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Lunchtime Listen: Checks and Balances

In his new book Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy, Charlie Savage documents how the Bush administration has expanded presidential power and limited the checks and balances of Congress and the courts. In an interview with Terry Gross he outlines many of the key points of his book:

A transcript is available on LexisNexis and Factiva and the audio is also available as a podcast.

Savage describes some of the expanded executive powers this way:

…the ability to unilaterally pull out of a treaty without consulting the Senate as Bush did in the anti-ballistic missile treaty in December of 2001, which means some future president who doesn’t like NATO or the UN could just say, ‘We’re out,’ and we would be out. The ability to impose martial law over the objections of a state governor. The ability to hold a US citizen without trial or without charges perpetually by naming them an enemy combatant. The ability to keep all matters of documents and government activity secret from lawsuits and from Congress in a much broader fortress of secrecy than previous presidents have enjoyed. A much more aggressive use of the ability to shut down lawsuits simply by uttering the magic words ‘state secrets.’"

And he says that the implications reach far into the future:

…the Bush administration could leave office entirely tomorrow and the agenda will already have been completed…. The strategy was, ‘We are going to permanently expand the power of the presidency as an institution for all future presidents to wield. We are going to throw off the restraints that were imposed in the ’70s after Watergate and Vietnam. We are going to magnify the powers that the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. dubbed "the imperial presidency," which had arisen just in the first couple of decades of the Cold War, peaked under Nixon and were sort of brought under control again after Watergate and Vietnam.’

Charlie Savage covers national legal affairs for "The Boston Globe" and won a Pulitzer Prize for investigation into President Bush’s use of executive signing statements.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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