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Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush

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Overview

An American President faces war and finds himself hamstrung by a Congress that will not act. To protect national security, he invokes his powers as Commander-in-Chief and orders actions that seem to violate laws enacted by Congress. He is excoriated for usurping dictatorial powers, placing himself above the law, and threatening to “breakdown constitutional safeguards.”

One could be forgiven for thinking that the above describes former President George W. Bush. Yet these particular attacks on presidential power were leveled against Franklin D. Roosevelt. They could just as well describe similar attacks leveled against George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and a number of other presidents challenged with leading the nation through times of national crisis.

However bitter, complex, and urgent today’s controversies over executive power may be, John Yoo reminds us they are nothing new. In Crisis and Command, he explores a factor too little consulted in current debates: the past. Through shrewd and lucid analysis, he shows how the bold decisions made by Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR changed more than just history; they also transformed the role of the American president. The link between the vigorous exercise of executive power and presidential greatness, Yoo argues, is both significant and misunderstood. He makes the case that the founding fathers deliberately left the Constitution vague on the limits of presidential authority, drawing on history to demonstrate the benefi ts to the nation of a strong executive office.

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Editorial Reviews

Jack Rakove
This is a deeply serious history of the presidency, sometimes selective in its emphasis, but always provocative and thoughtful. The recurring theme is how well the republic was served by the initiatives these leaders took.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this contentious study, Berkeley law prof and former Justice Department official Yoo reprises the brief for expansive presidential power that made him one of the Bush administration's most controversial aides. He focuses on a handful of presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR—who, he argues, extended executive authority in novel ways to surmount crises without letting an inherently slow, disorganized, corrupt, and pusillanimous Congress get in the way. In his account, these great presidents started wars without congressional authorization, suspended habeas corpus, detained security risks, secretly wiretapped, remade the economy, and unilaterally interpreted the Constitution. All of this, he insists, comports with the Constitution's grant of broad, ambiguous powers to a unitary executive and, usually, with congressional consensus and public well-being. His analysis culminates in a defense of Bush administration policies on warrantless wiretapping, “coercive interrogation,” enemy combatants, and Iraq, and a denunciation of Obama's deviations from them. Yoo's chronicle cogently fits in Bush's initiatives with previous presidential arrogations of power. But his tacit premise that the open-ended, ill-defined “war on terror” compares to previous crises like the Civil War and requires similarly drastic responses will be strongly disputed by civil libertarians. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781607145554
  • Publisher: Kaplan Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/5/2010
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.64 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 11, 2010

    Great Read

    John Yoo has been one of the people in today's government that I despise most due to his ideals on the moral wrongs of US interrogation tactics, but even so, the book was enlightening for the most part, giving insight on topics of which I had interest in the past. Not a must read, but definitely not a bad one.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2010

    Garbage

    This guy's a law professor and formerly a prominent member of our Justice Department!?Wow!!! Pretty sorry.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2010

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    Posted January 16, 2010

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    Posted February 26, 2010

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    Posted May 4, 2010

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