Imbalance of Powers: Constitutional Interpretation and the Making of American Foreign Policy

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Imbalance of Powers: Constitutional Interpretation and the Making of American Foreign Policy

By Gordon Silverstein
Oxford University Press, 1997
276 pp. $49.95
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Silverstein's well-crafted book convincingly argues that the entrenchment of the executive-prerogative interpretation of the Constitution since World War II can be squared with neither the original intent of the framers nor the normal practice and characteristic interpretation that prevailed until the Cold War. There is nothing unusual in that view; where the author breaks new ground is in his skillful blend of constitutional and political analysis. Silverstein persuasively questions the Supreme Court doctrine (particularly its denial of legislative vetoes) that allows Congress to delegate broadly to the president while preventing it from reserving checks on executive discretion. He is unpersuasive, however, in thinking that presidents have an interest in abandoning executive prerogative, which allows them to share power and responsibility when convenient and to refuse to do so when not convenient. Exaggerated, too, is his fear that prerogatives claimed in foreign policy will inevitably spill over into domestic policy, for the congressional default that has contributed substantially to executive powers in the one realm has not been manifested to anywhere near the same degree in the other.

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