Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Congress Should Re-read the Constitution

Now while Senator Clinton and other Democrats(Even some Republicans) on Capitol Hill are creating a fuss about the Iraq War by laying various restrictions on the President to boost their image for mere politics or assuage the left-of-center voters in America, they are in reality crossing their constitutional boundaries by calling for measures that handcuff the President in his duties as Commander-in-Chief. Take for instance Senator Clinton's most recent plan, which echoes Senator Clinton, in which she notes that the size of our troops in Iraq has to be capped and if the President wants more troops and money for Iraq then he has to have another resolution. It's true that the President needs the Senate and its power of the purse with regards to the funding of the war and to get an OK in initiating major combat but once they give the go ahead - like the did prior to the war - the conduct of the war(baring spending) falls into the purview of the President. Once the fighting gets going the Congress has to allow the President to have unilateral control over all the aspects of fighting a war, which includes increasing, moving or decreasing the size and location of these forces.

I can truly understand appealing to your base in the upcoming elections but what the Democrats are doing is going against the Constitution and endangering our standing in the world. I would advise the Democrats and others who are taking this position towards our operation in Iraq to take a second look at the Constitution and statutes that reveal that the ability to conduct war without any handcuffs is an absolute necessity for the Commander-in-Chief. One place I would recommend that they should look at the following Op/Ed by David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey in yesterday's Washington Post. In fact, they should pay close attention to the following paragraphs:

The precise line between congressional and presidential authority is sometimes unclear, and no court has jurisdiction to rule on the issue. The analysis, however, is straightforward. When the two political branches exercise their respective constitutional powers in a way that brings them into conflict -- a scenario clearly envisioned by the Framers -- the relevant constitutional principle is that neither branch can vitiate the ability of the other to discharge its core constitutional responsibilities. Just as the president cannot raise his own funds (by obtaining loans unauthorized by Congress, for example), the legislature cannot attach conditions to federal spending that would destroy the president's authority to direct the military's tactical and strategic operations. This balance makes perfect sense; if Congress could closely direct how the executive branch spends appropriated funds, it would vitiate the president's core responsibilities as chief executive and commander in chief, transforming him into a cipher. This outcome would fundamentally warp the Framers' entire constitutional fabric.

To maintain the integrity of this original design, the Supreme Court has long ruled, in such cases as United States v. Klein (1872) and United States v. Lovett (1946), that Congress cannot attach unconstitutional conditions to otherwise proper legislation, including spending bills. As explained by Professor Walter Dellinger -- President Bill Clinton's chief constitutional lawyer at the Justice Department -- "[b]road as Congress' spending power undoubtedly is, it is clear that Congress may not deploy it to accomplish unconstitutional ends." This includes restricting the president's authority as commander in chief to direct the movement of U.S. armed forces. In that regard, Dellinger quoted Justice Robert Jackson -- who said while serving as President Franklin Roosevelt's attorney general: "The President's responsibility as Commander-in-Chief embraces the authority to command and direct the armed forces in their immediate movements and operations, designed to protect the security and effectuate the defense of the United States."

Although this system may seem unsatisfactory to those who disagree with President Bush's Iraq policy, it has two great virtues. First, it bolsters the Constitution's fundamental design -- the separation of powers between the coequal branches of government. The Framers vested executive authority in a president for a reason. As Alexander Hamilton explained in the Federalist Papers: "Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks." Second, requiring Congress to exercise its power in dramatic ways ensures political accountability. If Congress believes the war is lost, or not worth winning, it must take responsibility for the consequences of forcing a U.S. withdrawal. Otherwise, it must leave the president to direct the war and to bear responsibility for the decisions he has made and will make.

I'm just hoping that the folks calling for this policy change and supporting the upcoming non-binding "sense of Congress" resolution is doing this for mere theatrics and are fully aware of what an actual cutting of funds brought about during the later years of the Vietnam War.

1 comment:

shliknik said...

I can truly understand appealing to your base in the upcoming elections but what the Democrats are doing is going against the Constitution and endangering our standing in the world.

This is exactly what they're doing - appealing to their base. But with the tide slowly turning against the prez (and Repubs), they're also 'gettin while the gettin is good' and using this opportunity to sway the 'middle-of-the-road' voters.

Repubs would (and do) the same thing. Politics Politicians suck.