“We’ve paid a heavy price for having a president whose priority is expanding his own power,” then-senator Barack Obama proclaimed on the campaign trail in 2007. As president, he promised, “I’ll turn the page on the imperial presidency.”
And yet, as Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Charlie Savage documents in his new book Power Wars, from the early days of the Obama administration, “policy choices that departed from Bush-era programs dwindled, and those that continued— or even expanded— Bush-era programs rose.” Indeed, as president, Obama has launched more than seven times as many drone strikes as his predecessor, including the remote-control execution of an American citizen. He’s continued and expanded dragnet domestic surveillance programs based on a secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act and launched two wars without authorization from Congress. Much has changed in the Obama era, but the imperial presidency endures and thrives.
Based on interviews with more than 150 current and former government officials, Savage’s Power Wars stands as the most comprehensive account yet of the internal deliberations within the Obama administration. It’s an indispensable source for anyone seeking to understand the factors that drove such powerful continuity between two seemingly very different presidents. Please join us for a lively and timely discussion of the politics and law of presidential power.