Sunday, February 18, 2007

Are the Dems about to throw Bush into the briar patch?

I had thought that the silly resolutions against the troop surge would be the end of the matter. It seemed to be that the Dems wanted to be against the war without actually doing anything about that. In that, they mirror the irresolution of the Baker-Hamilton report that essentially says we can't win, but it would be awful to lose so let's just dither.

But if Hilary Clinton is actually talking about some type of more resolute Congressional action, we may be heading toward a constitutional crisis. Although resolutions critical of a President's choice of military strategy arguably exceed Congressional authority (the President is the constitutionally-designated commander-in-chief), they are easily (and properly) ignored.

But it is far from clear whether or how Congress has the authority to "revoke" its authorization of the use of force (or that such an authorization was even constitutionally required). For example, under the War Powers Resolution, Congress can supposedly end hostilities by a joint resolution but, apart from whether this violates the constitutional designation of the President as commander-in-chief, it is unclear whether it is constitutional for Congress to engage in this type of legislative veto. If that's the case, then perhaps it must act jointly subject to presidential veto.

And even if that can be done, there are constitutional questions surrounding the ability of Congress to limit the President's ability to act to protect the national security. They could presumably withdraw funding, but that is dicier than it sounds.

I don't pretend to be an expert in all of this, but the standoff between Congress and the White House would be historic.

Is it inevitable? Might events in Iraq change things? I am not sure. It's unclear how, even if the surge works, that the Dems will accept that. It's not as if there is going to be the "fall" of some enemy held territory because the enemy doesn't really "hold" territory. If al-Sadr has fled to Iran in fear of the surge, it would be huge. But, in the nature of the thing, it is very difficult to know whether this is the case.

So it seems that the Dems, who are clearly convinced that it is the path to power, may just push ahead. If they do, it is hard to see how the President can go along. A withdrawal of troops dictated by nothing more than a desire to get out will have horrific consequences and, unlike in Vietnam, it will be far more difficult to ignore.

And, finally, because we value the horse race more than the horses, how will this play politically? The Dems certainly seem to see it as the route to ObamaMania or HilaryFair 2008.

But maybe not.

By passing meaningless resolutions and giving speeches, the Dems do not accomplish anything, but they also ensure that Iraq remains Bush's problem. If they are now intending to actually do something, they may make it their own.

And if that happens, don't be surprised if what was a GOP liability becomes an asset.

1 comment:

jp said...

Thank you for a hopeful thought in the surge resolution farce.