The Attorney General's Lawyer: Inside the Meese Justice Department

By Douglas W. Kmiec | Go to book overview

3
The Unitary Executive

The constitutional language directly bearing on presidential authority is fairly straightforward: the executive power is vested in the president of the United States. 1 That power, however, unlike the enumerated powers of Congress is largely undefined by constitutional text. Moreover, many statutes conferring power on an executive agency do so in broadly stated terms, authorizing actions in the "public interest." Because of this, presidential power is often best defined by the strength of presidential will.

The exercise of presidential will is not as easy as it might seem, however. While statutory ambiguity might appear to invite significant presidential supervision and direction, in fact, the sheer number of executive departments and agencies often thwarts meaningful oversight. In its place, agencies respond to the special desires of other constituencies. Unions corner the Labor Department, the construction trades dominate HUD, and universities inhabit Education. Members of Congress owing their election to these various constituencies sit on agency oversight committees for the express purpose of seeing to it that their particular needs are provided for in law, and most importantly, in the budget. This may all seem innocent enough, except that it results in one-issue departments responding to special interests, often pulling in opposite directions and frequently exacerbating public costs. No one person, or entity, thus supervises the executive functions to see, first, that their policies are consistent with overall national objectives, and second, that costs stay within a manageable range.

-47-

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The Attorney General's Lawyer: Inside the Meese Justice Department
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Note 3
  • Part I - Beginnings 5
  • 1 - Surmounting the Independent Counsel 7
  • Notes 16
  • 2 - In Search of Original Intent 17
  • 3 - The Unitary Executive 47
  • Notes 65
  • Part II - The Essence 69
  • 4 - Family: Abortion, Aids, Pornography, and School Choice 71
  • Notes 106
  • 5 - Work: Securing Economic Liberty 111
  • Notes 129
  • 6 - Neighborhood: The Revival of Federalism 132
  • 7 - Peace: The Color-Blind Society 152
  • Notes 175
  • 8 - Freedom: Iran-Contra and the Criminalization of the Separation of Powers 179
  • Notes 188
  • Part III - The Finale 191
  • 9 - Ethics, Give Us More Ethics 193
  • Notes 214
  • Epilogue 219
  • Notes 220
  • Selected Bibliography 221
  • Index 225
  • About the Author 235
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