Presidential Expectations

This summer I worked for the United States Marshals Service in Washington D.C. My boss was an army veteran who had done a tour in Iraq before spending another few years in the CIA. We went to lunch one day and somehow got around to talking about the upcoming election and the office of the President. Our conversation evolved into a discussion of presidential roles, and through it I began developing the outline of a paper in my head. When I came back to Wake Forest this fall and spoke with one of my Political Science professors, I decided I wanted to make it my paper topic for the CSPC program.

My research paper will examine the different expectations we place on the presidency today, and the ways in which the different roles of the office conflict in the modern world. As a philosophy major as well as a political science major, I wanted a chance to write about something that brought both those subject areas into the conversation. With that in mind, I decided to examine the different conflicting presidential roles through the lens of the various controversies surrounding drone warfare. The ethically gray dimension to this particularly topic especially appealed to me.

Using a case study of drone warfare, I hope to illustrate the degree to which the presidency has become an impossible juggling act. I thought drone attacks would be a particularly good avenue into this particular conversation due to the constitutional questions involved. Obviously the framers weren’t envisioning today’s “War on Terror” when they wrote Article II, but what would they think about the President’s unilateral exercise of power within the domain of drone attacks? There is no Congressional check in this domain, which is interesting considering that the Oath of Office obliges the President to defend and uphold the constitution. At the same time, the results clearly show that drone attacks are a uniquely effective way of fighting this war, and the President also is tasked with the ultimate responsibility of defending the border and protecting our country from threats. Clearly these responsibilities clash… and adding the issue of morality to this debate only clouds it further.

I’m excited for this topic because I don’t know yet where I’ll eventually find myself at its conclusion. It’s a difficult debate; however, I believe it’s an important one in an election year. After all, if we expect the President to perform different roles which contradict each other, we are condemning him or her from the start, regardless of which party he represents!


Thanks everybody, look forward to meeting you all!


Dan Stefany

Wake Forest University

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3 Responses to Presidential Expectations

  1. johnadearborn says:

    The Presidential use of drones is a fascinating topic. I recently read an article in The Guardian about a philosopher who did his Ph.D at UConn who makes the case that the US is obligated to use drones ethically and morally ( There’s also a link in the story to a longer academic article he had published in the Journal of Military Ethics about this subject if you’re interested in it. Looking forward to hearing more about your work!

  2. Katie Smith says:

    Great topic. The hightened expectations we place on the President have always interested me as well. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  3. Your topic sounds great, Dan! I added a philosophy minor this year, and am the head of my school’s Ethics Debate team, so I will be looking forward to seeing how you bring in your philosophy background to address some of the ethical concerns this topic engenders.

    Good luck with your research! I’ll look forward to meeting you in DC in November.

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