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  • Edexcel: Component 3.4: Interpretations and debates of the US presidency 

  • AQA: Component The executive branch of government: President 

Background: what you need to know 

These two articles offer an interim assessment of the impact of the chaotic evacuation of Afghanistan on Joe Biden’s presidency. His critics allege that he has damaged US prestige, and inadvertently strengthened his country’s enemies, by the way he has ended this 20-year American military intervention.

Parallels have been drawn with Jimmy Carter’s bungled 1980 attempt to rescue US embassy staff, held hostage by Islamic militants in Iran. This contributed to his election defeat later that year. However, both articles suggest that domestic factors, notably the state of the economy, are politically more important. They offer some useful material for answering questions on the limitations of US presidential power.

Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:

Joe Biden’s potential Jimmy Carter moment

‘Egregiously mishandled’: Afghanistan chaos dents Biden’s popularity

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2

  • Explain and analyse three reasons why the US Presidency can be described as ‘imperilled’ rather than ‘imperial’. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3a

  • Evaluate the view that the impact of events is the most important factor influencing the power of the US Presidency.

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]

    TIP: The labels ‘imperial’ and ‘imperilled’ have been applied to contrasting interpretations of US presidential power. Is the president an over-mighty chief executive, facing weak constraints on his power, or a leader who lacks the capacity to be truly effective? Much depends of course on the circumstances facing individual office-holders. The electoral cycle is critical. Unlike Carter in 1980, Biden is not facing an imminent election and he has an opportunity to compensate for this foreign policy setback before 2024.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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