Crisis and the Pursuit of Conservatism: Liberty, Security, and the Bush Justice Department

  • Kevin J. McMahon


George W. Bush took over the reins of the presidency as a result of one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history, Bush v. Gore.1 This unprecedented conclusion to the 2000 presidential election quickly raised questions about the forthcoming relationship between the Bush administration and the law. More specifically, many in the legal community began to ask about the extent to which the new administration would use the resources of the executive branch to solidify the federal courts’ conservative slant. While many will undoubtedly look to President Bush’s judicial appointments to answer this question,2 in this chapter, I consider it from another angle; namely through an exploration of the Bush Justice Department, particularly its activities following the September 11th attacks on America. In doing so, I make two arguments. First, I argue that such an investigation reveals much about the Bush administration’s approach toward the law, and helps clarify the guiding principles underlying its policies. Second, I suggest that by analyzing the Bush presidency in “political time,” we can more fully understand why its Justice Department’s record in court was initially “decidedly mixed” and why some of the harshest critics of its antiterrorism policies have been conservative Republicans.3


York Time Civil Liberty Attorney General Bush Administration Republican Party 
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  1. 1.
    Bush v. Gore, 531, U.S. 98 (2000). Many have criticized the Supreme Court for being overly partisan in deciding that case. For two particularly scathing accounts, see Vincent Bugliosi, The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2001)Google Scholar
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© Jon Kraus, Kevin J. McMahon, and David M. Rankin 2004

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  • Kevin J. McMahon

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