William Howell on Presidential Power in the Age of Obama

7:00–9:00 pm


With President Barack Obama increasingly relying upon unilateral powers, memoranda, and other extra constitutional powers in order to influence public policy, congressional Republicans are crying foul.  Accusations of an imperial presidency and constitutional violations now are common place.  In this talk, William Howell took a step back from the current melee in order to reflect upon the president’s relationship with power in the modern era.  He discussed the institutional and political forces that encourage presidents to pursue power and the various constraints that shape its actual use. He then offered some thoughts on the normative stakes involved in the current debate over Obama’s use of presidential power.

William Howell is the Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics at the UChicago Harris School of Public Policy, a professor in the Department of Political Science and the College and a co-director of the Program on Political Institutions. He has written widely on separation-of-powers issues and American political institutions, especially the presidency. He currently is working on research projects on Obama’s education initiatives, distributive politics and the normative foundations of executive power.

William recently published two books, one with coauthors Saul Jackman and Jon Rogowski entitled The Wartime President: Executive Influence and the Nationalizing Politics of Threat (University of Chicago Press, 2013); and the other, with David Brent, entitled Thinking about the Presidency: The Primacy of Power (Princeton University Press, 2013).  He also is the co-author (with Jon Pevehouse) of While Dangers Gather: Congressional Checks on Presidential War Powers (Princeton University Press, 2007); author of Power without Persuasion: The Politics of Direct Presidential Action (Princeton University Press, 2003); co-author (with Paul Peterson) of The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools(Brookings Institution Press, 2002); co-author (with John Coleman and Ken Goldstein) of an introductory American politics textbook series; and editor of additional volumes on the presidency and school boards. His research also has appeared in numerous professional journals and edited volumes.

Before coming to the University of Chicago, William taught in the government department at Harvard University and the political science department at the University of Wisconsin. In 2000, he received a PhD in political science from Stanford University.