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Thinking About Presidents

27 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2005  

Robert J. Delahunty

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

John Yoo

University of California at Berkeley School of Law; American Enterprise Institute


Why are some Presidents great and others not? Does their attitude toward the Constitution have anything to do with it? What do legal scholars have to contribute to presidential studies? This paper reviews and uses data from the book "Presidential Leadership" to suggest possible relationships between presidential success and their approach to constitutional interpretation. It argues that the formalist versus functionalist debate over the separation of powers has reached a stalemate, and that constitutional law can gain by study of political science approaches to the Presidency. It also suggests that presidential studies, which views reliance on a president's constitutional powers as a sign of failure, can gain new insights by examining a President's use of his formal legal authorities.

Keywords: presidency, presidential power, separation of powers, leadership

Suggested Citation

Delahunty, Robert J. and Yoo, John, Thinking About Presidents. Cornell Law Review, Forthcoming; UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 810864; U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-17. Available at SSRN:

Robert J. Delahunty (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

John Choon Yoo

University of California at Berkeley School of Law ( email )

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-643-5089 (Phone)
510-643-2673 (Fax)

American Enterprise Institute ( email )

1789 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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