In his new book for The American Presidents Series, the National Constitution Center’s President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen argues that William Howard Taft was our most judicial president and presidential Chief Justice. Rosen reveals Taft’s crucial role in shaping how America balances populism against the rule of law.
In this exclusive book launch held at the Constitution Center on March 20, Rosen was interviewed by Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, who calls Taft “the most under-appreciated constitutional figure since George Mason.”
Taft approached each decision as president by asking whether it comported with the Constitution, seeking to put Theodore Roosevelt’s activist executive orders on firm legal grounds. But unlike Roosevelt, who thought the president could do anything the Constitution didn’t forbid, Taft insisted he could do only what the Constitution explicitly allowed. This led to a dramatic breach with Roosevelt in the historic election of 1912.
Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in November 1986, served as Chief Judge from July 2001 until February 2008, and took senior status in October 2011. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Regulatory Affairs and as Assistant Attorney General in the U.S Department of Justice Antitrust Division. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.” He is also a professor at The George Washington University Law School, and a contributing editor for The Atlantic.