The Presidency and the Law

The Clinton Legacy

Edited by David Gray Adler and Michael A. Genovese

Political scandals have always demonstrated the capacity of our executive officials for self-inflicted injuries, and the Clinton administration was no exception. Unilateral warmaking, claims of executive privilege and immunity, and last-minute pardons all tested the limits of presidential power, while the excesses of the Special Prosecutor cast doubts on available remedies. For eight years, Republicans and Democrats engaged in guerrilla warfare aimed at destroying the careers and lives of their adversaries while tests of presidential power were resolved by the courts, resulting in a reshaping of the scope and power of the presidency itself.

This book examines the many controversial and important battles that led to the shrinking of the presidency under the law during the Clinton administration. Located at the intersection of law and politics, it helps readers understand the dramatic changes that took place in the relationship of presidential power to the law during the Clinton years and shows how one president's actions—and congressional and legal reactions to them—have altered presidential prerogatives in ways that his successors cannot ignore.

“This splendid collection will be essential for anyone who wants to understand both the Clinton presidency and the current character of the formal powers of the office. Highly recommended.


“Offers stringent critiques of President Bill Clinton’s employment of executive authority and its ramifications for the office and the American political system.

—Perspectives on Political Science
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The Presidency and the Law offers an assessment of changes in constitutional and legal understanding of the American presidency, exploring such topics as war power, executive privilege, pardon power, impeachment, executive immunity, independent counsel, and campaign finance. In examining these collisions between president and the law, its distinguished contributors bring the lessons of Watergate and Iran-Contra into the Clinton era and contribute to a Madisonian view that presidents should not operate outside statutory and constitutional constraints.

While the essays offer several criticisms of that administration's exercise of power and its interpretation of constitutional provisions and law, many of the authors have been supportive of Clinton and his policy pursuits, and all seek to examine the potential impact of the Clinton administration without being predictive or legalistic. They offer instead commentary, analysis, and criticism that examine the legality and constitutionality of President Clinton's actions within a broader political and historical context.

The presidency is constitutionally weaker and politically more vulnerable than the office Bill Clinton assumed in 1993, and it remains to be seen what impact these changes will have on the presidency in the 21st century. This book points the way to assessing that impact, and is essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of our democracy.

About the Author

David Gray Adler teaches political science at Idaho State University and is the author of The Constitution and the Termination of Treaties. Michael A. Genovese is professor of political science and director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Among his many books is The Power of the American Presidency, 1789–2000.

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