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Guide The Imperial Presidency

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The daily accountability of the president to the Congress, the courts, the press, and the people has been replaced by an accountability of only once each four years, during an election. The changes have occurred slowly over the centuries so that what appears normal differs greatly from what was the original state of America. The proclamation prohibited American citizens from assisting either Britain or France. However, grand juries refused to enforce the proclamation. In , to annex Texas , President James K.

Polk sent troops between Texas and Mexico , which provoked a war. Polk then manipulated Congress into recognizing a state of war. Representative Abraham Lincoln stated if it was allowed, a president could arbitrarily make war just as monarchs do and that the Constitutional Convention recognized that declaring war must not be in the hands of one man. During the American Civil War , Lincoln assumed war powers as commander-in-chief of the military but made no claim that the constitution allowed him these powers. Without congressional authorization, Lincoln unilaterally expanded the military, suspended habeas corpus , arrested citizens, proclaimed martial law , seized property, censored newspapers, and emancipated slaves.

Lincoln justified the actions as necessary to preserve the country rather than by the constitution. After the Civil War, the Supreme Court , in , asserted that the constitution was the law of the land in war and peace and that government powers can not exceed those granted by the constitution.

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Presidential power was deflated following the Civil War. With the Spanish—American War in , the United States became a great power , and presidential power expanded. President Theodore Roosevelt sent troops into many Caribbean countries and established new governments in several without congressional approval, [13] including actions in Colombia , Panama , Honduras , Dominican Republic , and Cuba. See List of United States military history events. In , President Calvin Coolidge sent 5, troops to Nicaragua without congressional approval.

He was considered a strict constructionist in other matters. Roosevelt declared a limited national emergency. The concept of limited national emergency seems to rest on implied and assumed powers of the president and the assertion of it by him. On May 27, , Roosevelt determined that the nation was in a state of unlimited national emergency. Congress ended the national emergency in , two years after the end of World War II. National emergency powers are defined as "the President may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.

In , Roosevelt threatened Congress that if a provision of the Emergency Price Control Act was not repealed within three weeks, he would block its implementation. World War II was used to justify this threat. Like Lincoln, he added that when the war ended, the war powers would return to the people. Congress repealed the provision, and the threat was not acted upon.

Throughout the history of the presidency, a pattern emerged that the president assumed greater powers during the emergency.

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After the emergency had passed, Congress would assert itself. In , Democratic President Harry S. Truman wanted the Republican Congress to approve aid to Greece and Turkey. He found that by turning a reasonable program into the Truman Doctrine and exaggerating the issue, he got the appropriation. In , Truman had sent troops to the Korean War without Congressional approval. He ordered the Secretary of Commerce to seize and operate the steel mills without Congressional approval.

The majority of justices stated that the Commander-in-Chief clause of the constitution did not apply to domestic matters and that the president must comply with existing laws on this matter. By , Truman increased the Armed Services to 3. Before then, only Lincoln had increased the Army without Congressional approval. The addition of 50 treaties increased presidential responsibilities and power in the s.

The CIA attempted but failed to overthrow the government of Indonesia. The Cuban Missile Crisis showed that independent and unilateral presidential action in extreme circumstances is, at times, required. However, it was a unique situation of threat and secrecy in the nuclear age and should not have been used to justify the imperial presidency. In , President Lyndon B. Johnson sent 22, troops to the Dominican Republic without congressional approval. The same year, he sent combat troops for the first time into Vietnam. The war lasted the longest in US history and resulted in the fourth largest number of US casualties after the Civil War and the two world wars.

The Tonkin Gulf resolution authorized the president to use the military, as he required. That was transfer of war powers from Congress to the president. In , President Richard Nixon ordered an intervention into Cambodia without Congressional approval. By , the Tonkin Gulf resolution was revoked by Congress. However, the Vietnam War continued, solely from Nixon's authority. Before Lincoln, that title indicated only the topmost officer of the armed forces. Lincoln used it for greater authority and so could future presidents in the event of a civil war. Nixon justified his authority to order the invasion of Cambodia only by his title of Commander-in-Chief.

Cambodia and Laos were both purportedly neutral countries, but were being used as a base of operations by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. This was kept secret from Congress. The imperial Presidency was created in response to foreign policy issues. This resulted in the exclusion of the Congress, the press, the public and the Constitution in foreign policy decisions. Once established, the imperial Presidency then expanded into domestic issues.

Schlesinger claims Nixon dismissed the opinions of the public, the press, and foreign nations and used price controls , tax relief , and subsidies , tariffs , import quotas and fiscal policy to manage the economy. These economic powers were used to reward economic sectors that supported his actions and punish those sectors that opposed his actions.

Rather than veto Congressional legislation that he opposed, he would impound the funds. The Constitution empowers the Congress to determine the level of spending, not the President. The President is not allowed to selectively enforce laws, which Nixon did.

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Nixon's Presidential model resembled the plebiscitary Presidency. Plebiscitary democracy is defined as where a leader is elected but once elected has almost all of the power. Another explanation of the Nixon model would be a personal dictatorship or an elective kingship under the Constitution where the President represents the democratic majority and any opposition is considered antidemocratic. Public responses are limited to voting during elections. In , Nixon authorized investigating peaceful protesters but found nothing.


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Agents of the Treasury Department went to public libraries to examine the book borrowing records of citizens. Breaking and entering was authorized by Nixon to investigate suspects.


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The National Security Agency was authorized to monitor conversations of citizens making international phone calls. Nixon claimed that the President was not required to obey certain laws. He nearly succeeded but for the actions of hardline opponents. Foreign policy challenges the separation of powers. The presidency reigns supreme in foreign policy. The weight of messianic globalism was indeed proving too much for the American Constitution.

If this policy were vital to American survival, then a way would have to be found to make it constitutional; perhaps the Constitution itself would have to be revised. The National Emergencies Act of , which Trump is heavily relying on, gives presidents wide authority. The Act basically lets presidents determine what constitutes an emergency. This should be a matter of protecting the institution of Congress, something both parties should uphold.

Members of Congress should object to executive overreach, even if they agree with the particular policy at stake. Specifically, it is up to Republicans in Congress to stop Trump. In practical terms, Republicans should realise that acquiescing to presidential power today will be used against them in the future — it is easy to imagine a future Democrat president following Trump and declaring an emergency to deal with climate change, guns or healthcare. Some Republicans get it. The word is that there are not enough Republicans willing to vote against Trump and overcome his promised veto they would need two-thirds of votes in both chambers to do that.

The Imperial Presidency - Arthur Meier Schlesinger - Google книги

It appears that many Republicans fear a backlash from the Trumpist base of their party if they defy the president. As the shutdown illustrated, there is no consensus in American politics on the issue of immigration. There needs to be more democratic debate — debate about borders, about who is allowed in, about what to do with illegal immigrants in the country, about assimilation, and so on. And if Congress is stirred enough to restore its rightful place in the democratic process, even better. Sean Collins is a writer based in New York.

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