Sunday, September 01, 2019

Linda Greenhouse on The Oath and the Office

Corey Brettschneider

Linda Greenhouse reviews The Oath and The Office in the New York Review of Books, alongside Josh Matz and Lawrence Tribe's To End a Presidency, as well as Cass Sunstein's Impeachment. Here is an excerpt:

Maybe, after more than two years of President Trump, what we need more than anything is a collective reminder of what we have a right to expect from the occupant of the White House—how a president should behave and what the presidency should be. In that vein, I end this essay by recommending a book that has received too little attention since its publication last year. It’s not an impeachment book. In fact, it’s a how-to-avoid-impeachment book by a political scientist at Brown University, Corey Brettschneider.

He has written The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents as an extended memo to anyone who might be considering a run for the White House. It has chapters about the powers the Constitution bestows on the president as well as on the constraints it imposes. Where have presidents gone wrong, and where have they lived up to the Constitution’s ideals? Brettschneider hands his hypothetical candidate a challenge that should speak to all of us. “As president,” he writes,
"you will be constrained by these legal dynamics of the Constitution. But far more integral to your presidency is something else: the Constitution’s political morality. By this, I mean the values of freedom and equality that inform the document beyond its judicially enforceable requirements. We can tell whether presidents embrace the Constitution’s values not just by their executive orders or official appointments, but by how they speak to the American people. No court can tell you what to say. But you still must be guided by the Constitution in this crucial endeavor. As president, you should speak for all of us—and more, you should speak for what our country stands for, and aspires to be."

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