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Table of Contents
Shane has structured this book according to its topical aspects focusing on key points. Chapter 1 is in depths focus on Madison’s checks and balances theory. In this topic, Shane introduces the reader to the perpetual onslaught of American presidential institution on the rule of law, checks and balances. He introduces the Republican Party’s approach towards the continuance of this ideology. Chapter 2 is a fast-forward move towards the modern debate on constitutional interpretation from the pluralists and presidentialists. The crucial issues in the debate are identified as the inherent assumption of absolute presidential discretion on national security issues and the extent of presidential autonomy beyond congressional control (Shane, 2009, p.13-70).
Chapter three of the book deals with White House dealings on Iraq and Vietnam wars in which small groups dominated the episodes playing mute to asking pertinent questions, while the presidents were busy harnessing all possibilities to maximize power of office. The decisions made were intolerant to criticism and calls for accountability. Shane argues that advisers’ failure predisposed the country to a repetition of the same mistakes; a trail of leaders from Kennedy to G.W Bush made the same mistakes since the advisers’ role was substituted to supporters’ role. Shane argues that pluralism is the only way to advance a country’s democracy and presidentialism has no respect for a person or party (Shane, 2009, p.72-87).
The role of executive branch lawyers is Shane’s focus in Chapter 4. Shane reviews the tradition at the Justice Department of Legal Counsel where he worked once; he recalls the tradition as focusing on the core client, the American people and the giving of impartial advice. He laments the change in tradition and refers to the office-holders as blinking on ethical issues and zealous advocating for president’s excessive executive powers. Shane calls Bush’s advisers dubious by offering unethical advice and absconding their primary duty. In Chapter 5, the author explores the president’s perceptions to legal issues beyond legal aspects. This approach emanates from an unjustified yet formal anchorage; the president, Shane posits, has the discretion of citing any statute, clause, court ruling, constitution or executive regulation. Executive privileges, secrecy and statement signing are Shane’s elaboration of presidentialistic ambitions (Shane, 2009, p.118).
In Chapter 6, Shane uses his enormous knowledge in public administration to dissect the issue and notes that unitary executive approach is an elevation of the president from Chief Executive to Chief Lawmaker. One president after another advance this theory starting from Reagan’s centralization of oversight and White House veto power to Bush outright insistence of his discretionally powers. Shane uses Chapter 7 to offer various remedies to the issue. Most are behavioral change that calls no legal changes. He proposes more democracy; Supreme Court and other parties are part of Shane’s solution too albeit in an unclear manner.
Shane employs an analytical approach choosing to advance his facts in convincing arguments. He invokes the use of persuasive writing and well-structured arguments. He does not invoke the use of any hypothesis requiring testing and Shane’s approach is devoid of any experimental character. The primary tool of advancing his concepts is cogent prose form. Shane has structured this work as a textbook running in prose form and makes appeal to qualitative description of major scenarios. His work is purely qualitative devoid of reference to statistical data; Shane is exemplary in employing the use of narratives to deliver a succinct and concise work. In an extension to his descriptive approach, the author uses stories to communicate the American history of the current predicament; he recalls his time at the legal office and maps the American journey in a story given in prose (Shane, 2009).
In the initial chapters, Shane is both descriptive and prescriptive; the author offers a picture of the executive theory on power through a clear descriptive style. The author adopts the prescriptive approach in the last chapter, where he shows the institutional and structural causes beyond the ideological issues. He prescribes alternative visions that would restore America’s democracy through renewed pluralism, rule of law and dialogue. It offers a critical account of presidentialism in terms of systems’ issues and offers solution along these dimensions. This book cuts across the mists of time and transverses historical times of President Reagan up to the times of G.W Bush. It looks into history to offer future solutions and is as such forward-looking textbook. This work does not employ any statistical tools such as questionnaire; instead, the author offers a conceptual piece based on his vast experience in academic circles and public administration.