Summary: All the presidential candidates, despite their pledges on limited government, believe/state or have policy that all lend itself to a broad view of what executive power can do. This theory was started under the Bush government, (trigger word, most equate Bush with bad governance), and continued under Obama. It's important because it circumvents many constitutional restraints on power, such as the right to due process before being killed (E.g. US citizen is a terrorist, is declared a target and killed.) The right to military detention( Guantanamo bay) and of course the ability to start wars without congressional consent( war powers act, e.g. Libya)
This means that regardless of who wins the next election, and probably the election after that, the expansive view of executive power remains. It'll probably stay that way until Congress or the courts fight back, or god forbid a president refuse executive power. Btw, the Ronpaul is the only person running who would refuse or ask Congress for permission before doing any of those three things. Still not going to vote for him, but he is a man who sticks by his principles. Everybody else either refused to answer, or would proudly order the killing and detention of any US citizen. (the interviewers labeled the citizen a terrorist, but still...)
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
WASHINGTON — Even as they advocate for limited government, many of the Republican presidential candidates hold expansive views about the scope of the executive powers they would wield if elected — including the ability to authorize the targeted killing of United States citizens they deem threats and to launch military attacks without Congressional permission.
As Republicans prepare to select their party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Newt Gingrich, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the Ronpaul, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have provided detailed answers about their views on executive power in response to questions on the topic posed by The New York Times, which is publishing the full text of their responses online.
The answers show that most of them see the commander in chief as having the authority to lawfully take extraordinary actions if he decides doing so is necessary to protect national security. Only Mr. Paul, the libertarian-leaning congressman from Texas, argued for a more limited view of presidential power.
The views of the other four candidates who responded echoed in many respects expansive legal theories that were advanced by President George W. Bush. In certain significant ways, they dovetailed as well with the assertive posture taken by President Obama since taking office, like his expanded use of drones to kill terrorism suspects around the world — including a United States citizen.
The answers come against the backdrop of a decade of disputes over the scope and limits of presidential authority. Because executive branch actions are often secret and courts rarely have jurisdiction to review them, the views of the president — and the lawyers he appoints — about the powers the Constitution gives him are far more than an academic discussion.
Instead, in practice, a president’s views can influence such momentous matters as whether and how the country commits acts of warfare abroad, the rights of American citizens at home and the ability of government officials to keep information secret from lawmakers, the courts and the public.
Asked to describe the circumstances under which the Constitution permits a president to order the targeted killing of a citizen who has not been sentenced to death by a court, Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Huntsman, Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney all said that a president could order the killing of a citizen who joins an enemy force that is at war with the United States, at least under certain conditions.
“My preference would be to capture, interrogate, and prosecute any U.S. citizen who has engaged in acts of war against the United States,” Mr. Romney wrote. “But if necessary to defend the country, I would be willing to authorize the use of lethal force.”
The Obama administration embraced similar reasoning as the basis for a drone strike in Yemen this year that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen whom executive branch officials accused of being a terrorist operative.
Mr. Paul, by contrast, described the circumstances in which a president could order the extrajudicial killing of a citizen in one word: “None.” Similarly, while Mr. Paul said that a president should not order a military attack without Congressional permission unless there was an imminent threat, the other four candidates agreed that a president could do so if he decided it was necessary.
An exception to that pattern was the use of signing statements to claim a right to bypass new statutes — often, provisions in bills that limit executive power — a president signs into law.
The three current and former governors among the candidates — Mr. Perry, Mr. Huntsman and Mr. Romney — each described circumstances in which he would use the device to raise constitutional concerns about legislation, with Mr. Romney outlining the most assertive version.
The two former House colleagues, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Paul, said they would not issue such statements. (Mr. Gingrich has taken a more assertive view about constitutional disagreements with the judicial branch, saying presidents may lawfully ignore Supreme Court rulings.)
Two other Republican candidates, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, did not answer the questions. Mr. Obama did not either; his re-election campaign said he had “pursued policies that strengthen our security” while “upholding our laws and values” and suggested that he would debate such matters in greater detail after Republicans chose his opponent.
Mr. Obama — along with Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul — participated in a similar project by The Boston Globe during the 2008 presidential primary campaign. His record in office shows how circumstances and the assumption of power can alter views expressed in a campaign.
Asked if a president could bomb Iran without Congressional permission, Mr. Obama, then a senator, said, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
In 2011, after the United Nations approved an air campaign in Libya to protect civilians, Mr. Obama — without Congressional permission — deployed the American military to join NATO allies in airborne attacks on Libyan government forces. In asserting the legality of that step, the Justice Department issued a memorandum saying that Mr. Obama had inherent constitutional power to do so because he could “reasonably determine that such use of force was in the national interest.”
Later, Mr. Obama also adopted the view — overruling Justice Department and Pentagon lawyers — that he could lawfully continue the bombing and drone strikes beyond a 60-day clock imposed by the War Powers Resolution because they did not constitute the sort of “hostilities” regulated by that law.
In the survey answers, Mr. Perry criticized that approach, arguing that Mr. Obama should have instead asserted that the War Powers Resolution was an unconstitutional constraint on his wartime powers rather than employing “a convoluted, unbelievable definition of ‘hostilities.’ ”
Presidential power has been growing since the early years of the cold war and ratcheted forward under the Bush administration, which asserted sweeping theories of presidential powers to bypass statutory and treaty constraints, justifying a range of detention, interrogation and surveillance policies. As a candidate, Mr. Obama accused Mr. Bush of undermining the Constitution.
After taking office, Mr. Obama ordered strict adherence to antitorture rules; justified his counterterrorism policies as authorized by Congress and consistent with international law, rather than invoking any inherent powers as commander in chief; and sought to handle terrorism cases that arise on domestic soil exclusively through the criminal justice system rather than using the military.
Still, Mr. Obama has outraged civil libertarians by keeping in place the outlines of many Bush-era policies, like indefinite detention and military commissions for terrorism suspects. And in the Libya air war and the targeted killing of Mr. Awlaki, he went beyond Mr. Bush’s executive-power record.