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Experts Discuss Power a President Should Have

Experts Discuss Power a President Should Have

Lawyers and professors from around the country came together at UCLA on Feb. 9 to give their legal and historical perspectives on the topic of executive power.

That's the debate we need to have, whether or not the Constitution needs to be revised.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Ravi Doshi, Daily Bruin contributor

Various panelists spoke at the UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs' 11th Annual Symposium, discussing issues including presidential war-making power, domestic surveillance and enemy combatants.

Panelists said the topic of executive power has recently become more contentious in American politics due to its expanded use by the Bush administration with regards to foreign policy.

"We want people to recognize that these topics haven't gone away, even if you don't see stories about them every day anymore," said Nancy Olson, chief symposium editor of the UCLA International Journal of Law and Foreign Affairs.

The symposium, which was titled, "Protecting the Nation at the Expense of Individuals? Defining the Scope of U.S. Executive Power at Home and Abroad in Times of Crisis," was co-sponsored by the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations, the International Law Society and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

"The question raised (at the symposium) is what do we do about executive power, and how do we balance that? I think this is a central foreign affairs issue," said Kal Raustiala, director of the Burkle Center.

Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams also mentioned the importance of such an event in his opening remarks at the symposium.

"Ten or 15 years ago, a conference like this would not have been possible. For that, one has to go back 50 or 60 years to when issues of executive power were at the forefront," Abrams said.

Panelists discussed the Bush administration's increased executive power in times of national emergency.

They also referred to similar claims of power made by previous presidential administrations after the advent of nuclear weapons and the start of the Cold War.

"It is clear that in times of crisis, the leaps and bounds of the Constitution have been stretched," said David Adler, a panelist and professor of political science at Idaho State University.

In a December 2005 interview archived on the White House Web site, Vice President Dick Cheney addressed these concerns, which have surrounded the Bush administration's policy for some time.

"I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it," Cheney said.

But numerous panelists, including Martin Flaherty, codirector of the Crowley Program in International Human Rights at Fordham Law School, argued that from the time of the first claims of increased executive power to the present day, the expansion has grown to enormous lengths.

"I think it is clear that the most dangerous branch (of the government) would be the executive," said Flaherty.

The reference to the expansion of executive authority during times of crisis also triggered debate about the need for a stronger executive, and in turn, the balance of powers within the Constitution itself.

"That's the debate we need to have, whether or not the Constitution needs to be revised," said Gordon Silverstein, a panelist and professor of political science at UC Berkeley,

"I would come down on the negative," he said.

Burkle Center for International Relations