The Presidency and the Law: The Clinton Legacy

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Political scandals have always demonstrated the capacity of our executive officials for self-inflicted injuries, and the Clinton administration was no exception. Unilateral war-making, claims of executive privilege and immunity, and last-minute pardons all tested the limits of presidential power, while the excesses of the Special Prosecutor cast doubts on available remedies. For eight years, Republicans and Democrats engaged in guerrilla warfare aimed at destroying the careers and lives of their adversaries, while tests of presidential power were resolved by the courts, resulting in a reshaping of the scope and power of the presidency itself. This book examines the many controversial and important battles that led to the shrinking of the presidency under the law during the Clinton administration. Located at the intersection of law and politics, it helps readers understand the dramatic changes that took place in the relationship of presidential power to the law during the Clinton years and shows how one president's actions - and congressional and legal reactions to them - have altered presidential prerogatives in ways that his successors cannot ignore. The Presidency and the Law assesses changes in our constitutional and legal understanding of the American presidency, exploring such topics as war power, executive privilege, pardon power, impeachment, executive immunity, independent counsel, and campaign finance. In examining these collisions between the president and the law, its distinguished contributors bring the lessons of Watergate and Iran-Contra into the Clinton era and contribute to a Madisonian view that presidents should not operate outside statutory and constitutional constraints. Although quite critical in many respects, a number of these authors have been supportive of Clinton and his policy pursuits, and all seek to examine the potential impact of the Clinton administration without being predictive or legalistic. Still, under Bill Clinton's stewardship, the legal, constitutional, and political terrain changed in significant ways. It remains to be seen what impact these changes will have on the presidency in the twenty-first century. This book points the way to assessing that impact and is essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of our democracy.