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"Some Opinions On the Opinion Clause," 82 Va. L. Rev. 647 (1996)


This Essay explores one of the least discussed but most intriguing clauses of the United States Constitution. When closely parsed, the words of the Article II Opinion Clause yield rich insights into the scope, limits, and nature of the American Presidency, with implications both timely and timeless. In a nutshell, the Opinion Clause was designed to clarify the role of a new and distinctly American idea of a President, who would be measurably less than an English-style King, but measurably more than an English-style Prime Minister. Unlike a King, the American President could not compel judicial and legislative leaders to serve as his Privy Council; and unlike a Prime Minister, a President would not merely stand as first among equals in an Executive Cabinet. With the Opinion Clause, the Framers rejected a committee-style Executive Branch in favor of a unitary and accountable President, standing under law, yet over Cabinet officers.

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