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The Imperial Presidency Schlesinger – 1973 The abuse of power by successive twentieth century presidents but especially LBJ and Nixon and it was all becoming.

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Presentation on theme: "The Imperial Presidency Schlesinger – 1973 The abuse of power by successive twentieth century presidents but especially LBJ and Nixon and it was all becoming."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Imperial Presidency Schlesinger – 1973 The abuse of power by successive twentieth century presidents but especially LBJ and Nixon and it was all becoming too dangerous as the presidency itself grew.

2 What were the bad characteristics of a modern president? Unaccountable power Secrecy Illegality All of these were hallmarks of the Imperial President. Critics likened it to a royal court and the president as a latter day emperor.

3 What created the Imperial President? According to Schlesinger – the IP was essentially a creation of foreign policy – a continual state of war was deliberate from the early 1940s to the 1990s and allowed Presidents to take advantage of the ambiguities and uncertanties of the constitution in terms of War Making Powers.

4 The Facts on War Making Powers The intentions of the FFs Presidents lack the power to declare war. Congress can declare war. The use of the word ‘declare’ is significant in this debate and carefully chosen by Madison in To ‘make’ war implies to initiate and seek whereas to ‘declare’ implies to react to a threat of an invasion froman enemy. The intentions of the FF was that Congress would be PROACTIVE and initiate whereas the President would be REACTIVE and just supervise. Abraham Lincoln shed more light on this issue in 1848 when spoke against granting preventative war measures, when he said that if you allowed a President to invade a neighbouring nation in defence….. You allow him to make war at his pleasure.

5 Recent actions which have thwarted this constitutional directive JFK – Cuba 1962 Truman – South Korean invasion 1951 FDR - swift reaction (approved) to Pearl Harbour, full involvement in WWII Clinton – Serbia, Bosnia, Iran, Sudan An age of crisis has altered the balance of power and the system of checks

6 LBJ and the Tonkin Resolution 1964 The unanimous endorsement of the House to grant LBJ ‘all means necessary ‘ to repeal any armed attack….. To prevent further aggression – this symbolised an abdication of power by Cobngress and LBJ took it as a blank cheque

7 Nixon the ‘revolutionary president’ Vietnam, Cambodia, Watergate, bugging, wire tapping, demonisation of political opponents. But Congress was better in the Nixon years The Case Act 1972 The War Powers Act 1973 The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act 1974 Impeachment of Nixon

8 The Imperilled Presidency Ford – ‘The presidency does not operate effectively. That is a very serious development, and is harmful to our overall national interests’ Why? Erosion of party leadership –Inability of presidents to control the federal bureacracy – Solutions? – beef up powers of party leadership in Congress –Make greater use of VP and Cabinet –President to spend more time with members of Comgress

9 Reagan and the post-imperial presidency Reagans success undermines the musings of Ford. Reagan never had control of the House and only had control of the Senate for 6 years. His controversy was the Iran- Contra affair, involving Colonel Oliver North and John Poindexter, NSA and the two pronged plan to sell arms to the Iranians and provide funde to support the rebels in Nicaragua, both of which defied congressional bans. The result was a Congressional Select Committee Report concluding that, similar to a bygone imperial presidency era! Secrecy, deception and illegality Unelected officials disrespecting Congress Both defended themselves by saying they wanted no outside interference The response was ‘Circumvention of Congress is self-defeating and that is the theory of our Constitution

10 George Bush Senior, the Cooperative Presidency GB Senior restored the post of NSA to policy coordinator rather than policy initiator and was determined to restore congress as an equal partner in foreign policy making. E.g Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – he waited for approval and got bipartisan support form Capitol Hill as the Select Committee under Reagan had requested. He sent troops in and the 44 day conflict was all his from then on!

11 Clinton – an Imperial President? Gene Healy – ‘The Arrogance of Power Reborn’ he commented on The War Making Power and the Treaty Making Power The Treaty Making power is clear with 2/3 Senate approval for ratification. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to stop underground testing of nuclear weapons was delayed for two years and then not approved. Howeever 5 days after this Madelaine Albright assured foreign signatories that the USA would abide by it anyway and she met with congressional outcry and calls that her comments were incorrect and not binding on the USA. The Kyoto Protocol – similar incident Pursued military action in Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq – The verbal defence of these policies always rested around ‘definitions’ of the word War ‘ it does not meet the definition as we define it’ – Joe Lockhart According to Healy – the Clinton Administration ‘ espoused a view of executive war making authority that was as unconditional and unconstrained as that claimed by any president in American History’ therefore according to Healy, Clinton deserves the label of Imperial President Others have written the opposite –’ The INCREDIBLE Shrinking President’ Schlesinger the original author said ‘ So much for the Imperial President’

12 GWB and the Imperial President Reborn The Imperial President has arrived – Helen Thomas 2002 The Imperial President is Back – but who’s watching – Christian Science Monitor 2003 The Imperial Presidency reborn – Schlesinger The Bush doctrine of Preventative War is clearly unconstitutional

13 The Bush Doctrine – Preventative War The transfer of excessive powers to the president was what Lincoln warned against in Many argued that Bush wanted to bring back the Imperial presidency but in the Economist 2005, ‘Et tu, Brute’ it was claimed that Washingtonians were determined to loosen GWB’s grip on power

14 How much of this was Dick Cheney’s creation? ‘Cheney is living in a time warp’ – Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer. The fact is that GWB inherited a very powerful office and Cheney acts as if he is still under the constraints of the legislation of the 1970s. These acts have been outmanoueverd long before GWB. Cheney’s aganda of restoring the Presidency to its proper constitutional standing in the federal system of checks and balances is misguided. Do you blame GWB in defending the nation or Congress in not checking or evaluating the powers given to GWB after 9/11 BUT Congress were more proactive later e.g. opposition the Patriots Act, Guantanamo ban and wire tapping and the Supreme Courts Declaration in Hamdan v. Rumsfield 2006

15 Conclusions and viewpoints- very important to learn Schlesingers comments provide a useful opener for discussion of presdential power, but the concept of the Imperial President is flawed British academic – David Mervin 1990 – it’ was always something of a cliché as it summons up images of the president as emperor, a master of all he surveys, which clearly he is not’. Nixon in his memoirs – ‘The concept was a straw man created by defensive congressmen and disillusioned liberals who idolised the strong leadership of JFK and FDR. Now they had a strong president….who was a Republican – and they were having second thoughts.’ Tanenhaus – Wall Street Journal 2002 – The IP is not a useful idea. It is an epithet, dredged up whenever a president combines strength with imagination. Presidents are, in sum, leaders, not rulers, which means of course, they are not imperial at all.

16 ………more views Richard Davies – University of Nevada – ‘whether Bush is exhibiting an IP air is in the eye of the beholder’ Dante Chinni – ‘The President is as imperial as the congress, the press and the public allow him to be’ The general debate raises similar to the arguments on elective dictatorship – coined around the same time


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