Press Release: Shane, Madison’s Nightmare
Though he campaigned on a theme of change, in his first months in office, Barack Obama has already asserted inherent presidential power in ways reminiscent of his Republican predecessors. While abandoning some of the Bush Administration’s more audacious claims, President Obama has asserted the state secrets privilege in national security litigation, resisted judicial review of enemy combatant detention in Afghanistan, issued signing statements suggesting constitutional reservations about bills he has signed into law, and pursued the Bush Administration’s Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, even though it was never approved by Congress.
With Madison’s Nightmare, Peter Shane shows how ambitious assertions of presidential power are the logical outcome of a decades-long trend that has seen presidents of both parties have waged an assault on the basic checks and balances of the U.S. government. Starting with Reagan and the elder Bush, continuing under Clinton, and culminating most spectacularly under the recent Bush administration, this “aggressive presidentialism” has diminished the role of the other branches of government and led to ideological, inappropriate, and sometimes downright illegal actions. If we want our government to work as the Founders intended, simply electing a new president is not enough: both liberals and conservatives must launch a wide-ranging reform effort that will change all levels of government and support a renewed culture of accountability.
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