Joseph G. Peschek is the Chair of the Department of Political Science at Hamline University. His latest book, The Unsustainable Presidency: Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Beyond, argues that the the modern American president’s power largely exists within a narrow context: to produce unlimited economic growth and national security through the expansion of empire.
Do you believe America now has an “imperial presidency,” as John Boehner has charged, in which President Obama is exercising power beyond constitutional limits?
That ‘imperial presidency’ charge is short-term politics. In the context of some of the things that Obama has done on immigration, in particular maybe relations with Cuba and a few other things, there’s nothing new about that. I would say that we do have an imperial presidency, but it’s not because presidents issue executive orders from time to time that upset the other side of the aisle. We have an imperial presidency because America is an imperial power.
Just to refer to Obama’s State of the Union address, he did talk about the troops coming home and so forth, but at the same time he asked for authorization to attack ISIS, and those sorts of operations will continue. And that’s part and parcel with a modern imperial presidency. America’s a global superpower with military and undercover operations all over the world, and that’s probably going to continue. And there’s very little debate about that, because both sides are pretty much committed to that approach—whatever differences they might have about relations with Cuba, for example, the show goes on.
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