the American Constitution, but recognized as legal practice .

Head of state

Seal of the President on half dollar coin

As the head of state of the United States, the president holds the highest office of state . He signs treaties on behalf of the United States that must be ratified by the Senate by a two-thirds majority ; he sends - with the consent of the Senate - diplomats from the United States and officially receives envoys from other states.

He appoints - again with the consent of the Senate - the judges of the federal courts, in particular the judges of the Supreme Court , and all other federal officials. The chief judges are appointed for life.

The power to appoint the other federal officials has been delegated by Congress except for the most important positions. If the Senate is not in session, the President can appoint a person, even if this would require Senate approval ( Recess Appointment ). This appointment is only valid until the end of the respective session of the Senate.

The president has the right to pardon at the federal level . He can pardon convicted offenders as well as grant a pardon before a judgment is made. Acceptance of the pardon by the accused is considered an admission of guilt. Some presidents still grant many pardons shortly before the end of their term in office, for example Bill Clinton pardoned more than 100 offenders, including Patty Hearst and his half-brother Roger Clinton , on the last day of his presidency.

The United States was one of the first modern democracies to use the term “ president ” (instead of a monarch ) for the head of state. Almost all Republican states have since adopted this official title based on the American model.

Head of government

President Harry S. Truman's cabinet in session in August 1945

The President is also the head of government of the United States: he leads the cabinet he has appointed with the approval of the Senate .

At the same time, the president has other important political advisors who do not belong to the cabinet and are grouped together in the executive office . The president has full policy authority in the cabinet, as he can dismiss a minister ( secretary ) at any time. The President shall from time to time report to Congress on the State of the Union. This usually happens in the annual State of the Union Address .

Commander in chief

The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and also of the national guard of the federal states , if they are on duty for the federal government. Although the right to declare war under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution belongs to the Congress, the President can independently issue almost all orders to the troops, provided that he maintains certain parliamentary control rights and does not formally declare war.

The National Command Authority (NCA), which is formed jointly by the President and the Minister of Defense, decides on the use of nuclear weapons . Both have to vote independently for a mission, so each of the two has a right of veto.

Cooperation with the Congress

President Gerald Ford while signing a law (1976)

The President is not elected by Congress and cannot be dismissed by it. Conversely, premature dissolution of one of the two chambers is not provided for in the constitution, so that the president cannot influence its composition.

Often times the president belongs to a different party than the majority of MPs in at least one of the two houses of Congress. In such a case one speaks of a divided government . Since the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are elected every two years, this situation can arise even in the middle of the president's term in office.

Although in principle independent from the Congress and equipped with some executive leeway, the President is nevertheless usually keen to support the Congress, as it supports the government as an essential part of the legislative legislative projects and, among other things. must also approve the funds for the federal authorities. Without this support, the president's room for maneuver is severely limited. If funds are lacking for the federal authorities, in extreme cases a so-called government shutdown can occur, in which the employees of the federal authorities no longer receive any wages (and then usually stop their work). In practice, almost every president is dependent, at least in part of his term of office, on finding a non-partisan consensus in order to be able to govern.

As the embodiment of the executive, the president has no formal possibility of submitting bills to Congress. In practice, therefore, draft bills sponsored by the President are introduced to the competent chamber by members who are close to the President. In addition, the president can use informal influence, including his speech on the state of the nation , to try to steer decisions of the Congress in the direction he wishes.

If he does not agree with the line of Congress at all, he can veto a law that Congress can only reject with a two-thirds majority in both chambers. In the case of a veto, the president is restricted to accepting or rejecting a law as a whole: a so-called line item veto , which enables individual sections of a law to be rejected, is not provided. An attempt in 1996 to give the president the right to a line-item veto by law was declared unconstitutional two years later by the Supreme Court. So a constitutional amendment is needed to make this possible.

Election, transition and introduction to office

The election of the president is relatively complicated. Usually, interested parties introduce themselves to the public one to two years before election day. In the winter of the election year, the so-called primaries, organized by the parties ( primaries , there are different formats), begin . Via their party's primary elections, the candidates will receive electors who will then vote at election party conventions in the summer on who should become the party's presidential candidate. Usually, however, it is clear long before the party congress who will have the most electorate.

On election day in November of the election year, American citizens elect a presidential candidate and, using the same ballot paper, the corresponding candidate for the vice presidency. This will determine who has received the most votes in the state in each state. In most states this candidate gets all the electors (electors) of the state concerned. The electoral college then officially determines the president. This choice will later be confirmed in Congress (in both Houses of Parliament).


In order to be eligible for election , a candidate must have the right to stand as a candidate, i.e. he must neither be a prisoner nor have he lost his right to vote through incapacitation , impeachment proceedings or in any other way. The minimum age is 35 years and a candidate must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.

He must either have been a citizen of the USA at the time the constitution was ratified, which was the case for the first nine presidents, or be a natural born citizen of the USA. The latter requirement is not entirely clear, so when John McCain was running, there was a debate as to whether he would comply, as he was born in the Panama Canal Zone , which was then under the control of the USA . The prevailing view now is that anyone who has acquired citizenship of the United States by birth is a natural born citizen .

