September 18, 2007

Cheney's Imperial Presidency

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe recently wrote the book, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.

It tells the remarkable story of what Charlie Savage has uncovered in his search to understand what the Bush-Cheney administration has been doing while in power. They have been changing the Constitution and our form of government under the cloak of secrecy and all without any real discussion from the other stakeholders in our government.

Savage's journey started out when he was writing about the McCain Torture Law at the end of 2005 when he noticed that Bush used a signing statement when signing the bill into law. That signing statement said that although Bush was signing the law, it didn't mean he had to follow it. That led Charlie Savage to wonder how often Bush had done something like that before which led to his brilliant expose in spring of 2006 on the number of bills Bush had secretly overruled with signing statements and for Savage, a Pulitzer Prize. He dug deeper into the records and eventually followed the trail back to where it all started when Cheney was just a young man. This book provides a view of how so many of the seemingly isolated actions of the Bush administration are tied directly into an overarching theory of governance that is antithetically opposed to our Constitution with its concepts of checks and balances.

Last week Savage spent some time talking about how he had come to write this story at TPMCafe's Table for One. If you didn't catch him while he was there, here are the posts he wrote that explain more about what he's found.

The Cheney Project

In this piece he shows that Cheney has been the guy behind this power grab and that his obsession for unitary power goes back a long, long way.

Savage v. Goldsmith: Is presidential power a one-way ratchet? Has Cheney succeeded?

Then Savage asks whether our government can ever be put back into the form that our founders devised with true checks and balances.

Presidential Lawyers in Black Robes

Here he looks at how the Supreme Court nominees were carefully chosen to reinforce the imperial presidency by making the courts subservient to the Executive and provides insight into the men who Bush recently put on the court.

On Roberts:

He also endorsed an early version of what became the Unitary Executive Theory, writing in 1983 that “I agree that the time is ripe to reconsider the Constitutional anomaly of independent agencies.” Following Reagan’s invasion of Grenada, Roberts wrote a letter to retired Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg insisting that the unilateral military action was not unconstitutional because the president has “inherent authority in international affairs to defend American lives and interests and, as Commander- in-Chief, to use the military when necessary in discharging these responsibilities.”

And Alito:

Later, in the Office of Legal Counsel, he was a prime mover in developing a plan to have Reagan issue signing statements more frequently in order to, as he wrote, “increase the power of the executive to shape the law.”

"Takeover" starts to take off as "Reaganites Reconsider"

The topic linked a piece in The Nation where Savage finds that the original Reaganites who were looking for loopholes to subvert the restrictions put in place by the pesky Congress and Courts are now horrified to see how their little shortcuts have been used to cut everyone else out of the picture.

The 2008 presidential campaign and the legacy of the Cheney Project

Savage concluded his week with some questions we should be asking the presidential candidates as they seek our vote. Where do they stand on the imperial presidency?

This is definitely a book I'm going to buy and read. And I recommend you all do so too so that you will know some of the questions we really must ask before the next election if we have any hope of rescuing our country from its imperial path.

Some additional resources to check out:

Read an excerpt from the book.
Listen to an interview with Charlie Savage on NPR.
Read a review of the book from SFGate.

Posted by Mary at September 18, 2007 04:00 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |

Waxman accuses Krongard of obstruction

Posted by: ccoaler at September 18, 2007 07:21 PM