Tipping the constitutional system of checks and balances has not been a new phenomenon in the contemporary world. There have been instances where presidents have had aggressive efforts to expand the power of the executive branch beyond the constitution provisions. Expanded powers of the executive office by the presidents at times have posed threat to the nation’s freedom when citizens’ rights are violated or the rights of other nations are ignored. This presentation discusses expanded power of the executive office using illustration of America’s immediate former president George W. Bush. U. S.
Constitution and the power of the President According to U. S constitution in Article II, it states that a President shall be vested with executive powers. It stipulates that the president has responsibility to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. For a president to undertake this he presides over the executive branch of the federal government and besides this, he has important legislative and judicial powers. In this section two of Article II of the constitution, it outlines that the president is the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the Militia of the several States. (http://caselaw.
lp. findlaw. com/data/constitution/article02/, para. 1). It goes further to state that President shall have power by and with the Advice and Consent that enable him to make Treaties as long as two thirds of the Senators who are present do concur. He is empowered to nominate and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate shall appoint Ambassadors, public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court and all other Officers of the United States. He shall have power to fill up all vacancies that might happen during Recess of the Senate by granting Commissions which shall expire at the end of their next Session
In section three of Article II of the constitution, it stipulates that President shall from time to time give the Congress such Measures as he shall consider necessary and expedient. On extraordinary occasions, he can convene both Houses and either of them and in Case of Disagreement between them; he can adjourn them to such Times as he shall think proper with respect to the Time of Adjournment, receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers and shall commission all the officers of the United States (Singh, pp 24).
President has power to issue executive orders that have the force of law without being necessarily being approved by the Congress. For instance, during the times of emergency the president can issue executive orders with almost limitless power and thus overriding the Congress. Previously, Abraham Lincoln used such executive orders to fight the Civil War; Woodrow Wilson did issue an order to arm the United States prior to engagement in World War I while Franklin Roosevelt approved Japanese internment camps during World War II through an executive order.
In matters of war, the Congress holds the power to declare war. Consequently, the president cannot declare any war without the approval of the Congress. Contrary to this, as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, a good number of the presidents have sent troops to battle field in absence of any official declaration war declaration (Eland, pp 69). Therefore, the President does not have powers under the constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack if the situation does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
Nevertheless, being a Commander-in-Chief, he has responsibility to protect and defend the United States. In cases of self-defense, the President is supposed to be within the constitutional authority to be able to act before either advising the Congress or seeking its consent. Past records have revealed that military action taken when authorized and supported by the Legislative branch is the most successful and for this reason it is preferred that informed consent of Congress before any military action is necessary. Bush’s attack on Iraq
For a long time, the American form of government has been on a balancing act. Presently, tug of war has emerged among the arms of the government and equilibrium has been threatened by a wartime president who is seen to push to extreme the limits of executive powers the Constitution gives to the Commander-in-Chief of United States military forces. Significant number of previous U. S. presidents used expanded executive powers during war time which ended those wars and reassured stability. However, not with the President George W. Bush’s War on Terror .
The War on Terror promises a conflict without end and there seems to be no limit to the executive power which has made constitutional scholars, politicians and policy makers to raise alarm that the balance of power has grown perilously to a point which it has come to be known as constitutional crisis (http://www. newsreview. com/chico/Content? oid=706133, para.
1). When George W. Bush got into the office and took oath as prescribed in Article II of the Constitution, he sworn to faithfully execute the office of president and to the best of his ability protect and defend the Constitution of U. S. But little did he know that the meaning of those words would be altered by the terrorist attack on September 11. Shortly after the attack, Congress gave consent on the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Terrorists. By so doing, the President was permitted to use all necessary and appropriate force against the nations, persons or organizations he determines to plan, authorized, committed or helped the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or any future acts of international terrorism against United States.
Consequently, the White House severally sought to expand its powers often in secret by sidelining both Congress and the judiciary. One of the instances where President George W. Bush used expanded power was in attack on Iraq. According to the CBS News, the idea to attack on Iraq came up shortly after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon even though there was no concrete evidence that linked Saddam Hussein to the attacks (http://www. cbsnews. com/stories/2002/09/04/september11/main520830. shtml, para. 1).
There were three main reasons according to the Bush administration for war with Iraq. First, Iraq was suspected to develop and in possession of weapons of mass destruction. It was linked to have long history of aggression against its neighbors and had sponsored international terrorism. So, the administration maintained that because Iraq would share such weapons with terrorists, it was only through war that could remove this treat to the United States. The second reason was that Iraq regime did portray a brutal dictatorship that used lethal weapons against its own citizens.
