Executive Branch

Law Prof Battled Bush at the White House


What many contend was an excessive use of executive power by President George W. Bush is suddenly the topic of the month. An insider who happens to be a law professor has written something of a tell-all book on the subject, and major publications are vying to offer the most interesting take.

An upcoming New York Times Sunday Magazine article introduces readers to Jack Goldsmith, a former University of Chicago law professor tapped in 2003 to head the Justice Department division that advises the president on the limits of executive power. The seeming plum position soon proved a nightmare, according to Goldsmith, who portrays himself in his upcoming book as a conservative with a conscience trying to ride herd on the excesses of the White House war on terror.

Now a Harvard Law School professor, he says he was initially vilified, when he arrived on campus, for his perceived role as a Bush administration apologist who played a role in drafting controversial memos that seemingly advocated torture of prisoners by the United States. In fact, Goldsmith “fought vigorously against an expansive view of executive power championed by officials in the White House, including Alberto Gonzales, who was then the White House counsel and who recently resigned as attorney general, and David Addington, who was then Vice President Cheney’s legal adviser,” writes the Times.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post also weighs in with a lengthy profile of Goldsmith and his work at the White House, and an ABA Journal feature story provides a who’s who of the architects of Bush administration policy.

As Goldsmith started reading Justice Department legal memoranda written after Sept. 11, 2001 in support of Bush administration positions and programs, the Post reports, he was stunned to see that they weren’t particularly well-done. “Some were deeply flawed: sloppily reasoned, overbroad, and incautious in asserting extraordinary constitutional authorities on behalf of the President,” he writes in his soon-to-be published book. “I was astonished, and immensely worried, to discover that some of our most important counterterrorism policies rested on severely damaged legal foundations.”

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