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Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy Hardcover – September 5, 2007
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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.
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
Top customer reviews
This is a very angry-making book. It takes all of those news stories that were of concern during the last eight years and sets them into a context. Really, just putting them all together is enough cause for anger, but some of the additional details that did not get much publicity the first time around are also very disturbing. The controversies around torture and wire-tapping were well-known, and the issues in the Justice Department had been getting more publicity recently, but I had not known about the attacks on the JAG corps or Posse Comitatus. Even with torture, I knew the basic controversy, and the common assertion that it doesn't work, but this gives the background on the history of the techniques and how they were developed, as well as some of the fall out from the faulty information that came through enhanced interrogation techniques.
While I feel the information is vital, and accurate, I must warn that it is not as accessible as it could me. The book is long, with dense prose and tons of detail that can be a bit overwhelming. I could have finished it faster than I did, but it still takes serious time regardless. Not a beach read.
I hope to re-read it later, after I have read Schlesinger's original book on the Imperial Presidency, Frank's books on this presidency, and maybe a few others to fill in the gaps, and see if it is an easier read with more background.
One of the strengths of this book is the information about Dick Cheney and how integral a part he has played over the course of his career in the White House in his obsession with strengthening the presidency. With George W. Bush he has succeeded in making the presidency virtually free from oversight on the part of the legislative and judicial branches.
A disturbing pattern of behavior appears in the current administration; if the Constitution, a law, or Congress gets in their way, they simply ignore the obstacle and continue on.
Mr. Savage examines another intriguing aspect of the Bush administration that is secretive. That would be the conflicts in the White House involving an inner circle of people around Dick Cheney.
An interesting tidbit that Judicial Watch discovered about Cheney's secret energy task force- as early as March 2001, two years before the invasion of Iraq, the group was studying Iraqi oil fields and who owned the drilling rights.
On page 132 is a relevant quote on the quest for political power. "The rule of law is the enemy of the powerful. The essence of law is that everyone obeys the same rules regardless of weakness or strength, so the law chafes most keenly against those who, in a world without rules, have the power to simply impose their will."
George Sutherland wisely said "An informed public is the most potent of all restraints upon misgovernment."
Mr. Savage covers the president's signing statements as alternatives to vetoes. The use of this tool to more or less serve as a line-item veto is explained. He also does an excellent job on examining the judicial appointments of this regime. The unofficial criteria for a Bush appointee often get's missed amidst the buzz surrounding social issues like abortion.
I can't think of a better-written, more illuminating book about the subject of presidential power expansion, both from a current view as well as a historical standpoint. If you read just one book about the subject, this is the book to read!
When people complain about the current President, I just throw this book at them and tell them to read it then get back to me.
The fact that many won't read it tells me more than necessary about them. They think just like the previous administration - nothing was wrong with what they did. And one wonders why there is such a deep divide in this country today.
I could go on, but I won't. This is a slight review of a book and not a political diatribe. But if you have an open mind, then do get this and give it a read.