To ensure the removal of this regime and install democratic successor and bring into existence a new era of democracy throughout the Middle East, only war was the solution. The last reason was that on several occasions, Iraq had violated United Nations Security Councils resolutions. Therefore, because Iraq by then was in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 , U. S was to simply enforce international law by going to war to remove Saddam Hussein regime (Khalidi, para. 1).
President Bush claimed that his first duty is to protect the American people and had a believe that American people were under the threat as long as Saddam Hussein had not disarmed. He stated firmly “Since I believe the threat is real and since my job is to protect the American people. That is precisely what we will do. ” His determination to wage war against Iraq was backed up by his ally the Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both agreed that invasion was necessary because Saddam was maintaining clandestine stockpiles of nerve gas, biological weapons and secret nuclear and missile programs though after invasion they were not found (Herman, para. 14).
From the comments made by Scott McClellan the former White House press secretary in his blistering review of the administration, it revealed that Bush misled the nation into an unnecessary war in Iraq. He commented in his book that Bush believed to be available to wartime presidents and therefore his going to war against Iraq was ‘his opportunity to create a legacy of greatness. ’ However, for him to achieve this, White House had to put significant efforts to prove to American that war was necessary and the only option. The reason behind this was because Bush and his advisers knew American people would not buy this idea.
Subsequently, he ended up by managing the crisis subtly that guaranteed that use of force would become the only feasible option but he did not fully understand the tinderbox he was opening, says McClellan (Ibid. ). It is evident that Bush’s attack on Iraq showed contempt for international law which has been a long open secret . He expressed this publicly when one European reporter asked him about international law in regard to the U. S. occupation of Iraq. He jokingly replied that he would better call his lawyer and he did not recognize those international laws.
Bush asserted his right to make war despite that the Founding Fathers who feared an unwise Executive taking the nation into an unnecessary conflict that the Constitution invested power to declare war in Congress. Notwithstanding constitution provisions, before Iraq invasion, Bush’s administration insisted that Bush did not need authorization from either Congress or the United Nations Security Council. He finally got use-of- force resolution from Congress just to strengthen his hand in United Nations negotiations and ordered invasion of Iraq in March 2003 in absence of United Nation Approval.
This attack defied the United Nation Charter’s Core principle that ‘all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against territorial integrity or political independence of any state. ’ Bush’s attacked Iraq on false pretense that it possessed weapons of mass destruction which were actually not found. This greatly destabilized Iraq country. The attack caused loss of many lives and hundred of thousands of families were displaced due to sectarian violence unleashed by his overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
He claimed to be higher authority than both US law and international law and declared himself to be the only judge of the power limits of the powers he possesses which is against his oath of office to uphold the U. S. Constitution. Consequently, his administration is considered to have caused a lot of damage to Americans and wrought more harm to American’s reputation than any other administration in U. S history (Pfiffner, pp 22). Conclusion U. S. Constitution gives the President executive powers however; those powers should be exercised within the constitution’s provisions.
From the above discuss it is evident that George W. Bush expanded executive powers of the office by invading Iraq by disregarding checks and balances that kept on alerting him to stop the invasion. He went out of his way and did that entire he could to ensure that he achieved his plans. His assertion to make war against Iraq was not executive because it took the nation into unnecessary conflict that resulted into adverse effects on its reputation abroad besides violating human rights in the name of fighting terrorism.
Work Cited: Eland, Ivan; Putting “defense” Back Into U. S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U. S. Security in the Post-cold War World. ISBN 0275973484, 9780275973483, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001 Executive power; Retrieved on 9th February 2009 from: http://topics. law. cornell. edu/wex/executive_power, n. d Herman, Ken; Bush misled U. S. on Iraq, former aide says in new book. Retrieved on 10th February 2009 from: http://www. ajc. com/meetro/content/news/stories/2008/05/27/mcclellanbook_0527. html, 2009
Khalidi, Rashid; Attack Iraq? Retrieved on 10th February 2009 from: http://www. inthesetimes. com/article/attack_iraq/, 2003 Pfiffner, J. P. ; Did President Bush Mislead the Country in His Arguments for War with Iraq? Presidential Studies Quarterly Journal, Vol. 34, 2004 Will the Constitution survive George W. Bush? Retrieved on 10th February 2009 from: http://www. newsreview. com/chico/Content? oid=706133, 2008 Singh, Robert; American Government and Politics: A Concise Introduction. ISBN 0761940944, 9780761940944, SAGE, 2003