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Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy [Kindle Edition]

Charlie Savage
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In 1789, the Founding Fathers came up with a system of checks and balances to keep kingly powers out of the hands of American presidents. But in the 1970s and '80s, a faction of Republican loyalists, outraged by the fall of the imperial presidency after Watergate and the Vietnam War, abandoned conservatives' traditional suspicion of concentrated government power. These men hatched a plot that would allow the White House to return to, or even surpass, the virtually unchecked powers that Richard Nixon had briefly tried to wield. Congress would be defanged, and the commander-in-chief would be able to assert a unilateral dominance both at home and abroad.

Today, this plot is coming to fruition. As Takeover reveals, the Bush-Cheney administration has succeeded in seizing vast powers for the presidency by throwing off many of the restraints placed upon it by Congress, the courts, and the Constitution. This timely book unveils the secret machinations behind the headlines, explaining the links between warrantless wiretapping and the President Bush's Supreme Court nominees, between the torture debate and the secrecy surrounding Vice President Cheney's energy task force, and between the "faith-based initiative" and the holding of US citizens without trial as "enemy combatants." It tells, for the first time, the full story of a hidden agenda three decades in the making, laying out how a group of true believers set out to establish monarchical executive powers that, in the words of one conservative critic, "will lie around like a loaded weapon" ready to be picked up by any future president.

Brilliantly reported and deftly told, Takeover is a searing investigation into how the constitutional balance of our democracy is in danger of being permanently altered. For anyone who cares about America's past, present, and future, it is essential reading.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Savage, who won a Pulitzer for his Boston Globe articles about the signing statements George W. Bush used to negate legislation limiting presidential authority, gives that issue a key part in this account of the Bush administration's efforts to increase executive power. Covering constitutional issues as well as the political backgrounds of former White House attorneys like Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, this detailed report traces their concerted effort, from the moment Bush took office in 2001, to [leave] the presidency in better shape than he [Bush] found it. The authorization to use force against Iraq is only the tip of the iceberg. Bush has already gone so far as to declare himself able to negate treaties with other nations at will, Savage reports. He also demonstrates how many of the administration's most controversial acts have their roots in Dick Cheney's experiences in the Nixon and Ford administrations. This incisive analysis of congressional and judicial efforts to check the administration's power grabs adds up to a searing indictment. (Sept. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Boston Globe reporter Savage begins by detailing Vice President Cheney's extraordinary actions on 9/11, ordering the military to shoot down a civilian aircraft that had apparently been hijacked, without consulting with President Bush. Although the order was never executed, it demonstrated Cheney's command of the administration, which has given him free rein to implement a long-held ambition to shift power in favor of the presidency and to secure that shift for generations to come. Savage recounts the tumultuous history of the power struggle between the executive and legislative branches of government as well as Cheney's own personal history. Cheney served his political apprenticeship in the Nixon administration, famous for its tugs-of-war with Congress over executive privilege, as well as the administrations of Ford, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. In this troubling look at the abuse of power, Savage also details Cheney's involvement in seizing presidential power to authorize wiretapping, torture, and imprisonment of citizens without trial. Bush, Vanessa

Product Details

  • File Size: 1410 KB
  • Print Length: 411 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 5, 2007)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SF9ZP8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,937 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
194 of 202 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched, Thoughtful, and Important! September 5, 2007
There have been lots of books about the Bush-Cheney administration, and considerable coverage of efforts to increase presidential power. However, "Takeover's" well-researched, thoughtful and important material requires no outside leverage to gain a prominent spot amongst them.

Savage's summary asserts that Bush-Cheney have succeeded in seizing vast powers for the presidency by ignoring many of the restraints placed on it by Congress, the courts, and the Constitution. Warrantless waretapping, politicization of the Justice Department and the torture debate, use of "signing statements" to claim a right to defy new laws, efforts to impose greater control over military JAG lawyers, secrecy behind Cheney's energy task force (and innumerable other government actions), and holding U.S. citizens without trial as "enemy combatants" have all served this end.

Savage clearly sees Cheney as the force behind these moves, citing Cheney's earlier experiences and actions in government, beginning in the Nixon administration within the Office of Economic Opportunity with Don Rumsfeld, on to episodes of classified information disclosure (eg. illegal CIA spying on Americans, U.S. submarines eavesdropping on Soviet cables), Cheney's restricting access to President Ford by those with competing viewpoints (also reduced likelihood of leaks), and efforts within Congress to support Reagan-Bush power grabs (eg. forcing executive agencies to submit proposed rules to the White House before they could take effect).

The Bush-Cheney powergrab began immediately upon assuming the office. White House Counsel Gonzales was assigned a support role almost on the administration's opening day.
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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Necessary Evil, A Must Read! October 3, 2007
The number of books being written about the excesses of the Bush years increase almost daily, and keeping up with all of them is becoming nothing short of impossible. That said, keep in mind that not much is new from volume to volume, but "Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency..." covers most of the issues competently if not completely.

It is difficult for some readers, especially those who refuse to see the inadequecies and subversions of this presidency to read books that are not flattering, but hopefully they can leave their ideology for a while.

