Executive Angst: Understanding America’s Presidential Power Struggle
February 17, 2017•45 min
Today, we're dedicating our entire show to thinking deeply about the role of the president and executive power. Here’s what you’ll find in this special Presidents’ Day episode: From George Washington and Andrew Jackson, to Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, the function of the highest office in the land has expanded and contracted over time — sometimes beyond what the nation’s founders ever intended. Where did the concept of executive power originate, and what does the Constitution actually say about it? For answers, we turn to Eric Posner, a professor of law at the University of Chicago. The president is at the top of the chain of military command. But what can the president actually do when it comes to war? Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University, author of “How Everything Became War and The Military Became Everything,” answers that question today on The Takeaway. President Donald Trump could certainly be compared with other presidents when it comes to his outlook on executive authority. But that doesn't reassure John Yoo. He's a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. He has supported past exertions of presidential power for matters relating to torture, surveillance and drones. And yet, he has serious reservations about President Trump. The judiciary provides a key check on the president's powerful hand. But in recent weeks, we've seen the Trump Administration take on the court system, and what has traditionally been a healthy tug-of-war is suddenly starting to look more like an out-right war between the executive and judicial branches. Leon Fresco, former deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department and former head of the the Office of Immigration Litigation under the Obama Administration, says over time, the judiciary has become defensive of its powers — and with good reason. Many voices on Capitol Hill say that Congress has ceded too much authority to the president. U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah is one of the lawmakers behind the "Article One Project,” an initiative based on the idea that Congress was always meant to be the driving force in federal policymaking. He discusses the plan with Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich. If you could redesign our democracy, knowing what we know today about our world, how would you do it? Pippa Norris, a lecturer in comparative politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, spends a lot of time thinking about how democracies function, how power is balanced, and the role of elections and public opinion in the shaping of our government. Today on The Takeaway she imagines the future of the U.S. system of government.