The Fourteenth Amendment , ratified in 1868, excludes former officers, civil servants, or elected incumbents from public office if they were involved in a rebellion against the United States or if they supported its enemies. Congress has the right to admit such applicants anyway with a two-thirds majority. In 1898, all persons who had previously been affected by the exclusion rule of the 14th additional article were admitted again.

Since 1951, the 22nd Amendment has limited the term of office by stipulating that no one may be elected president more than twice, regardless of whether the terms are consecutive or not. A vice-president who advances to this office due to the premature resignation of the president may only stand for election twice if there are no more than two years left of the term of office of the original official. A regularly elected president can therefore hold office for a maximum of eight years, while a vice president who has not been elected can theoretically remain in office for up to ten years.

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution stipulates that no one may be elected Vice President who does not meet the requirements for being elected President. As a result, a president who has already been elected twice cannot reach the office of president again via the detour as vice-president. The successor to the President of the United States in the current legal regulation also excludes persons who do not meet the requirements to be elected President, so that a move up as Acting President is also excluded.

In particular, the requirement that the president must be a native of the United States is being questioned, as immigrants make up a large part of the population. The background to the regulation was originally the desire to keep colonial British people away from the presidency. Born in Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger , governor of California from 2003 to 2011 , was considered to be one of the best-known candidates in the event of this regulation being repealed, which would, however, require a constitutional amendment.


Big parties

Each presidential candidate from the two major parties, the Democrats and Republicans , is formally elected at their convention , which is held in the summer before the election. The delegates of a party for this congress are in primary elections ( primaries determined), which are carried out from January to about July of the election year.

While an incumbent and resigning president is usually nominated again by his party without being contested, the selection process in the challenger's party is much more exciting. The delegate mandates are awarded according to the population size in the individual states. This means that victory in several large states, combined with the fact that the candidate receives all the delegate votes for the state, can already mean the party nomination for a candidate. That is why election campaigns are already being carried out at great expense in these primaries. Funding is mainly done through donations.

The rules of the primaries are very complex and vary in each state and also between parties. They are also modified with each election.

There are essentially two types of area code:

  1. Caucus : Some states have a caucus . Local assemblies are held at which advocates for the respective candidates promote them. Then votes are counted, often in several rounds, in each of which the weakest candidate is eliminated and his supporters can commit to one of the other candidates. The total vote result then results from the votes of these assemblies.
  2. In contrast, with a primary, a code is carried out in which registered voters can participate. This format is used in most countries.

Who is allowed to take part in the caucuses or primaries is also different. Some of the votes are open to all citizens, others only for voters who have registered for the respective party. In some states, there are hybrid forms in which registered voters who have not given a party preference are also allowed to participate.

In the case of the Democrats, the allocation of delegates is essentially proportional to the election result. The winner-take-all principle was common among the Republicans until 2012. I.e. here the candidate with the most votes received all the state delegates. In 2016, this was only allowed for the later primaries. However, models are still common in which the candidate with the most votes e.g. B. in each case receives the majority of the delegates.

The national party lays down inter alia established a framework for the calendar of the primaries, as many states have an interest in setting an election date as early as possible in order to still play a role in the fight for the nomination. Traditionally, the primaries begin with the caucuses in Iowa and the primaries in New Hampshire . In some cases, in which the local branch of the respective party did not adhere to these rules and the area code z. B. terminated too early, this was punished by the national party with the withdrawal of some or all of the delegates at the party congress. Usually around the beginning of March there is a Tuesday known as Super Tuesday , on which the largest number of states hold primary elections at the same time and which is therefore often seen as the decisive stage for the nomination.

In practice, never all of the declared candidates take part in the entire pre-election season. It is rather the case that candidates gradually give up who no longer see any chance of success. In the end, only the nominee- designate ( presumptive nominee ) and those candidates who remain in the race despite hopelessness or who withdrew their candidacy too late to be struck off the ballot papers in the later pre-election states. In rare cases, the fight for nominations lasts long - an example of this is the 2008 primaries, in which Hillary Clinton was head-to-head with Barack Obama and only gave up after all the primaries had been completed.

The delegates appointed in the primary elections are also obliged to vote for the candidate for whom they were elected, at least in the first ballot.

Another special feature of the party congress is that the inhabited outlying areas of the USA can also send some delegates and thus influence the nomination, even if they do not have the right to vote in the November elections. Both parties also have delegates who were not determined by the primary elections, but rather have voting rights at the party congress through their position as active politicians. The Democrats speak of so-called super delegates , who are so numerous that they could possibly reverse the election result from the primary elections. However, this system is to be reformed at the next party conference in 2018. The Republicans also have unattached delegates. However, these are significantly less numerous and play a less important role.

After the primaries have been completed, the relevant candidates are formally confirmed at major party conventions ( National Conventions ) of the respective parties. At the same time, the presidential candidate indicates whom he is nominating as a candidate for the vice-presidency . This candidate is also usually confirmed by the party congress.

