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Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11 Hardcover – March 12, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jack Goldsmith is the Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law at Harvard University. From October 2003 to June 2004 he was assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel. He lives in Newton, Massachusetts.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081336
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Kenneth Anderson on April 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jack Goldsmith has written a superb analysis of the evolution of the heated - overheated - debates over executive power and national security policies in the decade after 9/11. It is particularly striking because, although an academic's academic, Goldsmith shows a remarkable talent for journalism, interviewing a long list of participants in the debates over national security policy, and an ability to create a narrative. This book (like his last book on this topic) is actually readable! The main thesis is that jockeying back and forth over national security law and policy among the various branches of government, as well as outside players such as academics, advocacy groups, and journalists, has created something of a new equilibrium around policy. A decade after 9/11, the situation over law and policy, executive power and reach, is gradually settling.

Here, however, is my question for Goldsmith: Is this equilibrium, this partial reversion to a slightly different mean, actually stable? Have we reached institutional settlement in 2012? Or will things that looked fairly settled and stabilized in 2012 under the Obama administration suddenly look a lot less stable in 2013, if there were, for example, a Romney administration? As advocacy groups continue to call for prosecutions and investigations, either here or abroad, of Bush era officials - Human Rights Watch, for example, in a recent report - in ways that look frankly fringe given the position of the Obama administration, will all that suddenly look more palatable if there were a Republican administration - and Democrats who swallowed hard, but refused to take up real cudgels against "their" administration suddenly realize they no longer have a stake in the "institutional settlement"?

I believe that this is the single "must-read" book in 2012 on the presidency and presidential power and national security.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An eye opening book that enlightened me on the both the power inherent in the executive office as well as the constraints built up since 9/11 and as a result of then president Bush's unilateral approach to attacking the terrorist threat. Of the endless books on current affairs and politics, this is a must read. Intelligently written, neutral and well documented it's a must read in order to understand today's politically charged atmosphere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since the terror attack of 9/11, I have been increasingly concerned with the actions of our government. The revelation of abuses at Abu Ghraib, the shocking stories of secret CIA prisons, and our policies of indefinite detainment and “enhanced interrogation” at facilities like Bagram and Guantanamo have made me wonder whether the cure was worse than the disease.

Jack Goldsmith makes a good case that traditional checks and balances are still very much at play. What we see in the media is that nobody above the rank of sergeant went to prison over Abu Ghraib, and nobody’s been tried for what in retrospect was probably torture in CIA prisons. I still find that shocking, but no matter how Teflon-coated our policy makers appear in the media, the author explains that behind the scenes each new scandal results in a flurry of activity. One of the results is that every branch of government has newer and tighter policies, plus a veritable army of in-house lawyers whose job it is to enforce compliance.

As we read about widespread NSA surveillance of our phone calls and emails (as revealed by Edward Snowden after this book’s publication), and as we see the defenders of those policies seeming to prevail in Congressional hearings, it is comforting to know that despite the appearance of unchecked power, behind the scenes these same people are scurrying to make their activities more acceptable to the courts, the Congress, and American public. It may be that in their minds it’s just window dressing, but the result according to Goldsmith is serious and long-lasting constraints.
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Format: Hardcover
Well this should shut a lot of mouths including mine. Remarkable book. I have to believe it for now and throw away (some) of my growing cynicism about the presidency and our government in general. My only hope is this is not a complex conspiracy book from the powers that be,.. I really don't think so. This is a rare book of real substance on the subject. Madison lives on, great.
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