The Imperial Presidency

The Imperial Presidency

Language: English

Pages: 624

ISBN: 0618420010

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


From two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., comes one of the most important and influential investigations of the American presidency. The Imperial Presidency traces the growth of presidential power over two centuries, from George Washington to George W. Bush, examining how it has both served and harmed the Constitution and what Americans can do about it in years to come. The book that gave the phrase “imperial presidency” to the language, this is a work of “substantial scholarship written with lucidity, charm, and wit” (The New Yorker).

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become “a means whereby the White House can give effect to social goals of its own choosing by reallocating national resources in contravention of congressional dictates.” Impoundment enabled the President “to modify, reshape, or nullify completely laws passed by the legislative branch, thereby making legislative policy—a power reserved exclusively to the Congress.65 Nor did Nixon, like Johnson, consult with congressional leaders on impoundment questions. In asserting his independent authority

that, though the President had day-to-day control of American foreign relations, he was not king of the world and that foreign policy was not his personal property. Future Presidents would have to do something to revive the Department of State. This would not necessarily be easy. Past Presidents had wanted to do it, had become frustrated with automatic bureaucratic resistance to new departures and had ended by turning the problems over to their own White House staff. But there was no ineluctable

principle....A citizen should know those things he needs to know to be a good citizen and discharge his functions.” 39 But by the 1970s the principle of disclosure was gathering increasing support, especially on Capitol Hill. Congressman William Moorhead of Pennsylvania, who succeeded Moss as chairman of the House Government Information Subcommittee, carried the battle forward in a series of hearings. The mess was now greater than ever. By 1972, the General Accounting Office told the Moorhead

defend the Constitution of the United States.” Taken literally, this could be seen both as a mighty obligation and as a mighty mandate. The oath “impressed upon me the duty of preserving by every indispensable means, that government—that nation, of which the Constitution was the organic law.” If the President were sworn to preserve and protect the Constitution to the best of his ability, what limits were there on his duty to act if the nation were in danger? The power of the oath, reinforced by

the constitutional requirement that the President “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” was given new force, Lincoln believed, by the secession of the southern states. Here he found constitutional justification or at least consolation, by citing the provision permitting the suspension of habeas corpus “when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” The Founding Fathers had carefully confined the “Rebellion or Invasion” exception to habeas corpus. This

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