Presidential power is spiraling out of control, making George W. Bush the most powerful American leader since at least WWII, according to a new analysis.
But the current president, now entangled in a controversy over his recent decision to assert Executive Privilege, can’t take full credit for the power grab, the researchers argue. A number of factors have converged over the past 60 years to turn the American presidency into a position of incredible influence that has a negative effect on American politics and which won't change just because someone else takes charge of the White House.
In their new book "Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced" (W. W. Norton, 2007), Johns Hopkins University political scientists Benjamin Ginsberg and Matthew Crenson trace the history of the presidency since the middle of last century, uncovering a series of murder mystery-like motives, means and opportunities that have shaped the executive branch into the most powerful institution on the globe.
...American politicians today are driven by different desires than they were in the past.
“We have these people with enormously grandiose ambitions, who don’t just want to be president—they want to change history,” Crenson said. Politicians used to be propelled into the presidency by their parties; now they are self-propelled, he said.
This change was accompanied by a general decline in public political participation, said the authors. People’s dwindling interest in politics—and in congressional activities in particular—has allowed presidents to capitalize on unique opportunities.
“When popular participation diminishes, congressional influence goes down, and one of the obstacles for presidential power is significantly reduced,” Crenson said. “You can see over the course of the 20th century, presidents have either grabbed or invented one instrument of power after another.”
...While many might think the relatively unchecked power in today's White House is largely due to how President Bush operates, the authors, who support different political parties, see the shift as more of an institutional—and constitutional—issue.
“People need to realize that this is not a problem that’s going to be solved by electing somebody other than George W. Bush,” Crenson said. “This is a serious constitutional problem—constitutional in both senses of the word—that is going to take some very careful thought to remedy.”
This from Live Science.
While power has grown, public approval (according to Gallup) looks like this...
The president has not had an approval rating above 40% since last September, shortly after the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Only Harry Truman (from October 1950 to December 1952) and Richard Nixon (from July 1973 to August 1974) had approval ratings under 40% for longer periods of time.