Small parties

The larger of the smaller parties like the Libertarian Party or the Green Party also hold primaries to determine party congress delegates, but not in all states.

Also, unlike the large parties, the small parties are not guaranteed to be on the ballot in all states. You have to overcome the respective hurdles in each state. Very few parties manage to do this. In many countries there is also the possibility of "write-in", i. H. voters can enter a candidate of their choice in a free field.

In the last presidential election in 2016, only the Libertarian Party candidate could be elected without a write-in. The Green Party candidate was eligible for election in so many countries that she could have won without write-ins. All other candidates would have had to rely on write-in votes to win.

election day

The 44th President Barack Obama on Election Day on November 4, 2008

The election for president always takes place on the first Tuesday after November 1st, i.e. November 2nd to 8th, in a year that can be divided by four without remainder (1788, 1792, ..., 2016, 2020, 2024 etc. ). This day has the following background: On the one hand, the election should take place after the harvest. On the other hand, the polling stations should be able to be visited without having to go to church on Sundays. Since the polling stations were often far away in the early days, Tuesday appeared to be a sensible day to be able to reach the restaurants after going to church. Since the successor is regulated in the event of the resignation or death of the incumbent and no early election is planned, the elections have always been held in this rotation since the founding of the United States. A date towards the end of the year was chosen from the start. The current regulation has existed since 1845. Previously, the elections did not take place on the same day, but over a longer period from around the end of October to the beginning of December.

As a rule, only the two proposals from the two major parties have a chance of winning the election. Although the parties changed several times in the first 100 years of the existence of the USA, never before has one of the weaker parties achieved more than one respectable success.

Voters vote for one of the possible presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate tickets . When deciding who is elected president (and vice-president), however, it does not count who received the most votes nationwide. Rather, this decision is left to an electoral college, the so-called Electoral College . This consists of 538 people who are elected by voters in the individual states and in the federal district. This number corresponds to the total number of representatives in the House of Representatives (435) and the Senate (100) and three electors for the Washington, DC state, otherwise unrepresented in Congress

With the exception of the states of Nebraska and Maine , where a portion of the electors are elected individually by constituency by simple majority, all electors from a state will count on the proposal that received the most votes in that state. This means that a narrow victory in a state is enough to get all of that state's electoral votes. In addition, small states have a greater relative voting weight - for example, the most populous state of California (55 electoral votes) has 66.1 times the population of the poorest state Wyoming (3 electoral votes) according to the 2010 population census , but only 18.3 times the number of electoral votes.

Due to these peculiarities, it can happen that a presidential candidate has received more votes than his competitor, but still receives fewer electors and is therefore not elected. So far this has happened in the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016.

The obvious winner on election day will be dubbed President-elect (German: "elected president") until he begins his first term of office .

Presidency transition

If a new president has been elected, a change of government is prepared between the election and the inauguration. This became a political process in 1963 with the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 Pub.L. 88-277 introduced by law to ensure good governance upon the transfer of power . Various laws are designed to facilitate the President-elect 's induction into the office, and contain succession rules in the event that the electoral college cannot elect him .

Electoral College

Distribution of electors for the 2012 to 2020 presidential election

Largely unnoticed by the public, the electors of the states in the individual states meet in December after the election to vote: The 538-member electoral college never meets as such. The electors cast their votes for President and Vice-President separately. You are required to give the vote to the candidate on whose account you were elected; however, this is not guaranteed by the secret ballot or by very low penalties in case of non-compliance. For this reason it regularly happens that individual electors vote against the electoral mandate. However, such a faithless elector has never led to the other candidate being elected.

Until 1800, the president and vice-president were not elected separately, but the first place became president and the second vice-president. After the 1800 election resulted in a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr , that rule was changed by the 12th Amendment, which came into force in 1804 .

Counting and swearing in

See also: Presidential Election in the United States, Vote Counting

Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath on November 22, 1963, two hours after his predecessor, John F. Kennedy , was murdered. To the right of Johnson on board the presidential plane is Kennedy's widow .

At the beginning of January after the election, the votes of the electors in the 51 territorial units are then counted in a rare joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. This task falls to the President of the Senate, i.e. the Vice-President who is still in office. At the end of the count, he will announce who has been elected President and Vice President. If none of the candidates has an absolute majority of the electoral votes (i.e. 270), the House of Representatives elects the President and the Senate the Vice-President. A special voting mode applies in the House of Representatives. The representatives of a state have one vote in common, which they must give to one of the three candidates with the most votes in the electoral college. If they cannot agree, the state will not cast a vote. The candidate, who can unite the majority of states (currently 26) behind him, is elected president. In view of the mostly unambiguous dichotomy of the American party system, however, such a case has not occurred for around two hundred years. The last President to be elected by the House of Representatives was John Quincy Adams in 1824, after the election at that time did not produce a clear majority of the electoral vote. Until the 20th amendment was passed , this election took place in the outgoing Congress, since then the newly elected House of Representatives has been responsible. Since the District of Columbia is not a state and has only one non-voting MP in the House of Representatives, it loses its right to vote again in this electoral process

Finally, on January 20th following the election, first the Vice President and then the President will be sworn in at exactly 12 noon local time in the federal capital. There are therefore more than two months between the popular election in November and the swearing-in. This has the background that there are still electoral modalities and the elected (president-elect) still has to put together his government team. In earlier times, the sometimes long journeys took much longer than today, so up to and including 1933 the swearing-in took place on March 4th. With the 20th amendment to the constitution, the date was then moved to January 20th.

