Power Play

Power Play: The Bush Presidency and the Constitution

JAMES P. PFIFFNER
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 299
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt6wphvx
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  • Book Info
    Power Play
    Book Description:

    The framers of the U.S. Constitution divided the federal government's powers among three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. Their goal was to prevent tyranny by ensuring that none of the branches could govern alone. While numerous presidents have sought to escape these constitutional constraints, the administration of George W. Bush went farther than most. It denied the writ of habeas corpus to individuals deemed to be enemy combatants. It suspended the Geneva Convention and allowed or encouraged the use of harsh interrogation methods amounting to torture. It ordered the surveillance of Americans without obtaining warrants as required by law. And it issued signing statements declaring that the president does not have the duty to faithfully execute hundreds of provisions in the laws he has signed.

    Power Playanalyzes the Bush presidency's efforts to expand executive power in these four domains and puts them into constitutional and historical perspective. Pfiffner explores the evolution of Anglo-American thinking about executive power and individual rights. He highlights the lessons the Constitution's framers drew from such philosophers as Locke and Montesquieu, as well as English constitutional history. He documents the ways in which the Bush administration's policies have undermined the separation of powers, and he shows how these practices have imperiled the rule of law.

    Following 9/11, the Bush presidency engaged in a two-front offensive. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the administration aggressively prosecuted the "war on terror." At home, it targeted constraints on the power of the executive.Power Playlays bare the extent of this second campaign and explains why it will continue to threaten the future of republican government if the other two branches do not assert their own constitutional prerogatives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0152-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. CHAPTER ONE A GOVERNMENT OF LAWS OR MEN?
    (pp. 1-12)

    From 2002 to 2005 the Bush administration argued that it could imprison an American citizen (Jose Padilla) indefinitely, deny him access to a lawyer or his relatives, deny him the constitutional right to appeal for a writ of habeas corpus, and subject him to solitary confinement and extreme sensory deprivation. This claim was based on the president’s authority alone.

    From 2002 to 2004 hundreds of detainees in the war on terror were imprisoned at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib; some were subjected to inhumane treatment, and some were even tortured. During the war on terror, more than forty persons detained by...

  7. CHAPTER TWO THE NATURE OF EXECUTIVE POWER
    (pp. 13-32)

    The framers of the Constitution were practical men, experienced in the art of governing, but they were also familiar with the ideas of political philosophers, especially John Locke and Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu. They drew their practical approach from their study of history and their experience with the king and Parliament of England.

    This experience was supplemented with their experience in the colonies before 1776 and in the states after the War of American Independence. The ideas of these political philosophers are relevant to the assertions of executive power by the Bush administration because...

  8. CHAPTER THREE CREATING INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND AN INDEPENDENT LEGISLATURE
    (pp. 33-55)

    The English (and later British) Constitution developed over many centuries and influenced the framers of the United States Constitution in important ways. After all, most of the architects of the U.S. Constitution considered themselves to be loyal Englishmen virtually up until the War of Independence. In fact their reasons for rebellion revolved around the convictions that they were being denied their rights as Englishmen by an oppressive monarch and Parliament. This chapter will present an overview of some of the highlights of English constitutional development. In medieval England the monarchy reigned supreme, and held, more or less, arbitrary say over...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION
    (pp. 56-83)

    When designing the U.S. Constitution, the framers adopted many of the limits on governmental and executive power that had been achieved in England over the preceding several centuries. The centuries of British struggles to limit the power of the monarchy with respect to individual rights and to establish the legitimate authority of Parliament were well known to the designers of the U.S. Constitution. The path to these achievements made by the British government by the eighteenth century was neither smooth nor direct. However, important progress along this path was made, and the principles that limited executive power were firmly established...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE THE POWER TO IMPRISON: HABEAS CORPUS
    (pp. 84-127)

    The purpose of the “Great Writ” of habeas corpus over the centuries has been to allow a person imprisoned by the executive to argue before an independent authority (a judge) that he had been unjustly incarcerated. This centuries-old protection requires that an independent judge concur with the executive’s reasons for depriving a person of liberty or that he be set free. If a judge grants a writ of habeas corpus, the executive must explain the grounds for concluding that the person has in fact broken a law and thus has been justly put in jail. If the judge is convinced...

  11. CHAPTER SIX THE POWER TO TORTURE
    (pp. 128-167)

    Torture can be used for a number of purposes: for sadism, to punish, to obtain a confession, or to secure information. Torture has been sanctioned by governments throughout human history for all of these purposes, but the official justification of torture (or “robust interrogation”) in the United States after 9/11 has been for purposes of obtaining information about possible future terrorist acts. A key distinction must be made between torture in general and torture under the color of law. The former is an individual or group crime (against law or nature, or both). Torture sanctioned by law, however, is particularly...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN THE POWER TO SURVEIL
    (pp. 168-193)

    The importance of limited government to U.S. values and governance is rooted in the dictum that we have a government of laws and not of men and that no one is above the law. The sensitivity of United States culture and values to privacy and the fear of unwarranted government intrusion are expressed in the Bill of Rights. Thus the disclosure that President Bush had issued a secret order to the National Security Agency (NSA) to listen in on the communications of U.S. citizens without the warrants required by law provoked concern within the legal community, if not among the...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT THE POWER TO IGNORE THE LAW: SIGNING STATEMENTS
    (pp. 194-228)

    In 2005 Senator John McCain introduced an amendment to a military authorization act that would outlaw any torture by United States personnel anywhere in the world.¹ When signing the bill into law, President Bush issued a signing statement that read in part: “The executive branch shall construe Title X [of the Detainee Treatment Act] relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch.”² By issuing this signing statement, President Bush raised the possibility that he would not execute the law, using the justification that it might interfere with his...

  14. CHAPTER NINE CONCLUSION: CONSTITUTIONALISM AND THE RULE OF LAW
    (pp. 229-246)

    The rule of law is central to any civilized nation, and the Constitution of the United States limits governmental power in general, and specifically the concentration of power in any one branch of government. President George W. Bush’s actions that have been analyzed in this book have challenged the foundation of the rule of law. He has expanded the constitutional authority of the president in extraordinary ways and has tried to undo the constraints that the Constitution places on executive power. This conclusion will first take up the rule of law and how it has been challenged by President Bush....

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 247-288)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 289-299)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 300-300)