Many Americans do not realize just how much the office of the President has evolved to become a major and complex pillar of power.
We should not be surprised to learn that many Americans think the person who is president is simply surrounded by a bunch of hired clerks. In fact, the presidency has become a bureaucratic institution with many individuals working to shape, propose, and implement policy.
A man named Ira Smith was hired to take charge of White House mail after William McKinley became president in 1897. Smith served in that position alone for 50 years. In the 1920s, Smith himself would slit open mailed envelopes received at the White House and then pass their contents on to a waiting Calvin Coolidge.
As government grew with more responsibilities, there came the cry that the president needed more help. Finally, Franklin Roosevelt responded in 1937 with the creation of an Administrative Management Committee, known as the Brownlow Commission, that recommended sweeping changes to the executive branch of the United States government.
Today’s presidency has a staff made up mainly of analysts and advisers. Recently, the staff has numbered around 500 members. There is, of course, also the Cabinet, whose members manage different departments such as agriculture and state. But, as a collective, the Cabinet is not used by the president to be an effective governing body.
Moreover, an important part of today’s presidency is the Executive Office of the President, which includes about a dozen different entities, such as the Council of Economic Advisers, the National Security Council, and the Office of Management and Budget. One wonders just how much the presidential office will continue to grow in the coming years and decades.