The oath reads:

"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."

"I solemnly swear (or: vow) that I will faithfully serve as President of the United States and that I will preserve, protect, and defend the United States Constitution to the best of my ability."

Traditionally, the president called for "I" his name, puts the oath on a Bible and adds the words "so help me God" ( "so help me God" ) added; But this is not part of the constitutionally prescribed oath .

Term of office

Presidents group picture dated November 4, 1991:  Gerald FordRichard NixonGeorge Bush Sr.Ronald Reagan  and  Jimmy Carter
President group picture dated January 7, 2009:  George Bush Sr.Barack ObamaGeorge W. BushBill Clinton  and  Jimmy Carter

The president's term of office is four years. It begins on January 20 at 12:00 p.m. and ends at the same time after four years. A president can serve a maximum of two terms (see below ). The term of office can end prematurely through resignation or death.

Succession in the event of premature termination of office

If the president leaves office prematurely, the vice-president becomes the new president immediately. His term of office ends with the original end of the predecessor's term of office. If the Vice President leaves office beforehand, the President can appoint a new Vice President in accordance with the 25th Amendment to the Constitution with the approval of the Senate and House of Representatives.

If there is still no Vice President at the time of the vacancy of the President, the Presidential Succession Act provides that the Speaker of the House of Representatives becomes Executive President. If this is also not available, the President pro tempore of the United States Senate and then the cabinet members are next in line.

Possibility of re-election

Before 1951 there were no formal restrictions on re-election. However, the first president, George Washington , had renounced a third term, which was kept as a tradition by almost all of his successors. Only Theodore Roosevelt , who ran (unsuccessfully) for a third term in 1912, and Franklin D. Roosevelt did not follow this tradition. The latter successfully ran for a third term in 1940 and a fourth in 1944; he died in office in April 1945. In 1947, the Congress initiated the constitutional amendment, which allows only one re-election. It went into effect as the 22nd amendment in 1951, when three-quarters of the states had given their consent, as required by the constitution. Since then, a president can only be re-elected once. It is irrelevant whether the previous terms of office followed one another or not.

However, it is still possible for a person to be president for more than eight years. If the president leaves office prematurely, the vice president becomes the new president and completes the four-year term of office of his predecessor. This Vice-President may stand for re-election if he has served less than two of the four years.

A person can therefore be president for a maximum of ten years: the two years that a vice president has served as a successor, and then two full terms of their own. In the worst case scenario, such a vice president can only be president for a little over six years:

  • President Lyndon B. Johnson could have run again in 1968. Johnson had served as Vice President under John F. Kennedy from 1961. After Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, Johnson served as president for less than two years. Then Johnson won in 1964 the election for a separate term (1965-1969). Johnson announced on March 31, 1968 that he would not run for the 1968 election.
  • It was different in the case of Gerald Ford . The term of office of his predecessor Richard Nixon would normally have lasted from 1973 to 1977. As early as August 1974, Nixon resigned and Ford became president. He then served for more than two years in that term. If Ford had won the 1976 election (he lost to Jimmy Carter ), he would not have been able to run in 1980.

It is controversial whether a person can extend their term of office in other ways. The wording of the constitutional amendment states that a person may not be elected to the office of President more than twice . However, it is possible to get into office in other ways. If a president leaves office prematurely, the vice-president becomes the successor. If this is not possible, the Speaker of the House of Representatives becomes the new President.

However, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution says: A person may only be a candidate for Vice-President if he is also allowed to hold the office of President. It could be logically concluded from this that a former president who is no longer allowed to serve as president is also not allowed to be a candidate for the vice-presidency. Such a vice-president could not replace the president if necessary. This interpretation is controversial, however, because one could argue that a vice president is not and does not have to become the president. Since no former president has run for vice-president so far, the question has not yet been reviewed by the highest court.

Hillary Clinton , who ran as a Democratic presidential candidate against Donald Trump in 2016 , said she had initially considered nominating her husband Bill Clinton as Vice President. Bill Clinton served as president from 1993 to 2001. She was advised against the plan because it was unconstitutional.

Premature end of office

The Congress may by impeachment relieve the President of his office (impeachment). The constitution cites treason , bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors as possible reasons for such proceedings . The latter term comes from English law and, at the time the Constitution was written, generally included abuse of office and misconduct in public office. If the House of Representatives has passed a resolution on impeachment by a simple majority, the Senate will pass a judgment following a judicial procedure - the President can be removed from office with a two-thirds majority.

