Its committee nature, and its bias toward the status quo, or factional dissention, pulls against change.The qualities that define the office of the executive – energy, speed, decisiveness, and secrecy, among others – are those most required in emergencies, and it was to perform this necessary function that the executive was created.Presidents have deliberately sparked war, seeking congressional approval only later, as when James Polk ordered Zachary Taylor to move against Mexican forces on the Texas border in 1848, an act that made the United States the dominant power in North America. All these actions were based on legal precedents dating back to Abraham Lincoln, who himself, in the Civil War, ordered the detention of enemy combatants without criminal charges or access to civilian court.These legal precedents have been followed time and again by Presidents regardless of party.John Yoo explains the enormous power of the Presidency and the executive branch that our new President will soon wield—surely no more bashfully than his predecessors—as a function of the size, complexity and power of American society, as well as of American history. Congress and the Judiciary have clashed with both Bush and Clinton administrations over matters of executive privilege, impeachment, and the war on terror.Almost all modern presidents have moved to expand their power.
Dramatic action can turn public opinion against a chief executive who might have been popular just a few years before.
Two of our greatest presidents, Lincoln and FDR, died in office, spent and exhausted by their difficult role.
Politics attends any dramatic exercise of a President’s constitutional authorities.
So it is an even bet that given the foreign policy challenges of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea—not to mention the disruptions to the domestic economy of the credit crisis—Barack Obama will soon be drawing on the well of executive power every bit as deeply as his predecessors have.
But critics have recently insisted that it is unconstitutional for a President to make war policy without consulting Congress first, despite the Commander in Chief role assigned to that office by the Constitution.