Book Review, Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George Bush
This article was originally published in Engage: The Journal of the Federalist Society Practice Groups, volume 11, issue 1, in 2010.
However bitter, complex, and urgent today's controversies over executive power may be, Yoo reminds us that they are nothing new. In Crisis and Command, he explores a factor too little consulted in current debates: history. Through a meticulous analysis, the author demonstrates that the bold decisions made by Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR changed more than just history; they also transformed the role of the American president. The link between a vigorous exercise of executive power and presidential greatness, Yoo argues, is both significant and misunderstood.
Yoo makes a compelling case that the Founding Fathers deliberately left the Constitution vague on the limits of presidential power so as to allow strong presidents leeway to act in defense of the nation in times of crisis. Far from being an apologia for the policies of the Bush administration, in which he served, Yoo draws on history to demonstrate the benefits to the nation of a strong executive office, especially in today's times of terrorist threats and economic crises that place even more stress on the presidency and its relationship to the three branches of government.