In US history, three impeachment proceedings have been carried out against US presidents, all of which have failed: the proceedings against Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1999 and the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump in 2020 each ended with an acquittal. A clear majority was achieved at Johnson, but the two-thirds majority was just missed. In the case of Clinton and Trump, no simple majority was achieved in the Senate either. The second impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump began on January 6, 2021 after the violent storming of the Capitol in Washington , shortly before the regular end of his term of office.

In 1974 President Richard Nixon was under pressure because of the Watergate affair . However, there was no impeachment procedure. At that time, the responsible committee of the House of Representatives was already dealing with the question. There was a majority in favor of indictment. Nixon, however, anticipated a likely conviction by resigning.

The President can also be declared incapacitated. He can do this himself, after which the vice-president temporarily exercises the office until the president declares himself capable of office again. This has happened several times when the President underwent medical treatment that could potentially lead to temporary incapacity.

The vice-president and a majority of the cabinet can also declare the president incapacitated. You declare this in writing to the speaker of the house and the president pro tempore of the senate. The powers of the president then pass to the vice-president. The president can then declare that he is fit for office and that he can take over his powers after a four-day waiting period. If the Vice President and the majority of the Cabinet renew their declaration, Congress must decide within 21 days. The declaration of incapacity can then only be upheld by a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress.

The term of office of an executive president (see above) is also limited. The person remains in office until an elected president takes office (at most until the next election). If a managing president is in office due to a temporary incapacity of both the president and the vice-president, the term of office ends automatically as soon as one of the two is again capable of office. The 2-year rule for the Vice President applies accordingly to the Executive Presidents.

Rewards and privileges

The first president, George Washington, was an annual salary of 25,000 US dollars to which he did not accept as a wealthy man. Since 2001, the president has been paid $ 400,000 a year. Traditionally, the salary of the president, the highest official in the United States, has served as the upper limit to the pay of government employees. Therefore, in 2001, as the salaries of senior officials approached that of the president, the president's pay had to be increased in order to continue paying these officials according to this pattern.

After his election victory in autumn 2016, Donald Trump announced that he would forego a presidential salary after taking office and only symbolically accept one dollar a year, which he did after a great deal of pressure in the media. Before him, Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy had already donated their salaries.

Today's Presidents can live and work in the White House , but they will be billed for private use of the kitchen - unless it is an official state banquet. They can do whatever is necessary to carry out their duties aboard Air Force One and other means of transportation available to the President. In addition, the incumbent can use the president's country residence in Camp David , to which foreign dignitaries are often invited.

The President and his family are protected by the Secret Service at all times . This privilege is also available to all former presidents and their families until the president's death. From 1997 to 2013, this only applied for a maximum of ten years after leaving office.

In addition, there are privileges such as a free office, a diplomatic passport and budget for office help and assistants. However, presidents have only received a pension since 1958, after they left office. In 2020, the pension was $ 205,700 per year. Since Herbert Hoover's presidency (1929–1933), former presidents have regularly built up their own presidential library, which primarily serves to preserve and research the estates of the respective presidents. The Former Presidents Act , passed in 1958, forms the basis for claims after the presidency .

Official seat

The White House, the official residence of the President
The Oval Office , the President's study. Here during Jimmy Carter's tenure in 1978

The President has his traditional seat in the White House in Washington . The house, with the laying of the foundation stone in 1792, began the urban development of today's American capital, has been available to the American President and his family since 1800. It was destroyed in the British-American War in 1814 and rebuilt in 1819.

The Oval Office in the west wing of the White House, the office of the US President, is protected by extensive security measures. A bunker under the east wing of the White House, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center , protects the President and his staff in emergencies.

Protocol honors

The President of the United States does not have any other titles - the correct protocol salutation is simply The President or Mister President.

The question of which protocol honors and titles should be given to the President was one of the first questions that preoccupied the first Congress in the spring and summer of 1789. In particular, Vice President John Adams and the majority of senators were in favor of introducing titles. So a Senate committee suggested the salutation "His Highness the President of the United States of America, and Protector of Their Liberties" in front, and a common, but probably untrue, according to legend Washington to even the salutation "His high mightiness" ( "mightiness" , dt. mightiness / mightiness). However, the majority of the House of Representatives refused to introduce any title that was not provided for by the constitution, so that to this day the mere title is the correct form of address.

Hail to the Chief , played by the US Army Ceremonial Band

When the President makes public appearances - as stipulated by the Defense Ministry in 1952 - the melody, rarely the song " Hail to the Chief " , is heard as the presidential salute after four ruffles and flourishes (drum rolls and fanfares ) . Instead, the national anthem " The Star-Spangled Banner " can also be played.

Mode of Transport

The Air Force One is the primary plane of the President of the United States (in this case above the Mount Rushmore , 2001)

In order to be able to carry out official business while away from the official seat, the President can, among other things, fall back on two specially equipped Boeing VC-25A aircraft. They are popularly known as " Air Force One ". However, this designation is not firmly assigned to these two aircraft. Rather, every aircraft in the American air force is given the nickname " Air Force One " as soon as the President is on board. Marine Corps aircraft are given the nickname " Marine One ". This nickname is currently given to the helicopter which the President mainly uses for transport from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base (home airfield of the government aircraft). The army helicopter previously used for this purpose had the nickname " Army One ". " Navy One " and Coast Guard One are the corresponding nicknames for aircraft of the Navy and the Coast Guard. Navy One was first used when George W. Bush visited the aircraft carrier " USS Abraham Lincoln " in 2003 with a Navy jet aircraft. Coast Guard One has not yet been used. Executive One is the nickname for civil aircraft with the President on board.

