To Be (Unitarian) or Not to Be (Unitarian): Presidential Power in the George W. Bush Administration

38 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2009

Date Written: October 3, 2009


President George W. Bush pushed the envelope on presidential power while defending many controversial actions in the name of the unitary executive theory of presidential power. This left many in the public, including those in Congress, with the mistaken belief that 1) the theory originated there and 2) that its behavior is actually condoned by the theory itself. This paper seeks to dispel that opinion in the following ways: First, I will examine the theory’s core values, where it originated, and how it evolved to negate the opinion that it is a 21st century phenomena; Second, I will compare that actions of the Bush administration, particularly in its use of the presidential signing statement, to determine whether their was congruence or conflict; and third, I will look at whether the theory had been so damaged that it did not make it out of the Bush administration by examining, briefly, the actions of the Obama administration, and in particular how it has used the signing statement. I make the following conclusions: First, the Bush administration’s behavior violated the tenets of the unitary executive theory and his actions were admonished by many of its adherents, and second, so far the Obama administration has behaved consistent with the values of the theory, which was embraced by Presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton, though there are some troubling signs in its use of the signing statement.

Suggested Citation

Kelley, Christopher S., To Be (Unitarian) or Not to Be (Unitarian): Presidential Power in the George W. Bush Administration (October 3, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Christopher S. Kelley (Contact Author)

Miami University of Ohio ( email )

Oxford, OH 45056
United States

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