Bruce Ackerman

Bruce Ackerman is a professor of law at Yale and the author of We the People.

Recent Articles

The Half-Trillion Dollar Solution

The real debate on Iraq begins with Congress's consideration of the military budget. The president has requested almost three quarters of a trillion dollars to fund the military through September 30, 2008. More than $150 billion is earmarked for Iraq. We have already spent $350 billion there, so the president's proposal pushes our Iraqi costs close to the half trillion mark. At the same time, he is demanding a $100 billion cut in health care funding, falling most heavily on poor children, while he maintains his $200 billion annual tax cut, channeled mostly to millionaires. It is Congress's job to restore fiscal balance first, by placing an overall limit on Iraq war expenditures. Congress should limit this president to spending half a trillion dollars on the Iraq war -- and no more. While he may not like the limit (we don't either, but for the opposite reason), the president would have no choice but to sign this ceiling to get short-term funding for his war. In taking this step,...

We Answer to the Name of Liberals

As right-wing politicians and pundits call us stooges for Osama bin Laden, Tony Judt charges, in a widely discussed and heatedly debated essay in the London Review of Books , that American liberals -- without distinction -- have "acquiesced in President Bush's catastrophic foreign policy." Both claims are nonsense on stilts. Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. The important truth is that most liberals, including the undersigned, have stayed our course throughout these grim five years. We have consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration, and our diagnosis, alas, has been vindicated by events. The Bush debacle is a direct consequence of its repudiation of liberal principles. And if the country is to recover, we should begin by restating these principles. *** We have all opposed the Iraq war as illegal, unwise, and destructive of America's moral standing. This war fueled, and continues to fuel, jihadis whose commitment to...

We Answer to the Name of Liberals

As right-wing politicians and pundits call us stooges for Osama bin Laden, Tony Judt charges, in a widely discussed and heatedly debated essay in the London Review of Books , that American liberals -- without distinction -- have "acquiesced in President Bush's catastrophic foreign policy." Both claims are nonsense on stilts. Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. The important truth is that most liberals, including the undersigned, have stayed our course throughout these grim five years. We have consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration, and our diagnosis, alas, has been vindicated by events. The Bush debacle is a direct consequence of its repudiation of liberal principles. And if the country is to recover, we should begin by restating these principles. --- We have all opposed the Iraq war as illegal, unwise, and destructive of America's moral standing. This war fueled, and continues to fuel, jihadis whose commitment to...

In Case of Emergency

What happens to our freedoms when the next terrorist strike succeeds? They may be swept away by a presidential declaration of martial law. For the first time in our history, the Pentagon has devised war plans for responding to terrorist attacks in the United States. According to The Washington Post : [T]he dispatch of ground troops would most likely be justified on the basis of the president's authority under Article 2 of the Constitution to serve as commander in chief and protect the nation… "That would be the place we would start from" in making the legal case, said Col. John Gereski, a senior [military] lawyer. But Gereski also said he knew of no court test of this legal argument. Years will pass while the legal machinery grinds on, and in the meantime, the president will be pressing forward. His guiding star will be the judicial precedent recently established in the case of Jose Padilla.* A few months after September 11th, Padilla was seized by the Bush administration as an "enemy...

If Washington Blows Up

November 2009: After a hard-fought victory the year before, the new Democratic administration has come out of the starting gates in good shape. With the airwaves full of brave talk of new initiatives, there is real hope of a new beginning. Then the unthinkable happens. A small nuclear device rips the heart out of Pennsylvania Avenue: The White House is totally obliterated; Capitol Hill looks like a war zone. Most of the nation's leaders are lost beneath the rubble. Under current constitutional provisions and law, here's what happens next: The secretary of defense, safe in the Pentagon, seems to be the next in line under the presidential succession statute. After swearing to uphold the Constitution as acting president, he immediately puts the country under martial law, suspending habeas corpus until Congress once again comes into session. A couple of hours later, he comes before the television cameras to emphasize the need for action on another front. As his second formal decision, he...

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