Holder on Bush, Executive Power
Judging by his past statements, Eric Holder Jr., reportedly Barack
Obama's top pick for attorney general, may aim to roll back several of
the Bush administration's most controversial legal moves if he is
selected for the post.
In a June speech to the American Constitution Society, Holder said
the Bush administration had taken many steps that "were both excessive
and unlawful" in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"I never thought I would see the day when a Justice Department would
claim that only the most extreme infliction of pain and physical abuse
constitutes torture and that acts that are merely cruel, inhuman and
degrading are consistent with United States law and policy, that the
Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to
treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention, never thought
that I would see that a president would act in direct defiance of
federal law by authorizing warrantless NSA surveillance of American
citizens. This disrespect for the rule of law is not only wrong, it is
destructive in our struggle against terrorism," Holder said in the
Holder also advocated closing the detention center at Guantanamo
Bay, transferring the remaining prisoners to the US and adopting an
"expedited and procedurally fair" review process.
"It is our task over the next several years to reverse the
disastrous course that we have been on over the past few years," Holder
said in his conclusion.
Watch Holder's speech.
Jonathan Mahler pointed out in the New York Times magazine last Sunday
that although executive power greatly increased under President Bush
(in large part because of the war on terror) the subject went mostly
unnoticed in the presidential race.
The Boston Globe in 2007 gave the presidential candidates a 12-question survey on presidential authority. Read Obama's answers here, Vice President-elect Joe Biden's answers here, John McCain's answers here, and possible secretary of state Hillary Clinton's answers here.