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Bush pushed the limits of presidential power

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Had Lincoln called Congress into special session in Washington, just as Maryland pulled out of the Union, the entire government would have been located within the Confederacy and in grave danger.

Instead, Lincoln acted quickly and alone. Then, within months, once the crisis in Maryland subsided, he presented the issue to Congress and obtained its approval.

Bush administration members invoked the example of Lincoln as justification for their own assertions of executive authority in the war on terror. But some analysts say the Bush administration wrongly sought to act alone in controversial areas, rather than obtaining the guidance and support of Congress.

"Given the kind of conflict we're faced with today, we find ourselves in a situation where I believe you need strong executive leadership," Mr. Cheney said in a FOX News interview in December. "There are bound to be debates and arguments ... about what kind of authority is appropriate in any specific circumstance. But I think that what we've done has been totally consistent with what the Constitution provides for."

Cheney noted that the president has 24-hour access to a briefcase containing all the codes necessary to launch a nuclear counterattack. "He could launch a kind of a devastating attack the world has never seen," the vice president said. "He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in."

Many scholars take issue with Cheney's view. They say he and others in the Bush administration have used the war on terror as an opportunity to try to establish more robust powers within the executive.

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