Abuse of Power

I just finished reading an eye-popping review of Prof. Theoharis’s new book Abuse of Power: How Cold War Surveillance and Secrecy Policy Shaped the Response to 9/11.

Here is one choice section in particular:

“Rather than propose legislation to that effect, the president ‘instead opted for secret executive directives, a method that had as its central purpose the foreclosure of a potentially divisive and contentious debate.’ And the director of the FBI was hardly going to object if things were done in secret, at least if he were the one doing them. Like the New Deal, ‘this profound shift was effected not through a well-defined blueprint but through a series of ad hoc responses’ — creating their own complex dynamics.”

The point being that FDR’s unwillingness to live within the democratic process led to serious unintended consequences down the line.  So the next time someone praises FDR for his “bold experimentation” consider such a statement through this lens.


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