The President has a 2006 version of the Cadillac DTS , unofficially known as the “ Cadillac One ”, as his official car . Ex-President Obama's Cadillac is also nicknamed "The Beast".



  • Gerald Ford served as President from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977, without ever being elected President or Vice President by the American people . President Richard Nixon had nominated Ford for the office of Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973 on allegations of corruption . Barely a year later, when Nixon himself resigned due to the Watergate affair , Ford moved up to the presidency. He ran for a second term in 1976 and lost that election to Democrat Jimmy Carter .
  • Ran the first woman in 1872 - long before women in the US at the federal level, the active suffrage had - Victoria Woodhull for the presidency. In 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by either major party.
  • 16 presidents were previously vice-presidents. Eight (Tyler, Fillmore, A. Johnson, Arthur, T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, L. Johnson) took office after the death of the president, one (Ford) because the president stepped down while in office. Four incumbent vice-presidents (J. Adams, Jefferson, van Buren, G. H. W. Bush) were directly elected president in a regular election; for a President (Biden) there were four years between the end of the term of office as Vice President and the beginning of the presidency, for Nixon it was eight years. Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson were also the only new vice-presidents to win the next election.
  • Only once - under President John Adams (a federalist) - were the president and vice president from different political camps, since Adams' vice president Thomas Jefferson was a Republican Democrat. Abraham Lincoln (a Republican) and Andrew Johnson (a Democrat of the wing of his party who advocated the continuation of the Civil War) were also from different parties but ran together on the National Union Party's electoral platform .
  • Only three presidents have so far been elected without their home state votes: James K. Polk (he did not win North Carolina, where he was born, nor Tennessee, where he lived and was governor, in 1844) and Woodrow Wilson, New Jersey, on his re-election 1916) and Donald Trump (New York, also the home state of his rival Hillary Clinton , who represented the state in the US Senate for eight years).


Longest Term President: Franklin D. Roosevelt  (1933–1945)
Shortest Term President: William Henry Harrison  (March 4 – April 4, 1841)
Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve two consecutive terms (1885-1889 and 1893-1897)
  • 13 Presidents won two consecutive elections, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the only one to win four (consecutive) elections (1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944). Grover Cleveland was the only president in US history to win two non-consecutive elections: he was president from 1885 to 1889 and again from 1893 to 1897 and is therefore counted twice, namely as 22nd and 24th president.
  • Donald Trump succeeded three presidents, each serving two full terms as president. The same last happened in 1825 with the election of John Quincy Adams , whose predecessors Thomas Jefferson , James Madison and James Monroe also served two full terms each. If one assumes, however, that the predecessor of the re-elected William McKinley , Grover Cleveland, is re-elected despite his two separate terms in office, the re-election of Theodore Roosevelt is to be regarded as the last (before the election of Barack Obama) in the three re-elected presidents successive.
  • William Henry Harrison , who died in office, had the shortest term of office in 1841 with one month ; At 12 years and 39 days the longest in office in 1933–1945 was the late Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the only one elected four times (re-elected three times) (1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944).
  • “Short term presidencies” or “presidents for a day” do not exist and never have existed. David Rice Atchison is said to have served as Vice President of the Senate for a day, as there was a day between the end of James K. Polk's tenure and Zachary Taylor's swearing- in (March 4 to 5, 1849) and the same The terms of office of the Vice Presidents had already ended or had not yet started. But this is a legend. Even the 25th amendment to the Constitution of 1967 - despite rumors to the contrary - does not permit this. This amendment stipulates that the President can declare himself temporarily incapable of office and delegate his powers to the Vice-President, which has happened three times so far - in 1985, 2002 and 2007 (in all three cases because of a colonoscopy). However, this only means that his “ powers and duties are exercised by the Vice President as incumbent President ”, but not that - as it is literally determined in the event of the President's death - “ the Vice President [becomes] President ”. So there was no President George Bush for a few hours in 1985 , and there was no President Dick Cheney in 2002 and 2007 .
  • The fact that the Vice President is himself the President after the President's death, not just the Executive President, can be traced back to the first ever successor Vice President, John Tyler . After the death of William Henry Harrison, Tyler insisted that he himself be President - an interpretation which he promoted decisively and which was most recently expressly recognized by the 25th Amendment.

Presidents as military

31 presidents (out of 46) were in the military, 30 of them as officers and one ( James Buchanan ) as private .

Twelve presidents had the rank of general, five were colonels , two commanders , three major , one lieutenant commander , three captains and four lieutenants / first lieutenants .

