Bush pushed the limits of presidential power
With Cheney's urging, he insisted that he had that right under the US Constitution, especially during wartime.
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Had Lincoln called Congress into special session in Washington, just as Maryland pulled out of the Union, the entire government would have been located within the Confederacy and in grave danger.Skip to next paragraph
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Instead, Lincoln acted quickly and alone. Then, within months, once the crisis in Maryland subsided, he presented the issue to Congress and obtained its approval.
Bush administration members invoked the example of Lincoln as justification for their own assertions of executive authority in the war on terror. But some analysts say the Bush administration wrongly sought to act alone in controversial areas, rather than obtaining the guidance and support of Congress.
"Given the kind of conflict we're faced with today, we find ourselves in a situation where I believe you need strong executive leadership," Mr. Cheney said in a FOX News interview in December. "There are bound to be debates and arguments ... about what kind of authority is appropriate in any specific circumstance. But I think that what we've done has been totally consistent with what the Constitution provides for."
Cheney noted that the president has 24-hour access to a briefcase containing all the codes necessary to launch a nuclear counterattack. "He could launch a kind of a devastating attack the world has never seen," the vice president said. "He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in."
Many scholars take issue with Cheney's view. They say he and others in the Bush administration have used the war on terror as an opportunity to try to establish more robust powers within the executive.
"The basic strategy was to assert that the president could do various things like [authorizing domestic] wiretaps, detaining enemy combatants, and setting up military commissions solely on his own, he didn't need congressional authorization," says Steven Calabresi, a constitutional scholar at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and author of "The Unitary Executive: Presidential Power from Washington to Bush."
"The hope was that by President Bush doing those things on his own it would vindicate presidential power in those areas," Professor Calabresi says. "I think that strategy was a mistake both legally and politically."
Cheney's strong hand seen
"Cheney is an executivist in the sense that he really thinks the president needs all that power and control to defend the country," says James Pfiffner, a political scientist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va, and author of "Power Play: The Bush Presidency and the Constitution."
"There is a difference between power and authority," Professor Pfiffner says. "The president has the power to push the [nuclear] buttons, but he doesn't have the constitutional authority to do that. That rests with Congress."
Congress can delegate the power to the president to be prepared to respond immediately to a sudden attack. But the president does not possess the constitutional authority to launch and fight a war without congressional approval.