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April 20, 2006

Seriously: They're REALLY NOT Kidding

John "Crusher" Yoo has written a new book called The Powers of War and Peace. And according to a review in the Nation, it has some big news: everything you know about American history is wrong!

You may remember from 10th grade the argument in 1787 between the federalists and anti-federalists over the ratification of the Constitution. The anti-federalists main worry was the Constitution as written would centralize too much power in the national government, particularly the executive branch. In fact, they said, we'd end up with a tyranny again, just after we'd fought a revolution to escape a king. Meanwhile, the federalists argued the Constitution had checks and balances that would prevent this.

Of course, the Constitution was ratified, leading to much rejoicing and eventually several segments of Schoolhouse Rock. But in history class they always tell you the anti-federalists were wrong: we didn't end up with a tyranny. The Constitution prevents the executive branch from doing anything it wants. For instance, only Congress has the power to declare war.

But John Yoo has some surprising news: the anti-federalists were right! The Constitution does give the president, particularly in matters of war and peace, exactly the same powers of the British king circa 1787! The only difference is, Yoo thinks this is a good thing.

Think I'm exaggerating? Well, check out Yoo's website, which has an article he wrote that's incorporated into the book:

...[The anti-federalist] Cato correctly concluded that in the realm of practical politics, the President's authority under the Constitution did not differ in important measure from that of the King.

Ha ha ha! The joke's on you, American history!

The best part is, Yoo is associated with the Federalist Society, the notorious conservative legal organization. I guess one of the main tenets of the Federalist Society is that the anti-federalists were right all along.

SPECIAL NIXON BONUS: Here's what James St. Clair, Nixon's counsel, said in the famous 1974 case U.S. v. Nixon about executive privilege:

The President wants me to argue that he is as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land except the court of impeachment.
Posted at April 20, 2006 10:31 AM | TrackBack

I'm waiting for Junior to have his Richard III moment when he asks, with no sense of irony,

"can anybody rid me of this special prosecutor..."

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 20, 2006 11:36 AM

My brain hurts.

Posted by: wkmaier at April 20, 2006 11:52 AM

It was actually Henry II, not Richard III who said, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

Posted by: Marcus at April 20, 2006 01:48 PM

Indeed Marcus, thought it was said of Richard II, by Henry IV, formerly known as Bolingbroke, in another way--""Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?""

Personally, I'm looking forward to GWB's kingdom for a horse moment.

several segments of Schoolhouse Rock

Aw yeah, baby.
o/~ establish justice and
domestic tran-QUI-lity o/~

/bobs head up and down

Posted by: Saheli at April 20, 2006 03:29 PM

Ok, Marcus-- turns out you're right. I thought it was Richard III. I went to and the Bushiest thing from RIII I found, in the fifth act is

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.

However I don't see Georgie ever showing that level of introspection, although I guess he could surprise us.

And Saheli, I'm waiting for that too.

All of which begs the question: how many acts are left?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 20, 2006 04:10 PM

The founding fathers had all read their Livy.

From time to time through the period of the Roman Republic, the longest continuous republican government to exist on this earth, it became necessary (in times of crisis) to elect a dictator. The dictator would be invested with complete and absolute power over every person and institution in the republic, in order to preserve Rome. Always, he began by pounding a sacred nail into the Temple of Jupiter, and then he'd be off.

Surprisingly, for a little less than four hundred years, some fifteen dictators who were elected by this method all stepped down from power immediately after the threat was over. You may read about their individual exploits in a series of books written by Livy.

The founding fathers of the United States saw a practical aspect in this, particularly once Washington got his show on the road--and it was presumed that once the president took that power, he (like a good Roman) would renounce it after the crisis was passed.

Rome, however, had its Marius. And you Americans...well...we're not really sure what you've got yet, are we? I guess we'll see if the present reigning party allows itself to ever be voted out of office.

Jump in any time, Sulla.

Posted by: alexis S at April 20, 2006 04:31 PM

President Clinton exercised the powers of the imperial presidency to the utmost in the area in which those powers are already at their height -- in our dealings with foreign nations. Unfortunately, the record of the administration has not been a happy one, in light of its costs to the Constitution and the American legal system. On a series of different international relations matters, such as war, international institutions, and treaties, President Clinton has accelerated the disturbing trends in foreign policy that undermine notions of democratic accountability and respect for the rule of law.

-- John Yoo, The Imperial President Abroad, in "The Rule of Law in the Wake of Clinton"

Posted by: Cal at April 20, 2006 05:03 PM

Holy Shit! That last post from Cal hurt my brain a lot!

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at April 20, 2006 05:23 PM

I'm trying, Alexa.

Posted by: Sully at April 20, 2006 06:31 PM

Can't be king without your money. Can't be emperor without your army. Can't be dictator unless you make him.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 20, 2006 06:40 PM

Aaron, what do those of us with hurty brains do for relief?

Posted by: wkmaier at April 20, 2006 08:05 PM

But you see, to us dammed furriners it does look like Americans elect a king every four years, and appear to have been doing so since at least the sixties. If LBJ and Nixon could destroy three countries without even bothering to declare war, where is this supposed congressional oversight?

It seems also that the President being most untrammeled in exercise of his powers in relation to his role as commander-in-chief might go some way to explaining why the US executive spends so much of its time making war.

the Roman Republic, the longest continuous republican government to exist on this earth

What, longer than San Marino?

Posted by: RobW at April 20, 2006 09:40 PM

RobW: We NEVER elect Kings, we OFTEN elect MORONS.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 20, 2006 10:22 PM


With John Yoo and Michelle Malkin, we can be sure that the Asian-American community will head towards White levels of dumbness. You won't have to be alone in assuring us of the dumbness of white people anymore.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at April 20, 2006 10:36 PM

I can only assume he confused the Federalist Society and the Federalist Party.

Posted by: at April 21, 2006 12:25 AM

Cato correctly concluded that in the realm of practical politics, the President's authority under the Constitution did not differ in important measure from that of the King, unless the President is a member of a party other than mine.

Posted by: hmmm at April 21, 2006 03:07 AM

RobW. I stand corrected. I should have added the adjective 'significant.'

Posted by: alexis S at April 21, 2006 08:47 AM