The Growing Power of the Presidency

From Lincoln to Obama, the Executive Branch Has Expanded its Reach


"Obama is doing many of the same dangerous things that Bush did," says Chris Edelson, assistant professor at American University, referencing what he considers President Obama's broad interpretation of executive power. He points to Obama's unilateral military intervention in Libya and his defense of the National Security Agency's data collection on American citizens as just two examples of executive over-reach. 

"What's ironic about that is Obama is a constitutional lawyer and scholar by background."

However, President Obama is not the first president to expand the powers of the presidency. Edelson explains the historical precedents of expansive executive power in his new book, Emergency Presidential Powers: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror. 

Edelson recently sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie to discuss the growth of presidential powers, how presidents use national security threats to seize more control, why Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus differs from current claims of executive authority, and if it is even possible to keep the executive branch in check. 

About 12 minutes. Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Winkler and Joshua Swain.

Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to get automatic notifications when new material go live.