An American President faces war and finds himself hamstrung by a Congress that will not act. To protect national security, he invokes his powers as Commander-in-Chief and orders actions that seem to violate laws enacted by Congress. He is excoriated for usurping dictatorial powers, placing himself above the law, and threatening to "breakdown constitutional safeguards.” You might think that this describes the reaction to Barack Obama or George W. Bush. Yet these particular attacks on presidential power were leveled against Franklin D. Roosevelt. They could just as well describe similar claims leveled against George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, or Abraham Lincoln.
However bitter, complex, and urgent today's controversies over executive power may be, these conflicts are nothing new. Bold decisions made by Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR changed more than just history; they also expanded the role of the American president. But they did not rewrite the Constitution; they took advantage of the original understanding of executive power and the Framers’ design of the Presidency. The founding fathers deliberately left the Constitution vague on the limits of presidential authority, intending for a strong executive office checked by constant conflict with the other branches of government. Their choices created an office that could exercise power vigorously in times of crises, while remaining secondary during times of peace.
John Yoo received his B.A., summa cum laude, in American history from Harvard University. Between college and law school, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Washington, D.C. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was an articles editor of the Yale Law Journal. He then clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit.
Professor Yoo joined the Boalt faculty in 1993, then clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court. He served as general counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee from 1995-96. From 2001 to 2003, he served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on issues involving foreign affairs, national security and the separation of powers.
Professor Yoo is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and has been a visiting professor at Chapman Law School, the University of Chicago, and the Free University of Amsterdam, and he held the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Trento. Professor Yoo also has received the Paul M. Bator Award for excellence in legal scholarship and teaching from the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy.
He is the author of The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11 (University of Chicago Press, 2005); War by Other Means: An Insider's Account of the War on Terror (Grove/Atlantic 2006); and Crisis and Command: The History of Executive Power From George Washington to George W. Bush (Kaplan 2010); and co-author of Taming Globalization: International Law, the U.S. Constitution, and the New World Order (Oxford 2012). He has also co-edited Confronting Terror: 9/11 and the Future of American National Security (Encounter 2011).