The bitter ideological battles of our era obscure the fact that "liberals and conservatives largely agree on the boundless nature of presidential responsibility." So argues Gene Healy, whose 2008 book The Cult of the Presidency remains an underappreciated gem. "Neither Left nor Right sees the president as the Framers saw him: a constitutionally constrained chief executive with important, but limited, responsibilities," he explained. "Today, for conservatives as well as liberals, it is the president's job to protect us from harm, to grow the economy, spread American ideals abroad, and even to heal spiritual malaise."
Congressional coverage focuses on whether the presidential agenda is advanced or thwarted.
Why? The effects of this attitude ought to bother liberals, conservatives, and libertarians alike. To understand why, take a look at "The Ugly Truth: Why Presidential Leadership Can't Solve Gridlock," in which Ezra Klein interviews political scientist Frances Lee, who studies political incentives at the federal level:
Ezra Klein: You wrote a sentence that is really foundational to how I think about politics, but that I also think of as an incredibly scary sentence. It's basically that every time the president succeeds it hurts the minority party and every time the president fails it helps the minority party.
Frances Lee: The incentives definitely are against cooperation. If you support the initiatives that the president proposes or cut a deal with the president such that both parties vote in favor of that proposal, then it becomes hard to say why we should have a change in power.
Later in the interview, Klein observes that "there's an interesting tension in Washington where we treat politics as a kind of an epic drama in which the president is the lead actor. And people want to see things happening from the president."