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The Law: George Bush as Commander in Chief: Toward the Nether World of Constitutionalism


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am indebted to Lou Fisher for his critique of this feature, and express appreciation to Shawn Wilkerson and Paul Pope for their research assistance and to Cheryl Hardy for her masterful keyboarding skills. This feature was prepared with the assistance of a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council.

David Gray Adler is a professor of political science at Idaho State University. He has published numerous works on the Constitution and the presidency.


The Bush administration has advanced an expansive conception of the Commander-in-Chief Clause that has launched presidential power on a trajectory toward the realm of illimitable and unaccountable power, the nether world of American constitutionalism. President Bush would ascribe to the commander in chief powers that were never possessed by the president when the post was incorporated into the Constitution, and which may not be engrafted by a theory of a presidential revisory power. This essay contends that President Bush's claims, which find no foundation in the values, goals, and concerns that shaped the clause, represent a profound threat to constitutional government and republican values.