Richard M. Nixon was accused of running an imperial presidency.
A presidency becomes imperial when it relies on powers beyond those allowed by the Constitution. The Constitution established three separate branches of government not for efficiency but to avoid the arbitrary exercise of power. The government outlined by the Constitution was to replace and improve upon the imperial executive government of British King George III. The book links the President’s accumulation of foreign powers during war times to the accretion of domestic powers.
This is much the lesser known side of the imperial presidency. Unlike Lyndon Johnson, Nixon attempted to govern without Congress. Whereas Johnson displayed an imperious way of gaining mastery of Congressmen and Senators, Nixon in being unable to do that instead ignored and flouted the constitutional authority of the national legislature. Hamby (1992) has not a single word about this, yet it is a fundamental part of conducting an imperial presidency. It too has a certain political logic, for 1968 has proven a turning point to a new condition of American politics. That condition is divided government, with long periods of divided party control of the president and Congress.
Governing Alone: The Administrative Presidency
Richard Nixon also deeply distrusted the career executive bureaucracy. He was convinced they were Democrats and partisans out to undercut him at every opportunity. Accordingly he sought to bypass regular Cabinet-based departmental channels for accomplishing the policymaking and policy implementation work of the executive branch, by moving those powers within the White House itself and beyond the reach of congressional overseers.
"There is no limiting principle curbing the president's unilateralism once exercised and unrebuked by Congress or the courts."
"Arthur Schlesinger wrote "The Imperial Presidency" in 1973. Forty years later, we realize he was decrying a piker by comparison with Obama. "
"When the President does it, that means it is not illegal."
Richard M. Nixon, TV interview with David Frost, May 20, 1977
Through various means, Presidents subsequently acquired powers beyond the limits of the Constitution. The daily accountability of the President to the Congress, the courts, the press and the people has been replaced by an accountability of once each four years during an election. These changes have occurred slowly over the centuries so that that which appears normal differs greatly from what was the original state of America.
From the day President Obama took office, he has exercised imperialism toward his office. As stated above, there is no limiting principle curbing the president's unilateralism, once exercised. What's next, a refusal to leave office after he loses in November 2012? Who would 'make' him?