American society has long been regarded as one of the most democratic and exemplary societies in the world. The three branches of power balance each other, and society is secured from any violations. However, the beginning of the twenty-first century was the beginning of the new era for American society and the entire world. The 9/11 attacks became a great shock for the nation, and they changed people’s mindsets.
They also enabled President Bush to expand executive power considerably. President Obama was strongly against those expansions, and criticizing such policies was a part of his presidential program (Cutler 2010). It is possible to consider detention policy, creating secret prisons abroad and the use of surveillance with no court supervision to trace executive power expansion during the presidency of Obama and Bush.
Admittedly, the nation had to live through a great shock, and people were at a loss. They had no idea about their future, and they were bound to believe their president. Bush made use of this situation and considerably expanded executive power (Milkis & Nelson 2011). Of course, in the time of a distinctive threat, people are ready to put more power in the hands of their president as they hope strict measures will secure their safety.
This is what happened in 2001 when Congress enabled President Bush “to take all necessary and appropriate measures to capture and punish” terrorists and those responsible for the attack (Cutler 2010, 65).
These measures included indefinite detention of those who could be involved in terroristic activities, creation of prisons in other countries (run by CIA), employment of surveillance. This was an unprecedented expansion of executive power, and the society acknowledged this only sometime later.
Obama was one of those who criticized this expansion. Admittedly, this expansion could lead to numerous negative effects and destroy the balance of power (Greenstein 2009). This was especially clear after several years when major terrorists were found and destroyed, but the measures taken were still used. Obama noted that those policies should be stopped and the executive power should be limited.
However, during Obama’s presidency, the measures undertaken by Bush have also been employed. It is noteworthy that Obama limited the policy as he closed some prisons abroad and reduced the period of detention and limited the list of people who could be detained (Cutler 2010).
More importantly, President Obama is making his policies more transparent and tends to present his new policies to (and get the approval of) the Congress. Therefore, even though Obama’s steps towards limiting executive power are not that drastic, the president still tries to go back to the balanced system.
To sum up, it is possible to note that President Bush managed to expand executive power while President Obama is trying to stop the expansion. Admittedly, the great shock of the nation caused by 9/11 attacks enabled Bush to achieve certain expansion of executive power as Americans were ready to give the president more tools to secure their safety. Nowadays, people have seen that these additional tools can be used in a wrongful and unlawful way.
Therefore, at present lots of people understand that it is essential to go back to the balanced political system where all branches of power limit each other. Obama is trying to achieve this balanced once again as his policies are transparent.
Cutler, Leonard. “Bush vs. Obama Detainee Policy Post–9/11: An Assessment.” Strategic Studies Quarterly (2010): 63-87.
Greenstein, Fred I. The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Barak Obama. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
Milkis, Sidney M. and Michael Nelson. The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2011. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011.