Power and Constraint by Jack Goldsmith
The Accountable Presidency After 9/11

86%

7 Critic Reviews

In his bone-dry but tightly reasoned new book, “Power and Constraint,” he insists that whatever the last administration’s failings, a la-di-da attitude toward constitutional proprieties was never among them.
-NY Times

Synopsis

The surprising truth behind Barack Obama's decision to continue many of his predecessor's counterterrorism policies.


Conventional wisdom holds that 9/11 sounded the death knell for presidential accountability. In fact, the opposite is true. The novel powers that our post-9/11 commanders in chief assumed—endless detentions, military commissions, state secrets, broad surveillance, and more—are the culmination of a two-century expansion of presidential authority. But these new powers have been met with thousands of barely visible legal and political constraints—enforced by congressional committees, government lawyers, courts, and the media—that have transformed our unprecedentedly powerful presidency into one that is also unprecedentedly accountable.


These constraints are the key to understanding why Obama continued the Bush counterterrorism program, and in this light, the events of the last decade should be seen as a victory, not a failure, of American constitutional government. We have actually preserved the framers’ original idea of a balanced constitution, despite the vast increase in presidential power made necessary by this age of permanent emergency.

 

About Jack Goldsmith

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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.
 
Published March 12, 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company. 337 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Power and Constraint
All: 7 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Christopher Caldwell on Jun 08 2012

In his bone-dry but tightly reasoned new book, “Power and Constraint,” he insists that whatever the last administration’s failings, a la-di-da attitude toward constitutional proprieties was never among them.

Read Full Review of Power and Constraint: The Acc... | See more reviews from NY Times

The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Anthony Dworkin on May 18 2012

...is written with exemplary clarity and gives a notably lucid and authoritative picture of the dynamics of presidential power as they played out in perhaps the most important area of national policy in the past decade.

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Business Week

Excellent
Reviewed by Roger Lowenstein on Apr 04 2012

Readers who expect a second helping of Goldsmith’s outrage will be disappointed. On issue after issue, he recounts how the Obama government resembles the administration it succeeded.

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Foreign Affairs

Excellent
Reviewed by G. John Ikenberry

In Goldsmith’s optimistic vision, it is this complex and messy system of accountability that reconciles a powerful presidency with a strong constitution.

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The Weekly Standard

Excellent
Reviewed by GARY SCHMITT on Apr 30 2012

Not everyone will agree with his conclusions, but only a narrow-minded partisan will have failed to learn from reading Power and Constraint.

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Boston Review

Below average
Reviewed by Elizabeth Goitein

Despite Goldsmith’s promise to forego judgment on where executive powers ended up—and despite the generally measured and respectful tone of the book—he occasionally betrays his own bias.

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Online Library of Law and Liberty

Good
Reviewed by Michael Greve on Mar 26 2012

...has written a very informative, admirably researched book entitled Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11.

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