Mark Rozell's Executive Privilege-called "the definitive contemporary work on the subject" by the Journal of Politics-is widely considered the best in-depth history and analysis of executive privilege and its relation to the proper scope and limits of presidential power. Indeed, it was one of only a few books that President Bill Clinton once selected for his summer reading, according U.S. News & World Report.
Picking up where the second edition left off-in the early days of George W. Bush's first presidential term-this revised and updated third edition provides a thorough analysis of the controversies stirred by Bush 43's aggressive and relentless use of executive privilege over an eight-year period. It also provides the first close look at the intense debates already emerging around President Barack Obama's own struggle to both wield and locate the limits of this powerful executive tool.
Rozell takes a balanced approach to a subject mired in controversy, providing both a historical overview of the doctrine and an explanation of its importance in the American political process. Although it is viewed by many as undemocratic-or even a "constitutional myth"-Rozell argues that executive privilege not only derives from the Constitution but, if prudently used, even supports the president's efforts in constructing and implementing policy.
"If prudently used" is, of course, the key. Rozell shows how Nixon's abuses of power, Clinton's resistance to numerous congressional and grand-jury investigations, and George Bush's proclivity for excessive secrecy all sparked controversy over attempts to revive executive privilege-in the process doing significant damage to this constitutional principle. His sharp analysis of the potential roles and influence of both the judiciary and Congress suggests that disputes over withheld information are best resolved by the separation of powers and the ebb and flow of political tides.
Ultimately, Rozell continues to believe in the legitimate role of executive privilege and looks to the day when a president can use it without embarrassment, and his book remains the most balanced treatment available of this concept.