Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What I'm Reading

Seizing Destiny: How America Grew from Sea to Shining Sea, by Richard Kluger

The Terror Presidency by Jack Goldsmith

Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy, by Charlie Savage

The first of these is a work of history, basically describing the settlement of America and the spread of the colonies and territories across the continent. It is not a breezy read; it requires careful attention. But it is written very eloquently and is very picturesque in its prose.

The Terror Presidency is by the former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration from 2003 to 2004. The author is a small-c conservative, supportive of greater presidential prerogatives in the war on terror but an opponent of warrant-less surveillance and of the wholesale disregarding of the Geneva conventions. A more personal, easy to read book but well balanced in its writing and unlike many first hand accounts, well structured and light on the self-indulgence.

Takeover is by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe who was among the first to write about the Bush Administration's use of "signing statements" and other dimensions of the "unitary executive theory" the administration employed in the aftermath of 911 to respond to the crises of the day but also in strategic response to ideas first formulated by, among others, Dick Cheney, first during his stint as President Ford's Chief of Staff and later, as a congressman and ranking House Republican on the joint Iran-Contra committee. From the later post, Cheney bonded with a Republican legislative aid, David Addington, and went on to issue a minority report dissenting from the full Iran Contra committee's scolding of the Reagan White House. The Cheney minority used the unitary executive theory concocted by Ed Meese's Federalist Society staffed Justice Department to argue that the White House was not obligated to follow or obey the Boland Amendment which had prohibited aid to the Contras. Not all of Cheney's Republican colleagues signed on to his minority report. The leading Senate Republican on the committee, New Hampshire's Warren Rudman signed the majority report and ridiculed the radicalism of the minority report and, presumably, its authors. Very riveting stuff.

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