The Imperial Presidency

The Imperial Presidency

Language: English

Pages: 624

ISBN: 0618420010

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


From two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., comes one of the most important and influential investigations of the American presidency. The Imperial Presidency traces the growth of presidential power over two centuries, from George Washington to George W. Bush, examining how it has both served and harmed the Constitution and what Americans can do about it in years to come. The book that gave the phrase “imperial presidency” to the language, this is a work of “substantial scholarship written with lucidity, charm, and wit” (The New Yorker).

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FDR’s rural retreat into an armed fortress, where he sought shelter behind a triple fence and a forest overflowing with Marines.15 “I find that up there on top of a mountain," he said, “it is easier for me to get on top of the job.” 16 Every President reconstructs the Presidency to meet his own psychological needs. Nixon displayed more monarchical yearnings than any of his predecessors. He plainly reveled in the ritual of the office, only regretting that it could not be more elaborate. What

clamour disturbed the Olympian heights where sat the monarch and his group of military and civil advisers, controlling foreign policy as respects both ends and means”? The answer, as Bryce looked out at the wreckage of the three great empires, was self-evident. On the other hand, Bryce readily acknowledged limits to democratic control. Large assemblies could not handle international relations from day to day; these must be determined “by administrators who are incessantly watching the foreign

this wisdom. He ignored the Senate while he labored in Versailles; and the Senate, invoking its treaty power, struck back at him as, after the Civil War, it had used other devices to strike back at Lincoln’s successor. Defenders of the two-thirds veto have pointed out that actually very few treaties defeated by the Senate have carried a majority of senators. But the Versailles Treaty did win a majority in 1920. The debate canvassed issues of executive-legislative tension if in a vehement and

the second, “a course that must in the end have produced a serious constitutional crisis had not the Japanese obligingly come to the rescue.” 21 We are back again to John Locke. Jefferson had been a student of Locke; if the only Locke we know Lincoln read as President was the lesser one who wrote under the name of Petroleum V. Nasby, Lincoln was nonetheless steeped in Lockean ism. Franklin Roosevelt had probably never looked at the Second Treatise on Civil Government since Harvard, if he had

knew what would have been wiser, or was necessary, or was more expedient, to be too late with too little, or too long with too much, too pacifist in peace and too bellicose in war, too neutralist or appeasing in negotiation or too intransigent. Mass opinion has acquired mounting power in this century. It has shown itself to be a dangerous master of decisions when the stakes are life and death.42 This was a devastating proposition. Could it be that the Founding Fathers had failed in their

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