Presidential Power and the GOP Field

The New York Times points out something that probably should be obvious. For all their crowing about limited government, every candidate running for the Republican nomination (minus Ron Paul) seems to be in favor of expanding the powers of the Executive Branch.

Check it:

Even as they advocate for limited government, many of the Republican presidential candidates hold expansive views about the scope of the executive powers they would wield if elected — including the ability to authorize the targeted killing of United States citizens they deem threats and to launch military attacks without Congressional permission.
The answers show that most of them see the commander in chief as having the authority to lawfully take extraordinary actions if he decides doing so is necessary to protect national security. Only Mr. Paul, the libertarian-leaning congressman from Texas, argued for a more limited view of presidential power.

The views of the other four candidates who responded echoed in many respects expansive legal theories that were advanced by President George W. Bush. In certain significant ways, they dovetailed as well with the assertive posture taken by President Obama since taking office, like his expanded use of drones to kill terrorism suspects around the world — including a United States citizen.

The NYT has also published full answers of the candidates.

We don’t talk about abuse of the office as much as we did when Bush was President, this despite the fact that the Obama administration also has a broad view of what the Executive Branch should and shouldn’t be able to do. And in all honestly I don’t think it’s something the President should be expected to self-regulate. The authors of the Constitution understood how power tends to go to a person’s head, hence the checks and balances we all learned about in civics class.

But as Americans consider who they’ll vote for President, I hope we also take some time to consider and evaluate how much power said President should be allowed to wield.

Melissa Ryan is a political consultant. She’s spent a decade leading digital campaigns for nonprofits and political races, including EMILY’s List, Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the New Organizing Institute, and Senator Russ Feingold’s campaign. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @MelissaRyan.

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