Unpacking the rhetoric surrounding the push for unitary executive action in wartime, How the Gloves Came Off traces the unmaking of the consensus against torture held by the American military, executive-branch lawyers, and the public. It implicates U.S. military commanders, high-level government administrators, lawyers, and policy makers from both parties, exposing the ease with which powerful actors manipulated ambiguities in the norms and laws to strip detainees of their humanity. By targeting the language and logic that made torture thinkable, this book shows how future decision makers can craft an effective counternarrative and set a new course for U.S. policy toward POWs and detainees. Whether leaders use their influence to reinforce a prohibition of cruelty to prisoners or continue to undermine longstanding international law will determine whether the United States retains a core component of its founding identity.
Power Play analyzes the Bush presidency's efforts to expand executive power in these four domains and puts them into constitutional and historical perspective. Pfiffner explores the evolution of Anglo-American thinking about executive power and individual rights. He highlights the lessons the Constitution's framers drew from such philosophers as Locke and Montesquieu, as well as English constitutional history. He documents the ways in which the Bush administration's policies have undermined the separation of powers, and he shows how these practices have imperiled the rule of law.
Following 9/11, the Bush presidency engaged in a two-front offensive. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the administration aggressively prosecuted the "war on terror." At home, it targeted constraints on the power of the executive. Power Play lays bare the extent of this second campaign and explains why it will continue to threaten the future of republican government if the other two branches do not assert their own constitutional prerogatives.
The Presidency of George W. Bush features contributions by Mary L. Dudziak, Gary Gerstle, David Greenberg, Meg Jacobs, Michael Kazin, Kevin M. Kruse, Nelson Lichtenstein, Fredrik Logevall, Timothy Naftali, James T. Patterson, and the book's editor, Julian E. Zelizer. Each chapter tackles some important aspect of Bush's administration--such as presidential power, law, the war on terror, the Iraq invasion, economic policy, and religion--and helps readers understand why Bush made the decisions he did. Taking readers behind the headlines of momentous events, the contributors show how the quandaries of the Bush presidency were essentially those of conservatism itself, which was confronted by the hard realities of governance. They demonstrate how in fact Bush frequently disappointed the Right, and how Barack Obama's 2008 election victory cast the very tenets of conservatism in doubt.
History will be the ultimate judge of Bush's legacy, and the assessment begins with this book.
Cosponsored with the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University.