Presidential power focus of debates

The Federalist Society argued Monday about powers of war.

Conrad Wilson

Five years after the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Congress granted President George W. Bush more power than ever before.

The new role of the executive branch has arguably shifted the balance of power in an effort to combat terrorists.

University law students gathered for a debate Monday on presidential power in the war on terrorism with University law professor Michael Paulsen and University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg.

When Congress declares war, “the president has the authority to use whatever force he judges appropriate against nations, organizations or persons,” Paulsen said.

It is within the president’s power to wage, conduct, manage and carry out the war, he said.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force, signed Sept. 18, 2001, “gives presidential power to wage the war of 9/11,” Paulsen said.

Rotenberg said the president failed in his higher political duty by not negotiating with Congress.

The president should be creating a dialogue between Congress, the American people and the executive branch, he said.

Five years later, presidential powers of the commander in chief are at an absolute maximum, Paulsen said.

“The dogs of war have been unleashed and the constitutional powers are at their zenith,” Paulsen said.

The debate was organized by the Federalist Society, a national organization of conservative and libertarian law students and lawyers, said Sam Diehl, campus organization president and junior law student.

The extent of the presidential power to wage war and the president’s actions on the war on terrorism are some of the most interesting and controversial legal issues coming out of 9/11, Diehl said.

There are several instances in which the president has overstepped his power, said Noah Seligman, president of the University College Democrats.

“It was a huge mistake by Congress to give the president an authorization of force,” Seligman said. “That one is all on Congress; Republicans and Democrats alike.”

Seligman said he hopes the dissatisfaction with the government does not dissuade student voters.

Still, other students see the increase in powers as necessary.

Trevor Ford, director of the College Republicans, said Bush’s expanded powers are essential to the country’s safety.

The war on terrorism requires quick and independent action, Ford said.

“Programs such as the ones monitoring international phone calls and monitoring terrorist finances provide our intelligence services with valuable information,” Ford said.

“I find it interesting that the same ones who bemoan the intelligence failure of pre-9/11 and pre-Iraq war are usually the same ones who also complain about these important intelligence gathering methods.”

Students should not be concerned, Ford said.

“I don’t feel that these increased powers have directly influenced the lives of students in any meaningful way, unless of course anyone is talking to terrorists overseas,” he said.