By Alan Nathan © 2007 FrontPageMag
Nothing like a good troop surge debate to reinstate everyone’s faith in our lawmakers’ grasp of the Constitution – which is rivaled only by a cadaver’s handshake.
We’re watching this comically grotesque dance between the mindless and the moronic, as representatives boast to media allies about their upcoming power struggles “on behalf of the American people.” Shakespeare knew this type when he wrote:
Thou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate that went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped one out of the table. (Measure for Measure, Act I, Scene II)
On the January 14, 2007, edition of ABC’s This Week, House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-PA, discussed restrictions he could place on supplemental spending bills as a way to block the president’s 21,500 troop surge. He added:
They say I’m trying to recommend micromanaging of the Defense Department. Well, they need to be micromanaged.
This was almost exactly what he had said earlier this month except then he added, “What we decide is the direction of the country on this war.”
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, recently announced her proposal for legislation requiring that Bush obtain congressional authority for any troop increases.
CNN reported on January 9, 2007, that Senator Ted Kennedy, D-MA, actually submitted his own troop capping legislation even before the president had announced his new strategy:
No additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation unless and until Congress approves the president’s plan.
A week later, Kennedy repeated those sentiments on NBC’s Meet The Press.
Unlike most politicos coming together on other more innocuous, non-binding resolutions of rebuke for the president’s plan, Murtha, Clinton, and Kennedy are either impervious to how constitutional law trumps legislative law, or they are openly trying to usurp an authority beyond their own separated powers.
This usurping represents a hostile act against the people’s long-term interests as defined and protected by the Constitution. This fact remains even when the breach is based upon a popular sentiment of the day. (It’s the reason O.J. gets to live though most want him dead.)
Congress is not entitled to supplant the commander-in-chief’s inherent authority (i.e., intrinsic constitutional power) as outlined in Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution. This never changes, despite the Democrats’ recapture of Congress and their screaming demands for more checks and balances.
The only reason our three co-equal branches of government have the leverage to place checks and balances on one another is because each has certain absolute powers beyond the reach of the other two.
The president fights while the Congress funds, and neither may encroach upon other – that’s how we avoid divergent militias. The Supreme Court referees those passing constitutional muster, but the court is also barred from changing constitutional laws that ultimately define the separation of powers. Yes, each has a check upon the other, but they’re indirect checks and all three branches are answerable to those dynamics.
Thankfully, there’s often a difference between the whims of a poll and the direction chosen by those we elect. Buffering us from what would be the jarring of a nation, their power outranks the polls for the duration of their term in office. If there’s too much of a disconnect between their decisions and our wants, the voters can show them the door at election time.
That’s why the Democratic winning of Congress takes nothing away from the Constitutional powers belonging to the last winner of the presidency. The will of the people has always included its own baggage of earlier choices, and the responsibilities associated with them invariably come with committed timetables. Hence, the one getting the most votes can do what the fewest want.
When the legislative branch declares “war light” under the auspices of the War Powers Act of 1973, it’s either in the form of an Authorization for the Use of Military Force such as after 9/11, or a War Resolution as with Iraq.
After that, Congress becomes subordinate to the president as it relates to the prosecution of that war. Conversely, the president’s leeway to continue that prosecution is always subordinate to Congress’ willingness to maintain the funding.
If they want to reduce that budget, fine, that is their check and balance card. However, they’re not permitted to use targeted funding restrictions and contingencies as a way to abscond with powers over troop assignments and other battlefield decisions not vested in them by the Constitution.
In the name of a supposedly noble cause, you cannot trample on far nobler principles. We are a representative, democratic-republic – not a mobocracy. Live with it!