January 25, 2006
The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power after Watergate
Could a book be more timely than "The New Imperial Presidency," as the Democrats enable Bush to return America to its pre-revolutionary Monarchal past?
This University of Michigan Press publication makes a comprehensive historical analysis of the growth in Executive Branch power, leading up to the Bush Administration, which is seizing it at the speed of light.
Moving from the Constitutional Convention arguments that framed our nation's balance of powers to the current crisis of a usurping imperial presidency, Rudalevige provides invaluable context to Bush's power grab.
There is nothing in the Constitution condoning an imperial presidency. To the contrary, the founding fathers were direly concerned about preventing any semblance of a monarch. After all, the American Revolution was fought against the tyranny of King George III.
Rudalevige notes that "the power of the president, however great, remains conditional....presidential 'leadership' is not by definition virtuous if it does violence to constitutional tenets. To accede to presidential hagiography -- and thus executive dominance -- is extraordinarily problematic for a republican form of government. The words of Patrick Henry noted earlier echo over the years: 'If your American chief be a man of ambition...how easy is it for him to render himself absolute?'"
The author concludes that only the "whip hand" of Congress can restrain a runaway imperial presidency. And if Congress abdicates its Constitutional decision making powers and responsibilities, it enables an executive branch that knows no constraints.
"Indeed, the need for checks on power is timeless," Rudalevige writes. "The dangers of unilateral authority are immense, because once those claims are accepted they logically admit no limits."
"The New Imperial Presidency" is written with an authoritative knowledge and great credibility. It is an invaluable tool in understanding the historical underpinnings that have resulted in America turning back the clock to the worst fears of the framer of the Constitution being realized in 2006.
Chillingly, Rudalevige warns, "But if the accusations that various actors are 'politicizing' issues of state, and that they are thus somehow unpatriotic, are successful in silencing criticism, the polity has lost much more than it has gained. It is a sad day for a nation built on argument when the public gets the message that it should be intolerant of politics, afraid of honest discussion and the negotiated outcome of a marketplace of ideas."
Rudalevige is a political scientist who writes with the seasoned confidence of a historian. His acute understanding of the Constitutional tensions at work in the development of the American government results in a highly informative and well-reasoned contribution to our knowledge base of the dangers we face today.