It's easy enough to read David E. Bernstein's Lawless as yet another entry in the hate-on-the-president genre of political books. It is, after all, an engagingly written, 143-page chronicle of things President Barack Obama has done wrong.
But Bernstein isn't your typical angry partisan; he's a highly respected (if unabashedly libertarian) legal scholar. And Lawless rises above Obama-bashing to provide a cautionary tale of how a commitment to the law can erode over time — and details how the system of checks and balances has fallen apart.
After eight years of George W. Bush, liberals loathed the idea of a strong executive. They placed a great deal of hope in the idea that Obama — who'd actually taught constitutional law — would prove a marked departure, adhering strictly to the rule of law and respecting the limits of the presidency. Obama himself stoked this excitement. "The biggest problems we're facing right now," he once remarked, "have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that's what I intend to reverse when I'm president."