Recaging the lion

In 1973, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) wrote The Imperial Presidency, which focused on the creeping escalation of a U.S. president’s war powers. His well-crafted title has given focus to a much-needed discussion about the broader issue of growing presidential power.

University of Virginia law professor Saikrishna Prakash has just published The Living Presidency: An Originalist Argument Against Its Ever-Expanding Powers, in which he calls us to “recage the executive lion.”

In the Introduction, Prakash says the modern presidency “is a funhouse-mirror version of the Founders’ presidency, except in our reality the carnival version is the lived experience.” He cuts across partisan lines and has plenty to say about Congress, “where useless speeches are occasionally punctuated by pointless votes,” and the courts, which “offer sporadic resistance, but not nearly enough to redirect the trend.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will soon hear two important cases that George Will says could “help recage” the executive lion. Prakash’s book is a timely contribution to the important conversation Arthur Schlesinger began in 1973–regardless of who wins the upcoming election.

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