Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. New York: Little, Brown, 2008. 422 Pages

By Barry, Herbert | The Journal of Psychohistory, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. New York: Little, Brown, 2008. 422 Pages


Barry, Herbert, The Journal of Psychohistory


Charlie Savage, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. New York: Little, Brown, 2008. 422 pages. $15.99 (paperback)

This book contributes a detailed and thoroughly documented denunciation of the takeover of powers from the Congress to the President of the United States. A concurrent change was takeout of privacy and freedom of the residents by the executive branch of the federal government by weakening the fourth amendment to the Constitution.

The fourth amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, is the following: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The most prominent agent of the takeover and takeout was Dick Cheney while Vice President, 2001-2009. He had previously been Chief of the White House Staff during the last 14 months of Gerald Ford's presidency (1975-1977), a member of the House of Representatives (19791989), Secretary of Defense for the first President Bush (1989-1993), and Chief Executive Officer of the Halliburton Corporation (1995-2000).

Other government officials contributed to the takeover and takeout, notably David Addington as Cheney's counsel, "Scooter" Libby as Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, the second President Bush (2001-2009), and two Cabinet members, Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense (2001-2007) and Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General (2004-2007). Important contributing events were the "war on terror" following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the invasion of Afghanistan beginning in 2001, and the invasion of Iraq beginning in 2003.

The takeout of privacy and freedom of the residents by the executive branch of the federal government was authorized by the Patriot Act, enacted in October 2001. This law enhanced the police powers of the FBI to secretly search homes and to seize banking and internet records without warrants.

Charlie Savage, the author of Takeover, was a reporter for the Boston Globe during the events that he described. Especially informative passages of the book include how George W. Bush, following the 2000 election, won the electoral votes of Florida and thereby the presidency against Al Gore (pages 253 and 364-365), evidence that harsh interrogation of prisoners fails to have the desired effect (pages 212-220), and why the Bush-Cheney but not the Nixon-Ford administrations rejected expert scientific advice concerning dangerous effects of toxic substances (page 303). In 2003, a presidential Executive Order gave the vice president the highest power to classify and declassify documents across the entire government (page 163). December 2005 was the initial use of a "signing statement" by the president to modify or negate the intent of a new lawe (pages 224-225).

A presidential takeover of power from Congress has not been exclusively by George W. Bush and by other Republican presidents. Examples of the similar actions by Democratic presidents include Franklin D. Roosevelt (pages 136-137, 152), Truman (page 123), Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (page 20), Carter (pages 41, 141-142), and Clinton (pages 64-67).

The principal value of this book is the detailed history of the takeover by the executive branch of the federal government. Most people interested in the topic will use this book as a reference for specific events and government officials associated with the takeover and takeout. The narrative is too detailed and aversive to be read with enjoyment by most people. The 348 pages of factual information are followed by 49 pages of endnotes that document or expand specific information.

A deficiency of most historical narratives, including this one, is a lack of psychological inferences on the motives of the influential characters. …

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