Band-Aids for the Corpse

In 1973 Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., published The Imperial Presidency.  He argued that the stretching of presidential power by Democrats Roosevelt and Truman had been necessary and benevolent, but that such behavior by Nixon was a dark threat to the commonwealth.  Schlesinger’s childishly partisan and superficial tirade was soon forgotten.  Time has moved on, and serial murders of constitutional government by Bush minor and Obama have made Nixon’s offenses look like jaywalking.

F.H. Buckley, professor of law at George Mason University, is rightly alarmed by present trends and admirably free of party propaganda.  He realizes that Democrats as well as Republicans have contributed to the imperial presidency and provides good recent examples of this.  He is correct also that presidents cannot abuse power without being enabled by Congress and, sometimes, the Supreme Court.  This point was made repeatedly by John C. Calhoun, but the author has only one slighting, irrelevant, and erroneous reference to Calhoun in his discussion.

The author is also correct that the Separation of Powers doctrine has been overemphasized, and that the Founding Fathers for the most part favored and expected legislative supremacy.  But in elaborate surveys of American and British political thought about the Separation of Powers, he is blithely unaware that John Taylor of Caroline and John Randolph...

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