Date of Award

Fall 12-2013

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

First Advisor

Marek Steedman

Advisor Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs


Executive power in America is outlined by the U.S. Constitution, but presidents have made decisions which questionably violate the rights American citizens are guaranteed by the same document. How are we able to maintain sovereignty as “we the people,” if our most powerful elected official is able to overstep the rules during a national security threat? The answer is because the constitution would not exist without a state, therefore the union must always be preserved. Niccolo Machiavelli, John Locke, Alexander Hamilton, and Carl Schmitt share very different views on democracy, but their insistence on national security is universally present. The views of the theorists are used to build a framework by which certain decisions can be compared on a scale of how much constraint the decision-maker was under.

This study is a unique analysis of three executive decisions in relation to their constitutionality. I not only explain why the president was constitutional in his decision-making, but also the limits set to prevent future presidents from making the same sort of decision without more constraint. The constitutional gray area of presidential prerogative is discussed with its role in national security issues.