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He Limits of Presidential Power

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Download The App email The Limits of Presidential Power: All The President’s Power
The Daily Reckoning Special Position Paper
By Thomas E. Wood Jr.

Vice President Dick Cheney recently told the Washington Post that when the Bush administration entered office, it was determined to reinvigorate the presidency and reverse the steady reduction in executive power and prerogative that had persisted since Watergate. But what reduction could the vice president have had in mind? “The vice president,” noted Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.), “may be the only person I know of that believes the executive has somehow lost power over the last 30 years.”

Whether or not the vice president was correct in his analysis of the state of the presidency in the year 2000, there can be no question that since then George W. Bush has dramatically expanded the powers of the president – primarily though not exclusively in matters pertaining to the war on terror.

One of the most notorious examples involved the torture of prisoners, a power the administration claimed in the face of law and international agreements to the contrary. “The assertion in the various legal memoranda that the President can order the torture of prisoners despite statutes and treaties forbidding it was another reach for presidential hegemony,” wrote Anthony Lewis in the New York Review of Books. “The basic premise of the American constitutional system is that those who hold power are subject to the law…Bush’s lawyers seem ready to substitute something like the divine right of kings.”

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