Question 10

Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional? Anything you think is simply a bad idea?

Barack Obama

First and foremost, I agree with the Supreme Court's several decisions rejecting the extreme arguments of the Bush Administration, most importantly in the Hamdi and Hamdan cases. I also reject the view, suggested in memoranda by the Department of Justice, that the President may do whatever he deems necessary to protect national security, and that he may torture people in defiance of congressional enactments. In my view, torture is unconstitutional, and certain enhanced interrogation techniques like “waterboarding” clearly constitute torture. And as noted, I reject the use of signing statements to make extreme and implausible claims of presidential authority.

Some further points:

The detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants is unconstitutional.

Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional.

The violation of international treaties that have been ratified by the Senate, specifically the Geneva Conventions, was illegal (as the Supreme Court held) and a bad idea.

The creation of military commissions, without congressional authorization, was unlawful (as the Supreme Court held) and a bad idea.

I believe the Administration’s use of executive authority to over-classify information is a bad idea. We need to restore the balance between the necessarily secret and the necessity of openness in our democracy – which is why I have called for a National Declassification Center.

Hillary Clinton

The Bush Administration has acted unconstitutionally in failing to comply with FISA, failing to adhere to Congress's prohibitions on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and attempting to hold enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo without review, to name a few examples. More fundamentally, I reject the basic premise of the Bush Administration's view that Executive Power is not subject to the rule of law or to constitutional checks and balances.

John Edwards

Our Founding Fathers believed deeply in a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government. Whether on signing statements, disregard for the Geneva Conventions, or violation of the established FISA process to authorize warrantless and illegal spying on American citizens, the Bush administration has repeatedly attempted to increase the power of the executive branch relative to the judiciary and legislative branches, which does damage to the constitutional design of our government and violates our constitutional traditions. We do not have a royal presidency. We do not have a king of the United States of America. Whatever George Bush thinks, he is not king. And it's important for the American people to understand that their president respects them and understands that the Oval Office and the White House and the presidency doesn't belong to one person. It belongs to the American people.

Bill Richardson

Virtually every issue touched upon in these questions illustrates an area in which the Bush Administration has tried wrongly to claim that it has powers to override the laws or the Constitution. I believe in a strong executive, but not one above the law. That is clearly not a view shared by the current Administration. As for any action they have taken that is "simply a bad idea," that list would be too long to enumerate here.

Christopher Dodd

The President's efforts to establish military commissions by executive order were unconstitutional. Holding detainees indefinitely without trial is clearly a violation of Geneva Conventions and Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution relative to Habeas.

Joseph Biden

The Bush Administration has consistently violated the separation of powers and many parts of its national security policy are a bad idea. Warrantless wiretapping, the extraordinary rendition program, the CIA black site program, the “enhanced interrogation” technique program are just several examples of the President overstepping the bounds of Executive Power, and all of them were bad ideas.

John McCain

McCain declined to answer this question.

Mitt Romney

The Bush Administration has kept the American people safe since 9/11. The Administration’s strong view on executive power may well have contributed to that fact.

Ron Paul

They’re all bad ideas. But it's unconstitutional - the big one is going to war without a declaration. I think the wiretaps and the surveillance -- although later on the Congress has sort of complied with what the president was doing, he started it and did it before congress said anything. I think the declaration of individuals being an enemy combatant, including American citizens. These things were unconstitutional. The executive orders to seize property if somebody was found to be undermining our foreign policy - and he had two of those , one with Lebanon and one with Iraq - I consider that all unconstitutional.

Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani declined to answer this question.

Mike Huckabee

Huckabee declined to answer this question.

Fred Thompson

Thompson declined to answer this question.