Reply to Michael D'Innocenzo
by Elkin Terry Jack and Edward N. Wright
appreciate Professor D’Innocenzo’s generous review and his conclusion that we
achieved the three objectives we set for ourselves with ‘brevity and clarity’ –
essential characteristics of the ‘primer of sorts’ for understanding American
politics that we set out to write.
D’Innocenzo’s review adds great richness and expands and amplifies our
We did not address some of the points D’Innocenzo makes because our focus
was on the three objectives D’Innocenzo commends and on the basic requirements
of a ‘primer.’ However, his discussion of the expansive
executive powers asserted by the current presidential administration—including
such things as the President’s interpretation of the use of signing statements,
the ‘unitary’ executive, the strategy of pre-emptive war, the selective use of
intelligence and covert action, and the limits placed on certain constitutionally-protected
civil liberties—would have made our discussion of the constitutional balance of
power that is so fundamental to our liberty more complete.
It is our belief that the Founders intended a delicate balance of powers to
include constitutional checks and balances between and among the executive, legislative,
and judicial branches, with the Congress at the centre. ‘We, the people’, for a variety of reasons
have permitted the institution and its members to act in ways that have diminished
the powers of Congress and emboldened the executive in unchecked ways. If we accept that the current administration
has undertaken a course of action
the nation clearly disapproves of, it is our further belief that our diminished
civic capacity made it possible. Had citizens engaged one another and
struggled with the difficult decisions to be made, perhaps the Congress would
have had more backbone.
Professor D’Innocenzo’s review provides additional observations that are
valuable for further understanding the issues important to an informed public
empowered to engage in the public’s business.
In his review, he raises the question of war powers and the war in Iraq. As James Madison remarked, ‘A popular
government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a
prologue to a farce or tragedy, or perhaps both’. Through the lens of hindsight we believe the
question now is, ‘How do you gauge a public’s responsibility to end war? Or to prevent a war? We are all—every last American—responsible
for this messy war. We must demand a new
moral accountability for ourselves that transcends self-interest—or ‘no-interest’.
In order to do this we must find, or
rediscover, a way to move, to act, to effect change. Our hope is that our book and the work of
others like Professor D’Innocenzo will contribute to invigorating the civic
capacity envisioned by Madison and others like him.
On a more pedestrian level, Professor D’Innocenzo is correct: the $7.5 trillion we attributed to the
federal budget (p. 88) should have read $2.5 trillion, a figure that includes
both on- and off-budget expenditures. We
regret that such errors were not caught in proofing of the manuscript.