Presidential Constitutionalism in Perilous Times

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Overview

From the Constitution’s adoption, presidents, Congress, judges, scholars, the press, and the public have debated the appropriate scope of presidential power during a crisis, especially when presidents see bending or breaking the rules as necessary to protect the country from serious, even irreparable, harm.

Presidential Constitutionalism in Perilous Times examines this quandary, from Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War, Woodrow Wilson’s enforcement of the Espionage Act of 1917 during World War I, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s evacuation and internment of West Coast Japanese during World War II, Harry S. Truman’s seizure of the steel mills during the Korean War to George W. Bush’s torture, surveillance, and detention programs following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Presidents have exercised extraordinary power to protect the nation in ways that raised serious constitutional concerns about individual liberties and separation of powers. By looking at these examples through different constitutional perspectives, Scott Matheson achieves a deeper understanding of wartime presidential power in general and of President Bush’s assertions of executive power in particular. America can function more effectively as a constitutional democracy in an unsafe world, he argues, if our leaders embrace an approach to presidential power that he calls executive constitutionalism.

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Editorial Reviews

Larry J. Sabato
At a time when citizens are vigorously discussing the proper balance between personal liberties and national security, Scott Matheson has produced a lucid, brilliant volume to guide this vital debate. Drawing on a wide swath of American history, Matheson convincingly demonstrates that the contemporary concern about presidential excess is not new. And he suggests a wise path for the nation to follow--one that will meet threats to our security but also will require presidents to respect constitutional limits.
Dean Harold Hongju Koh
Refracting our post-9/11 history through the lens of prior presidencies, a distinguished dean, legal scholar, and government servant makes a compelling call to recalibrate national security and civil liberties through a renewed commitment to executive constitutionalism.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674031616
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott M. Matheson is Professor of Law, University of Utah.
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Table of Contents

  • Introduction

  • 1. Presidential Power and Constitutionalism
  • Constitutionalism and Executive Power
  • Dynamic Variables in Emergency Constitutionalism
  • Emergencies and Constitutional Perspectives

  • 2. Presidents and Constitutionalism
  • President Lincoln: “Popular demand and public necessity”
  • President Wilson: “if there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression”
  • President Roosevelt: “every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage”
  • President Truman: “Within the aggregate of his constitutional powers”

  • 3. President Bush and Constitutionalism
  • Torture
  • Surveillance
  • Detention

  • Conclusion: A Call for Executive Constitutionalism
  • Presidential Power Claims and Constitutional Perspectives
  • Executive Constitutionalism
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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