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The Rule of Law in the Wake of Clinton

About the Book

The Rule of Law in the Wake of Clinton contains 15 essays by scholars, lawyers, lawmakers and cultural critics that chronicle Clinton’s utter disregard for “a nation of laws, not of men.”

University of Virginia Law Professor Lillian R. BeVier opens the book with a scholarly essay defining the rule of law and explaining why it is so important as a constraint on “the conduct of both individual citizens and those who govern them.”

Senator Fred Thompson examines China’s illegal contributions to the Clinton‐​Gore campaign and the abject refusal of Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the matter, concluding that “there can be no clearer example of the undermining of the rule of law.”

ACLU President Nadine Strossen condemns, among other things, Clinton’s actions to restrict habeas corpus, his attempts to censor the Internet, and his efforts to create databases on all Americans. Clinton has worked closely with the Republican Congress to undermine the rule of law, she says, but “the Clinton administration bears the brunt of the blame for all those devastating assaults on cherished constitutional rights.”

Roger Pilon looks at Clinton’s disdain for constitutionally limited government. Repeatedly, Clinton acted “as if the Constitution were an empty vessel to be filled with his policies and programs.” In a similar vein, former Assistant Attorney General Douglas W. Kmiec examines Clinton’s efforts to promote his policies through executive orders, “often without any citation of statutory authority, thereby bypassing legislative procedure.”

Timothy Lynch, director of the Cato Project for Criminal Justice, notes that “Clinton has exhibited contempt for the very Constitution he took an oath to uphold,” as evidenced by his support for warrantless searches of public housing units, warrantless drug testing in public schools, a weakening of the right to trial by jury, and expanded property forfeiture. Clinton’s record on economic liberties is no better. James Wootton, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, examines the administration’s resistance to compensation for “regulatory takings” of private property. But when the federal government does have power to override state tort law that frustrates interstate commerce, Wootton says, Clinton refuses to use it.

Cato Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies Robert A. Levy and Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor focus their attention on the illegitimate wars on tobacco and guns, respectively. Both wars undermine centuries‐​old common law principles. Former White House Legal Counsel C. Boyden Gray looks at the administration’s war on Microsoft, which “represents nothing more than a successful hijacking of the government’s regulatory power by Microsoft’s competitors—an especially grievous abuse of the rule of law.”

Former Assistant Attorney General Theodore B. Olson chronicles how Clinton and Reno have thoroughly politicized the Justice Department. Berkeley Law Professor John C. Yoo discusses the imperial president abroad, showing how Clinton has abused constitutional restraints on his foreign power while ceding the authority of the federal government itself to international institutions.

Finally, the book examines how and why the institutions one would normally expect to be defending the rule of law have failed. Former Justice Department attorney Daniel E. Troy, Illinois Law Professor and Cato Visiting Scholar in Constitutional Studies Ronald D. Rotunda, and author David Horowitz look, respectively, at the political parties, the bar and the legal academy, and the media and the cultural institutions, each of which not only failed but was often complicit in undermining the rule of law.

About the Editor

Roger Pilon is founder and director of Cato’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

What Others Have Said

“This collection of essays on the Clinton‐​Gore use of executive power demonstrates that our constitutional system is in disarray. The rule of law is severely damaged. The Department of Justice is no longer a neutral zone in the government. There is an appearance that the powerful are treated better by the law than the powerless; that the president, the vice president and others of the privileged class are above the law. Our only hope to preserve the constitutional system vouchsafed to us is the dismissal of the present executive department, root and branch.”
—Griffin B. Bell, Attorney General under President Carter

“This volume is particularly effective in pointing out the double standard applied by legal academics and the organized bar in the independent counsel’s investigation of President Clinton. But it goes beyond that. For the first time, it draws together in one place the wide array of assaults the Clinton administration has made on the rule of law. It will stand as an important statement about the damage this administration has done to that fundamental principle.”
—Richard L. Thornburgh, Attorney General under Presidents Reagan and Bush

“This is a solid, illuminating, invigorating collection on a theme for all ages, of great importance to every country that aspires to liberty. Its subtitle could well be, ‘Confirm They Liberty in Law.”
—Michael Novak, American Enterprise Institute

“The rule of law is no pious phrase from a civics textbook. It is what stands between us and the arbitrary exercise of power by the state. It is the safeguard of our liberties. Once, that was broadly understood in our land. If that understanding is lost, or if it becomes seriously eroded, the American democratic experiment and the freedom it guarantees are in jeopardy. The contribution made by this book to our understanding of those important lessons is crucial for American democracy at the dawn of the 21st century.”
—Henry J. Hyde, Chairman, House Judiciary Committee