Saturday, April 07, 2007

GWB is NOT the Emperor

Courtesy of Billiam, we note the following article.

President Bush has scolded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria. In the president’s opinion, shared by others, the U.S. government should speak with just one voice overseas. Yet that view flies in the face of both the text and the spirit of the Constitution.

...suspicious of European monarchs’ propensity to wage war with the blood and treasure of their citizens, the Constitution’s framers actually gave more powers in foreign affairs to the Congress than the president. The Congress was given the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, declare war, raise and support armies, provide and maintain a navy, regulate the armed forces, organize, arm, and discipline the militia, and call them forth to resist invasions.

In contrast, the Constitution gave the president only two unilateral powers in foreign affairs: the chief executive was designated the commander–in–chief of the armed forces and militia (narrowly construed so as not to imply that the chief executive was commander–in–chief of the nation), and was allowed to receive foreign ambassadors and ministers. The president was allowed to make treaties with foreign nations and nominate U.S. ambassadors and high foreign policy officials, but these actions were both subject to congressional approval with an overwhelmingly large two–thirds majority vote. Clearly, the framers wanted the Congress to be the dominant branch in foreign policy, as with most other aspects of governance.

The author points to some SCOTUS claptrap (US v Curtiss-Wright, 1936) as the source of claims to 'the Imperial Presidency,' and we add that such "imperialism" was exercised happily by FDR in his pursuit of glory (for himself), not to mention the Bosnia mis-adventure of BillyBoy Clinton...there are lots of other examples (another of which is cited in the following graf.)

Curiously, although the expansion of executive power in foreign policy has not served the nation well, it often has the counterintuitive effect of serving the interests of Congress. If the president is always in charge of U.S. foreign policy, members of Congress can duck responsibility for tough issues that might pose risks to their paramount goal—getting re–elected. For example, by allowing presidents to fight even major conflicts without constitutionally required declarations of war—a phenomenon that began when Harry Truman neglected, with a congressional wink and nod, to get approval for the Korean War—the Congress conveniently throws responsibility for the war into the president’s lap. The founders would be horrified at the erosion of a major pillar of their system of checks and balances.

GWB has been a staunch defender of the "imperial Presidency," having defended "consultations" as sacrosanct private conversations (following the example of BillyBoy and others) and choosing to allow Clinton malfeasances to be swept under the rug.

Congress, of course, cooperates--but in its own interest, as the author indicates.

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