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presidents

I don’t pay any attention to Oliver North and I’m kind of sorry to hear you quote him. He was a criminal during the Iranian Contra crisis and was convicted of betraying the best interest of our country. And of course he is famous now because he is a constant critic of the democratic party and the democrats. But I don’t worry about that. As of a matter of fact, I don’t think anyone could have moved more strongly against the Soviet Union when they went into Afghanistan than I did. Jimmy Carter

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. John Quincy Adams

One of my students asked me whom I thought were the worst presidents in American history. My candidates for three worst (in the order they served): Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding, and George W. Bush. Who’d be on your list? Robert Reich

If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. All that harms labor is treason to America. Abraham Lincoln

Although the top rate for income taxes was 70 percent under Carter (where it had always been, since Kennedy), Carter gave the rich the most sacred tax cut they hold dear: a capital gains tax cut in 1978, from 39 to 28 percent. Thus, Carter gave the rich their first tax cut in 15 years. According to conservative theory, this should have nudged the economy in the right direction, not sent it into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Conservatives also criticize Carter’s promotion of expanded government regulations. But Carter actually began deregulating during his term; in 1978, he deregulated airlines; by 1980, he was deregulating trucking, railroads interest rates and oil. All are fundamental to the economy’s operations. Carter also set up the deregulatory machinery that Reagan would later use to slash regulations almost in half by the end of his second term. Again, Carter’s actions should have nudged the economy in the right direction, not sent it into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Myth: Carter ruined the economy; Reagan saved it

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Without the election of George W. Bush, I don’t think we would have danced quite so hard to Bin Laden’s tune, leading the country into two wars (one of which was entirely gratuitous). Nor would we have had the runaway deficit spending (including the cost of those two wars) that bankrupted our economy. Even more importantly, we had no action on climate change, and an administration that pretended that what might be the greatest challenge to modern civilization was nothing to worry about. I suspect our descendants, if they care about these things, will indeed regard the election of 2000 as a decisive point in the history not just of our country, but of the world. Tim O’Reilly

The Founding Fathers rejected hereditary kingship, but a penchant for ‘the rule of one’, the classic definition of monarchy, has had a recurring echo in the United States. Most Americans assume that democratic principles fit uncomfortably with monarchy, which they have been brought up to associate with tyranny. They forget that monarchies are today among the most advanced democracies. The suggestion that their President is an elective king and the United States a ‘monarchical republic’ makes them uneasy. American historians, well aware of the monarchical elements in the Constitution, have typically pulled their punches, often on the grounds that a President, however regal, serves for a limited term. They forget that monarchy does not require life tenure or the hereditary principle. As Hamilton, another Founding Father favorably disposed to kingship, remarked: ‘monarch is an indefinite term. It marks not either the degree or duration of power’. Frank Prochaska

The Return of the Imperial Presidency: An Interview with Charlie Savage

  • Lindley: Doesn’t the "unitary executive" theory run afoul of the separation of powers doctrine set out in the Constitution?
  • Savage: The Unitary Executive Theory is a revisionist interpretation of the Constitution that gives much greater power to the president. The theory holds that it is unconstitutional for Congress to enact laws that in any way fracture the president’s control of the executive branch or anything deemed to be an “executive” power.
  • The theory was first invented by the Meese Justice Department during the Reagan years. At the time, they were thinking about comparatively tame domestic issues, like the independent regulatory agencies; for example, they mused, perhaps the Federal Reserve was unconstitutional and the president ought to be able to raise and lower interest rates at his own discretion.
  • The Bush-Cheney legal team has significantly expanded the sweep of the theory to encompass matters of national security. They hold that defending the nation is an executive power committed exclusively to the commander in chief, and essentially have used the theory as putative legal justification for holding that a whole range of laws that establish rules, regulations, and controls on military and intelligence matters are unconstitutional and do not need to be obeyed because such decisions –such as how to interrogate detainees or go about wiretapping – are for the president alone to decide.
  • Mainstream legal scholars across the political spectrum reject this interpretation of the Constitution, which on its face overlooks the plain text of the founding document, and the Supreme Court has consistently rejected its principles across generations. Rulings in 1935 (upholding the constitutionality of independent agencies) and in 1988 (upholding the constitutionality of independent counsels), in particular, are decisive blows against it.
  • In addition, one of the most important legal thinkers from the Reagan years, Stephen Calabresi (now at Northwestern Law School), who has spent his career writing articles that developed the Unitary Executive Theory, has said that he disagrees with how the Bush-Cheney administration has been using the theory; even Calabresi, who is more than anyone the father of the theory, thinks they are wrong.

Women today who marry older men are stigmatized as “trophy wives,” implying that their only virtue is their age. Some have accused Fred Thompson’s wife of falling into the category despite her record as an accomplished political aide before their marriage. I have some advice for Fred Thompson. The next time somebody disparages his marrying a younger woman he can rise to his full six foot six height and say in his baritone country twang that well, yes, he did marry a younger woman—just like John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, and FDR’s father. Rick Shenkman

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