The Oval Office,
Rose Garden signings,
and secret service agents,
with dark sunglasses and cool wrist radios
For a moment, forget all of it.
Toss out everything you know about the President.
Now, start over.
What would you do if you have to invite the president?
That was the question facing the 55 men who got together in secret
to draw up the plans for a new American government
in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia,
in the same place where the Declaration of Independence had been written eleven years earlier.
Declaring independence had been risky business,
demanding ferocious courage
that put lives and fortunes in jeopardy.
But, inventing a new government was no field day either,
especially when it’s summer
and you’re in scratchy suits,
and the windows are closed
because you don’t want anybody
to hear what you are saying,
and the air conditioning doesn’t work
because it won’t be invented for nearly 200 years.
And, when you don’t agree on things,
it gets even hotter.
For the framers, the question they argued over most
while writing the Constitution
and creating three branches of government
had to do with the executive department.
One man or three to do the job?
How long should he serve?
What would he really do?
Who would pick him?
How to get rid of him
if he’s doing a bad job or he’s a crook?
And, of course, they all meant him,
and he would be a white man.
The idea of a woman
or an African American, for instance,
holding this high office
was not a glimmer in their eyes.
But the framers knew they needed
someone who could take charge,
尤其是在危机中 比如入侵 判乱
especially in a crisis, like an invasion or a rebellion,
or negotiating treaties.
Congress was not very good at making such important decisions without debates and delays.
But the framers thought America needed a man
who was decisive and could act quickly.
They called it energy and dispatch.
One thing they were dead-set against:
there would be no king.
They had fought a war against a country with a monarch
and were afraid that one man
with unchecked powers, in charge of an army,
could take over the country.
Instead, they settled on a president
and laid out his powers in Article 2 of the Constitution.
But who would choose him?
Not the people, they were too liable to be misled
as one framer worried.
Not the legislature, that would lead to cabal and factions.
有了 选民 明智的有识之士
Got it: electors, wise, informed men
who have time to make a good decision.
And if they didn’t produce a winner,
then the decision would go to one of the other branches of government, the Congress.
the House of Representatives would step in and make the choice,
which they did in 1801 and 1825.
In the long, hot summer of 1787,
compromises were made to invent the presidency,
like counting slaves as 3/5 of a person,
giving the President command of the army
but Congress the power to declare war,
and unlimited four-year terms.
Since then, some of those compromises have been amended
and the men in office have sometimes been too strong or too weak.
But, if you could start from scratch,
how would you redesign the Oval Office?