The President as Commander in Chief: An Essay in Constitutional Vision

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9781611634051: The President as Commander in Chief: An Essay in Constitutional Vision
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The contemporary debate over the scope of the President's constitutional authority to protect national security reflects a seemingly unbridgeable gap between those who trumpet essentially unlimited executive power and those who seek to minimize the President's independent role. In The President as Commander in Chief, Powell proposes a different approach that begins with identifying the perspective that a conscientious President and his or her advisors should adopt in answering questions of presidential authority. Powell shows that the opinions of Robert H. Jackson as attorney general and associate justice outline a vision of the President's role in defending the Republic that is faithful to constitutional structure and history. Powell goes on to identify William H. Rehnquist's application of Jackson's vision at the Justice Department and on the Supreme Court, and to discuss the practical implications of his approach.

Legitimate disagreements will always exist about how to answer specific questions over the constitutional distribution of authority in the area of national security, in large measure because any plausible perspective must recognize the need to apply enduring constitutional principles to widely differing factual circumstances. But the current impasse over how to think about the issues is unnecessary. What Powell calls the Youngstown vision can guide executive decision making so that neither the claims of law nor the exigencies of national security is sacrificed.

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About the Author:

Jefferson Powell is a Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law.

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