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Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush Hardcover – January 5, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1607145554 ISBN-10: 1607145553 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Kaplan Publishing (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607145553
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607145554
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this contentious study, Berkeley law prof and former Justice Department official Yoo reprises the brief for expansive presidential power that made him one of the Bush administration's most controversial aides. He focuses on a handful of presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR—who, he argues, extended executive authority in novel ways to surmount crises without letting an inherently slow, disorganized, corrupt, and pusillanimous Congress get in the way. In his account, these great presidents started wars without congressional authorization, suspended habeas corpus, detained security risks, secretly wiretapped, remade the economy, and unilaterally interpreted the Constitution. All of this, he insists, comports with the Constitution's grant of broad, ambiguous powers to a unitary executive and, usually, with congressional consensus and public well-being. His analysis culminates in a defense of Bush administration policies on warrantless wiretapping, coercive interrogation, enemy combatants, and Iraq, and a denunciation of Obama's deviations from them. Yoo's chronicle cogently fits in Bush's initiatives with previous presidential arrogations of power. But his tacit premise that the open-ended, ill-defined war on terror compares to previous crises like the Civil War and requires similarly drastic responses will be strongly disputed by civil libertarians. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Using a popular technique for ranking American presidents, Yoo refracts their historical status through the lens of Article II of the Constitution. George Washington rates number one in Yoo’s book for setting precedents: all his successors have the power to remove officials, to wage war, and to invoke executive privilege (keep secrets from Congress)—none of which is explicit in Article II—because of Washington. Yoo rates Lincoln and FDR second and third, respectively, for reasons familiar to history readers. Readers will learn about Supreme Court decisions that have pertained to the president’s powers, along with Yoo’s expansive interpretation thereof. Addressing criticism that the power pendulum has historically swung too far from Congress, Yoo rebuts with arguments that the legislature could, but rarely does, reclaim powers it has delegated to the executive. This will appeal to the core audience for constitutional law but will also draw interest based on the author’s frequent TV appearances and his notoriety—many critics regarded his legal advice to the Bush administration as anathema. --Gilbert Taylor

More About the Author

John Yoo is Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. He received his B.A., summa cum laude, in American history from Harvard University. Between college and law school, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Washington, D.C. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was an articles editor of the Yale Law Journal. He then clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit.

Yoo clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court. He served as general counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee from 1995-96. From 2001 to 2003, he served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on issues involving foreign affairs, national security and the separation of powers.

Yoo has published articles about foreign affairs, international law and constitutional law in the nation's leading law journals. He has also contributed to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Philadelphia Inquirer, to the Ricochet blog, and to the Lawtalk podcast.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

175 of 223 people found the following review helpful By Dr B Leland Baker on January 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The author acknowledges that "many scholars believe that the exercise of executive power today runs counter to the original constitutional design," but he then suggests that the Founders were not necessarily against Executive Power despite their opposition to King George. He continues with different historical views of the "executive" power.

Mr. Yoo quotes a survey of 130 leading political scientists, economists and lawyers who rated the "best" Presidents in American history: Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Reagan, Truman, Eisenhower, Polk and Jackson.

He addresses five of the top ten in their own chapters, while Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan are addressed in "The Cold War Presidents" chapter. [The Book consists of nine chapters: (1) Beginnings, (2) Creation, (3) George Washington, (4) Thomas Jefferson, (5) Andrew Jackson, (6) Abraham Lincoln, (7) Franklin D. Roosevelt, (8) The Cold War Presidents (from Eisenhower to Reagan), and (9) The Once and Future Presidency.]

Mr. Yoo explains that despite their Republican or Democrat party alignments, the greater Presidents "pushed the envelope" in using broad executive powers that often challenged both the Legislative and Judicial branches.

As a strict Constitutionalist, who is concerned about the risks of despotism, I do not share political views that accept ever-expansive powers of the President. However, Yoo's analysis and observations on the history of Presidential powers are worth reading for constitutional-conservatives and left-leaning progressives alike, because he provides insight on how, over the past 220 years, we arrived at where we are today.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
CRISIS AND COMMAND: A HISTORY OF EXECUTIVE POWER FROM GEORGE WASHINGTON TO GEORGE W. BUSH explores the history of presidential power from the Founding of the Republic to modern debates on the war on terror. His approach considers political science, history and law to examine how the Presidency was created and run over the decades, and chooses five great Presidents who served during times of war to consider changing presidency routines and issues. Yoo presents a case for a link between executive power and how it expands with each crisis and emergency.
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324 of 465 people found the following review helpful By Gen. JC Christian, patriot on January 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
John Yoo is a serious man. He understands that the Constitution is so precious that sometimes you have to destroy it in order the save it. To him, the Bill of Rights is a bunker on Omaha Beach, a threatening obstacle that has to be taken and burned in order to make our nation more pleasing to Our Dark Lord and Savior, Dick Cheney. Yoo wrote this book to justify such destruction.

He served this nation during very dark times. Our Great and Glorious Crusade Against The Unbelievers was underway, but Leader Bush was still stumbling, searching for a justification for His grand adventure. He needed political cover, and he needed it immediately. He summoned the Dark Lord from his undisclosed location and pleaded with him to provide it.

Cheney knew what had to be done. Saddam had to be tied to Al Qaeda. As a serious man, he understood that if evidence of such a tie was unavailable, it had to be created. Detainees would need to be coerced into making false confessions. It would require torture, an act that was considered unconstitutional at the time. Cheney turned to another serious man, Yoo--a man who would later tell Congress that the President can legally order a suspect to be burned alive or that his children be tortured--to write a justification for ignoring the Fifth and Eighth Amendments.

Yoo served the Dark Lord well by not only justifying torture but by destroying the Fourth Amendment to allow domestic spying as well.

I'm giving this book five stars--not because it is well argued or well written (it isn't) but because, like Yoo, I want to help shape our nation according to Lord Cheney's righteously Stalinesque vision.

It would be a much better book if Yoo added a few things.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rodrigo Silveira on April 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Crisis and Command is a fantastic book, I loved it. The book has 3 distinct phases: a) The Washington, Jefferson and Jackson, b) Lincoln and Roosevelt, and c) the Cold war presidents. The first few presidents had a constitution and very little legal precedent, hence the author provides an excellent historical context and addresses presidential decision making within that scope, spicing it up with whatever legal analysis behooves it; it is important to note that the author strives to keep the analysis within the historical context, avoiding revisionism. Lincoln and Roosevelt had to face huge challenges including historical and legal precedent; the author shifts the focus to provide balanced historical and legal perspective; the balance is good enough to keep a person without a strong legal background flipping the pages with interest. The cold war treatment is fundamentally legal; since most of us understand the historical context pretty well, the author shifts the focus to a very dense legal assessment of the presidents's decision making; it is not easy to follow, but an inquisitive mind will derive immense pleasure from subtleties of the arguments. The conclusion, as in most books of this nature, is necessary but by them I had lost interest.
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