Executive privilege dates back to 1796, when President George Washington refused a request by the House for certain documents.
Executive privilege does serve a purpose, and given the partisan divisions in the country and the ease with which lawsuits and even impeachment proceedings are tossed about for political gain, I think Executive Privilege maintains both the integrity and the dignity of the office of President. While a person may not like a particular President for their policies, having a strong executive that commands respect is good for all Americans, regardless of party.
I do not think that the privilege should be eliminated, but I do feel that it has been expanded more than it should be lately. The president of the United States should not be allowed to break the law whenever he or she feels like it. It is natural for presidents to push the limits of what they can do, but there also has to be some force for pushing back.
This is a difficult one because obviously times have moved on a lot since the original Executive Privilege was invoked, but the question demands that we analyse whether the impact would be detrimental to the American political system at large. I must admit I agree with #2 and #3 in that I think executive privilege should remain as it is an important factor separating Presidential power from the Senate.
I can see where the desire to eliminate Executive Privilege is present. Certainly, I think that the times have changed from when Washington invoked it and when other Presidents have. When the Supreme Court struck it down in its landmark case, United States vs. Nixon, it proved to be a very stinging indictment about the concept of executive privilege. With all of this in mind, I guess I feel that it should remain. I say this because once we start tinkering with one part of the Constitution, I think that the door is opened for other parts that are considered vital to be altered, as well. This is the proverbial slippery slope argument, that violations to sacred elements such as Constitutional elements can be manipulated into further abuses where the line becomes permanently mobile. While this might be an exaggeration, I feel that it is a scary enough one to justify its employement. I would also suggest that on a more practical and political level, leaders end up suffering public opinion damage in their invocation of executive privilege. While the President might be able to avert Congressional demands, the court of public opinion would damage them greatly, rendering them challenged in being able to carry out their duties with public confidence and credibility.
I would say no. I do not believe that it is the circumstances of any given time that make executive privilege important. Instead, it is an important thing at all times in our system. This is because it is part of the separation of powers that is central to our system of government.
If there were no executive privilege, the Presidency as an institution would be weakened. We would be sending the message that the president is subordinate to Congress in the same way that a Prime Minister is subordinate to the legislature in a parliamentary system. Executive privilege is one factor (and an important one) that allows the president to be independent of Congress. We need the president to be independent in order for our system of three branches with separate powers to work.