As the highest-ranking military president, George Washington is considered General of the Armies ; the rank was awarded to him posthumously. He is followed in the historical ranking of the highest officers in the United States :


  • Barack Obama is the first African American politician to be nominated by a major party and the only one to be elected president. Before him, Shirley Chisholm tried in the 1972 election and Jesse Jackson in the 1984 and 1988 elections in vain for their party's nomination.
  • At 78 years old, Joe Biden is the oldest president to date to take office and in office. The youngest president was Theodore Roosevelt, who was sworn in at the age of 42. Since Roosevelt rose to office as vice president without election, John F. Kennedy was the youngest directly elected president at 43.
  • All seven U.S. Presidents elected in a year ending with 0 between 1840 and 1960 (William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy) , died in office or were murdered. This coincidence is known as " Tecumseh's Curse" because William Henry Harrison, who was elected in 1840, defeated the Tecumseh-led Indians. Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, was the first US president since James Monroe, elected in 1820, to survive this "curse". Zachary Taylor was the only deceased president in 1850 who was not elected in a year ending with zero, namely 1848.
  • 88 percent of US presidents were above average. The two tallest incumbents were Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson with a height of 193 cm. The smallest President, James Madison , was only 163 cm tall. Joe Biden, the 46th President, is 182 cm tall.
  • Jimmy Carter, who left office in 1981, now holds the record for the longest life span since the presidency at 40 years and 3 days. Previously, Herbert Hoover , who left office in 1933, was the record holder: he died 11,554 days, over 31 years, later in 1964. Only a few presidents held political offices after their term, such as John Quincy Adams (in the House of Representatives ), William Howard Taft (as Chief Justice ) or Andrew Johnson , who was re-elected US Senator shortly before his death in 1875 .
  • Eight presidents have died in office. Half of them (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy) died from murder with a gun, while William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding and Franklin D. Roosevelt died from other causes. Donald Trump was the tenth president in a row not to die in office since Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded incumbent Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. In doing so, he continued the longest series of presidents who had not died in office to date. The longest series to date comprised the first eight presidents, from George Washington to Martin Van Buren, and was demolished in 1841 with the death of William Henry Harrison.
  • On average, three or four ex-presidents are still alive when a new president takes office. The highest number ever reached when a president took office was five living ex-presidents - that was the case with
    • Abraham Lincoln ( Martin Van Buren , John Tyler , Millard Fillmore , Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan ),
    • Bill Clinton (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush),
    • George W. Bush (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, his own father George Bush and Bill Clinton),
    • Donald Trump (Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama) and
    • Joe Biden (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump).
After Lyndon B. Johnson's death in 1973, it was last during Richard Nixon's presidency that no ex-president was alive.
  • An extraordinary number of presidents were born in either Virginia (eight) or Ohio (seven). The first president to be born in the United States and not in the British colonies was Martin Van Buren. Barack Obama was the first president to outside the US was born the mainland, namely Hawaii .
  • Four presidents were honored with the Nobel Peace Prize: Theodore Roosevelt (1906 as the first American and the first non-European ever), Woodrow Wilson (1919), Jimmy Carter (2002) and Barack Obama (2009). Roosevelt, Wilson and Obama received the award during their respective tenures (Obama even in his first year in office), Carter more than 20 years later.
  • Donald Trump was the first president to never hold political or high military office before.
  • After US presidents, inter alia scientific phenomena ( Coolidge effect ), islands ( Roosevelt Island ) and mountains (e.g. Mount Jefferson in Oregon and Mount Cleveland in the Aleutian Islands ). The first official, George Washington , even became the namesake of the capital and a state . Additional states named after presidents were proposed ( Jefferson , Lincoln ), but never constituted.
  • The four presidents George Washington (1st US President), Thomas Jefferson  (3rd), Abraham Lincoln  (16th) and Theodore Roosevelt  (26th) are pictured on Mount Rushmore .
  • In 2008, two left-handers, Barack Obama and John McCain, fought for the presidency. In this context, media attention has often turned to the fact that five of the seven presidents since 1974 (Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama) have been left-handed, and that no left-handed since 1977 Lost presidency to a right-handed man.
  • Martin Van Buren was the first and so far only President whose mother tongue was not English. Dutch was spoken in his parents' house.
  • James Buchanan was the only unmarried president to date. His niece Harriet Lane served as first lady during his tenure .
  • Since Franklin Roosevelt (term of office: 1933–1945), some presidents have signed important laws with several fountain pens, only to present them as thanks and reminder to key supporters in the making of the law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed with 75 pens. Others, like George W. Bush, signed with just one fountain pen and handed over unused pens as souvenirs. Often a lettering is engraved in the relevant fountain pens. Some fountain pens are used by the recipient for signatures that are important to them, or later displayed in museums.
  • Of all previous US presidents, three were born in 1946 (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump).
  • So far there have only been two presidents of Roman Catholic faith: John F. Kennedy and Joe Biden .

Family relationships


For many presidents, nicknames were coined before, during or after their term of office , which were used in the press and in common parlance. For example, simple abbreviations such as JFK for John F. Kennedy or terms such as Ike ( Dwight D. Eisenhower ), Tricky Dick (y) ( Richard Nixon ) and Dubya (George W. Bush, after his middle initial) were frequently used, as was Abe or Honest Abe for Abraham Lincoln . The short form Teddy is still used today for Theodore Roosevelt, after whom the popular soft toy, the teddy bear , was named.

