Democracy's Chief Executive

By Peter M. Shane

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Are presidents above the law? How much power does the President actually have and how much should they have? In answering these and other questions, Peter M. Shane and guests invite novices and experts alike into wider questions; Can the United States have a presidency that is healthy for democracy and the rule of law while still strong enough to meet contemporary challenges? Peter M. Shane is a law professor at Ohio State University and New York University School of Law and has taught constitutional law, law and the presidency, and courses at the intersection of law, democracy, and new media.

Episode Date
Is Impeachment a Meaningful Check on Presidential Lawlessness?

Since Richard Nixon resigned rather than face a House impeachment vote after Watergate, the

U.S. has seen three impeachments and three trials, none of which has resulted in a conviction or

voluntary resignation. What do Watergate and the Clinton and Trump episodes tell us about the

circumstances in which impeachment might remain a meaningful check on a President’s abuse of

power? Peter Shane pursues the basics of impeachment law with constitutional scholar Michael

Gerhardt and then interviews former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, a key figure on the

1973-74 House Judiciary Committee, regarding her experience in the Watergate investigation

and perspective on more recent impeachment episodes.

Mar 20, 2023
Presidents in Court

Whether law truly controls the exercise of presidential power is often conflated with the question of whether the President and agencies of the executive branch of government are effectively accountable to courts. Is the U.S. court system, our judicial branch of government, up to the challenge of keeping presidential power in check? How does the United States compare to other nations in this respect? Do lawsuits against the President advance the rule of law or just deepen partisan warfare? Peter Shane and NYU law professor co-host Rick Pildes explore these questions with fellow legal scholars Payvand Ahdout and Samuel Issacharoff.

Mar 13, 2023
Can Presidents Run the Government Through Executive Orders?

In the face of a polarized and often gridlocked Congress, presidents have increasingly appeared to use various forms of “executive action” to advance their agendas. This has created a great deal of public (and journalistic) confusion about the nature of executive orders and other forms of executive initiative. Political scientist Andrew Rudalevige and law professor Kate Shaw, who has served in the White House Counsel’s office, explore the reach and limits of executive orders with Peter Shane and his co-host, Columbia law professor Gillian Metzger.

Mar 06, 2023
Presidential Secrecy and the Rule of Law

Holding presidents and their subordinates accountable to law means knowing what they are doing. Yet the constitutional law of executive privilege and the interplay of federal statutes like the Freedom of Information Act and the Presidential Records Act create a complex legal landscape on which to conduct the struggle for government transparency. Peter Shane and his co-host, political scientist and public policy scholar Mark J. Rozell, sort out the issues in an interview with law professors Heidi Kitrosser and Margaret Kwoka.

Feb 27, 2023
Law and the Presidency in War and National Emergencies

The contexts posing the greatest challenges to a rule-of-law concept of executive power involve war and national emergencies. Do the needs for expediency and confidentiality often associated with war-making and national emergencies preclude legal accountability for executive action in the face of exigency? Peter Shane explores the issues with law professors David Driesen and Matthew Waxman, along with Elizabeth (Liza) Goitein, Senior Director, Liberty & National Security, at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Feb 20, 2023
The President’s Lawyers

Peter Shane and co-host political scientist Nancy Kassop explore the role of key legal advisors to the President, both inside the White House and at the Department of Justice. Law professor guests Bob Bauer, who served as White House Counsel during the first Obama Administration, and Jack Goldsmith, who headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the second George W. Bush Administration, explain the roles these offices play and some of the challenges, legal and ethical, that presidential lawyering involves.

Feb 20, 2023
Democracy’s Chief Executive: The Podcast

Democracy’s Chief Executive: The Podcast is designed to engage a broad public in probing the difficulties facing the United States in maintaining a constitutional presidency that is healthy for democracy and the rule of law, but still strong and powerful enough to meet contemporary challenges. Over six episodes, podcast creator and host Peter M. Shane, along with his co-hosts and guest panelists, will explore law’s reach and limits regarding the America’s highest office, and the people—lawyers, judges, and legislators—through whom law is brought to bear (or not) on the White House. Peter is a leading scholar on law and the presidency and author of Democracy’s Chief Executive: Interpreting the Constitution and Defining the Future of the Presidency (2022).

Feb 13, 2023
Democracy's Chief Executive - COMING SOON

No political office is more important than the U.S. presidency in terms of the resources it commands, the responsibilities it bears, and the symbolism it embodies. Over the last half century, Congress and the courts have engaged more significantly than ever in policing the legal and constitutional boundaries of presidential authority. While decisions about the scope of presidential power can result in profound impacts for the American public, the technical issues are often complex and not well understood, sometimes even by political journalists. This podcast offers the promise of publicizing and clarifying these hugely important questions.

Joining Peter for each session would be a co-host and one or two interviewees whose scholarly research or professional experience is focused on that episode’s topic. If successful in attracting a significant audience, future seasons would likely include episodes with the capacity to intermix timeless topics with conversations of a “ripped-from-the-headlines” feel.

Peter is a leading scholar in U.S. constitutional and administrative law, with a special focus on the American presidency and the separation of powers. The University of California Press in May 2022 published Peter’s newest book, Democracy’s Chief Executive: Interpreting the Constitution and Defining the Future of the Presidency. He is currently a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at NYU Law, where he is teaching constitutional law. He holds the title also of Professor and Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Chair in Law Emeritus at the Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, where he regularly taught courses in constitutional and administrative law, law and the presidency, and subjects at the intersection of law, democracy, and new media.

Feb 10, 2023