Although Sen. Obama campaigned against George W. Bush's expansion of executive power in 2008, President Obama has studied Bush for ways to do just that as he battles House Republicans to pass economic legislation, The New York Times' Charlie Savage reports. This story does not appear to be the product of aides griping to a reporter because they were unsettled by the president's change in view. It seems Obama's change of heart is something the White House wants Americans to know since a lot of White House folks talked to Savage on the record. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, deputy chief of staff Nancy-Ann DeParle, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, and White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler are quoted. And the shift from badgering Congress to do what he wanted to just doing what the administration could through executive orders was Obama's idea, Daley told The Times.
Presidents don't like to give up power, but the next one will have to step back from Bush's power grab if America's system of checks and balances is to be put right. As a former constitutional law lecturer at the prestigious University of Chicago Law School, Obama is well versed in the historical battles between the branches. He has said on the campaign trail that every branch of government is limited.
Obama has demonstrated in his voting record and statements that he understands the importance of protecting traditional American civil liberties and discarding Bush's concept of overarching executive power.
In February, two conservative advocacy groups — Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network — sponsored a symposium to discuss what they called “the unprecedented expansion of executive power during the past three years.” It reached an awkward moment during a talk with a former attorney general, Edwin Meese III, and a former White House counsel, C. Boyden Gray.
“It’s kind of ironic you have Boyden and me here because when we were with the executive branch, we were probably the principal proponents of executive power under President Reagan and then President George H. W. Bush,” Mr. Meese said, quickly adding that the presidential prerogatives they sought to protect, unlike Mr. Obama’s, were valid.
But Mr. McCain, on balance, has been far more willing to embrace Mr. Bush’s expansive approach than Mr. Obama, who has been sharply critical. Yet even some Democrats, who have accused Mr. Bush of abusing his office and have called for a curb on executive power, recognize that a party’s perspective can change once its candidate is in the White House.