Acronyms and metonyms

There are several acronyms (word made up of abbreviations or initials) as well as metonyms (meaningful, often frequently used paraphrases instead of the correct official title) for the President of the United States .


  • The acronym POTUS ( President of the United States ) is used to denote the position of President during representative event rehearsals . The abbreviation FLOTUS ( First Lady of the United States ) is used for the “First Lady” .


  • Leader of the free world (German: "Leader of the free world"), because of the power that this office has
  • Commander-in-Chief (German: "Oberkommandender"), due to the fact that the President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces
  • Chief Executive (German: "[sole] holder of executive power "), due to the position of the office within the government apparatus ; the cabinet has no decision-making power
  • Eagle (German: "Adler"), after the heraldic animal

See also


  • Presidential Studies Quarterly. 1977 to today (quarterly journal; English).
  • Lori Cox Han, Diane J Heith: Presidents and the American Presidency. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, New York 2017, ISBN 978-0-19-061146-0 .
  • Daniel E. Ponder: Presidential Leverage: Presidents, Approval, and the American State. Stanford University Press, Stanford 2017, ISBN 978-1-5036-0407-0 .
  • Jürgen Heideking : Introduction: Origin and history of the American presidency. In: Christof Mauch (Ed.): The American Presidents: 44 historical portraits from George Washington to Barack Obama. 6th, continued and updated edition. Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-58742-9 , pp. 13-48.
  • Melvin I. Urofsky: The American Presidents: Critical Essays. Routledge, London 2015, ISBN 978-0-415-76378-3 .
  • Kurt L. Shell, Chapter B1: Congress and President. In: Peter Lösche (Ed.): Country Report USA. History, politics, economy, society, culture. 5th, revised edition. Federal Agency for Civic Education , Bonn 2008, ISBN 978-3-89331-851-3 , pp. 94–141.
  • Christine Weiss: The US President as a staging: marriage, family and private matters in political communication . Nomos, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8329-3872-7 .
  • Robert Dallek : Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents. Oxford University Press, New York 1999, ISBN 978-0-19-514582-3 .
  • Leonard W. Lewy, Louis Fischer (Eds.): Encyclopedia of the American Presidency . 4 volumes. New York 1994 (English).

Web links

Commons : President of the United States  - album containing pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: US President  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Clinton Pardoned Prominent Offenders , Der Spiegel, January 20, 2001, accessed December 3, 2020
  2. ^ CNN: Clinton Disappointed By Line-Item Ruling; Welcomes McDougal's release (English).
  3. Washington Post on McCain's status as a natural born citizen , accessed July 2, 2012.
  4. on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, accessed on July 2, 2012.
  5. The Library of Congress maintains a list of the Bibles on which various presidents have taken their oaths.
  6. The Twice and Future President: Constitutional Interstices and the Twenty-Second Amendment ( January 15, 2013 memento on the Internet Archive ), Bruce G. Peabody & Scott E. Gant in Minnesota Law Review , February 1999, accessed June 27, 2018 (engl.)
  7. The 22nd Amendment doesn't say what you think it says , Joel A. Ready, Cornerstone Law Firm , accessed June 27, 2018.
  8. Snopes: Could Barack Obama Serve as Vice President ?, April 9, 2020, last viewed April 19, 2020.
  9. Hillary Clinton: Bill as VP has 'crossed her mind' , Tom LoBianco, CNN , September 15, 2015, accessed June 27, 2018.
  10. Impeachment proceedings end with Trump's acquittal. February 6, 2020, accessed February 6, 2020.
  11. Donald Trump doesn't want a presidential salary . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. November 14, 2016.
  12. ^ Former Presidents Act (FPA). (PDF; 73 kB) US Senate, 1958, accessed January 5, 2007 .
  13. Personal protection and pensions: Trump is now entitled to this. Retrieved January 22, 2020 .
  14. (English).
  15. ^ State limousine of the US President: Cadillac Number One. Retrieved October 15, 2014 .
  16. 2016 National Popular Vote Tracker , Cook Political Report, accessed January 2, 2017.
  17. ^ Waldo W. Braden: Abraham Lincoln. LSU Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8071-1852-4 (English).
  18. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President. Oxford University Press, p. 11.
  19. ^ Louis Phillips: Ask Me Anything About the Presidents. , HarperCollins, 1992, ISBN 0-380-76426-1 (English).
  20. Claire Suddath: Why Did Obama Use So Many Pens to Sign the Health Care Bill?, March 23, 2010.
  21. See Wolfgang Jäger, Christoph M. Haas, Wolfgang Welz: Government system of the USA. Instructional and manual. 3. Edition. Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58438-7 , p. 249; Ulrike Röttger, Sarah Zielmann (Hrsg.): PR advice in politics. Roles and interaction structures from the perspective of consultants and clients. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-531-17723-6 , p. 23.