For the last two presidential election cycles Charlie Savage of The New York Times has sent a survey as the primaries approached to candidates from both parties. His goal was to get them on the record to express their positions on the extent of the authority of the president as chief executive. What are they legally permitted to do on their own without getting Congress’ stamp of approval?
For the 2008 presidential election he got nine out of 12 campaigns to respond and answer the questions, including both then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, the eventual nominees. For the 2012 presidential election, five of the seven Republican primary candidates participated, including eventual nominee Mitt Romney. (Gene Healy wrote about that last survey here.)
So for the 2016 election Savage dusted off his survey, updated it, and sent it off to the candidates for both major parties:
The questions included: When can a president keep information secret from Congress or the public; detain or kill American terrorism suspects without trial; override statutes governing surveillance, torture and Guantánamo detainee transfers; and attack another country without congressional authorization?
He sent the survey out in September, so they’ve had plenty of time to work out considered responses. This weekend Savage is reporting the results. Guess how many candidates participated in the survey this time?
Just one. Only one candidate was willing to fill out the survey detailing the limits of presidential authority. I’m not even going to ask you to guess which candidate it was because if you’re reading Reason, you know full well who it was. You can read Sen. Rand Paul’s responses here.