Had some of the events that took place within the oval office during the last six years occured during the previous administration there would have been very credible reasons to seek impeachment, and the failure of Congress to demand a better accounting of the insane power grabs is incomprehensible, but partisan politics seems to be the only measure to take, not take action. America has lost so much credibility during this imperial presidency that it will take decades to even begin to repair some of the damage, and then only if our politicians on both sides of the aisle wake up, and soon.
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64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The makings of an evil empire October 20, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
With each successive year, the Bush-Cheney administration gets scarier and undoubtedly more out of control. Political grabs for power have always been the name of the game in Washington, but the current White House has taken it to new and unprecedented levels, subverting the Constitution along the way. Charlie Savage's terrific new book, "Takeover", charts the "progress" of the Bush years and with it offers up some startling results.

It's been known for some time now that the run up to the war in Iraq was based on conjecture. As Savage reminds us, Tony Blair's cabinet had correctly surmised that (regarding the potential invasion) "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". This was only the beginning for the Bush people and, having gotten their way with that, the rush to accumulate power within the executive branch of government was underway. Castrating Congress, disregarding the courts and avoiding public opinion, the administration went on a tear. Legalisms became the norm in order to sidestep the law as the White House pulled the wagons in closer and tighter.

One of the main thrusts of "Takeover" is a discussion about Unitary Executive Theory which amounts to an idea that an executive can ignore previous laws, precedents that are attached to them and to do pretty much at will as he so desires. This often takes the form of "signing statements". It is here that Savage really makes his case for how far out on a limb Bush-Cheney have gone. With their team of lawyers working seemingly around the clock to get around anything that might get in the way, (and in their mind, "weaken" the executive branch) Savage adeptly and successfully crashes their party.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only we had known then what we know now September 13, 2007
There are "oh, now I get it!" moments on nearly every page of this highly readable, superbly-researched and sourced book. Although the title implies that this might be a book about George W. Bush, it's actually the story of how Dick Cheney visualized, masterminded, and executed the destruction of Constitutional limits to the power of the President. Savage shows us that starting with his work in the Nixon administration as Rumsfeld's assistant at the Office of Economic Opportunity, continuing with his term as Wyoming's representative to Congress, and then during his service in the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. bush, Cheney worked relentlessly to formulate his vision of an imperial presidency, and form a team that would assist him in stripping away Congressional oversight of the actions of the President. By the time he was selected to be George Bush's running mate for the Presidency, all the pieces and characters were in place, and the rest is history.

Savage looked at all the documents, court rulings, and white papers relating to Cheney's work, and in this book makes a powerful case that we would have known what we were in for today if we had studied the history of this man. It's a case-study of how to demolish democracy. This is compelling and mandatory reading for anyone who cares about the Constitution of the United States and the future of our democracy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Recites old and tired mantras, nothing really new was said
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars A conservative opinion
I only scanned part of this book and cannot claim to be expert on this man's work. However, it is clear that this write is securely in the Bush-hatred end of modern liberalism. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Steve Austin
1.0 out of 5 stars "I have a pen and a phone" makes Bush look like a piker when it comes...
I remember reading this book during the Bush Presidency. Charlie Savage painted himself as some kind of seeker of the truth that just wanted to inform the American people. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Augments my understadninbg
I bought this book to augment my current academic program in law and policy. It was recommended by one of my professors and I really appreciate the content and the writer's style.
Published 11 months ago by jdejean333
5.0 out of 5 stars The nemesis of those, whose imaginations vilify the Bill of Rights and...
It's a book that reveals much of what I had conjectured with my reading of the WSJ and the fulfillment of prophecy from the Book of Mormon.
Published 17 months ago by David D. Dickson
5.0 out of 5 stars Politics to the max
Bought this sometime ago but just getting around to reviewing it. I thought I had done it already.

When people complain about the current President, I just throw this... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Nick Pusloskie
2.0 out of 5 stars It may be important, but it's also realy boring
I purchased this book after hearing a piece on NPR about the signing statements that I found very interesting. Read more
Published on April 20, 2011 by Bill McNeil
1.0 out of 5 stars Never received it.
Never received this from seller, even after communication about the tardiness of it. Ordered it over a year ago lol. Read more
Published on October 29, 2010 by Theresa
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read Book on the Bush Presidency and W's Grab for Power
"Takeover" was a "hard" read. Not because it was poorly written or well researched. This book is exceptionally well written and meticulously researched. Read more
Published on October 17, 2009 by John G. Self
5.0 out of 5 stars Upsetting Accounting of a Horrible Presidency
Savage's book was the first of many books I have read on Bush 43 and Darth Vader (Cheney). As a Republican, I am deeply concerned about my party. Read more
Published on May 17, 2009 by D. Florence
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This book doesn't seem to mention the wmds found in Iraq since 2003 that...
Dude - if you have to use Ann Coulter to support your argument, you've already lost.

And we've known about those WMDs you're referring to for years: the existed pre-Gulf War I and are so significantly degraded as to be fairly impotent.
Dec 1, 2007 by sideshow bob |  See all 4 posts
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