As farcical as the Iraq "surge" debate in Congress is, the WaPo's Michael Abramowitz wonders whether it's the start of a 1970s-style tug-of-war between Congress and the president, on which branch has which powers.
White House press secretary Tony Snow declined to be drawn into a discussion with reporters yesterday about whether such provisions would be "micromanaging" the war—which some scholars think would be unconstitutional. The new White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, is considered a pragmatist not particularly interested in new fights with Congress, but administration allies in the conservative legal world predicted that the White House would eventually chafe at such restrictions.
"The administration might try to be as accommodating as possible on issues short of a complete shutdown of the war, but if Congress clamps down on a core commander-in-chief power that the president thinks might be necessary to use in the war on terrorism, I do not think pragmatism will prevail," said one former top administration lawyer, who conditioned his comments on anonymity.
David B. Rivkin Jr., a White House lawyer in the George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations, described the proposed congressional restrictions as the "epitome of micromanagement." He said he thinks "the White House will end up fighting the congressional micromanagement and, if it continues, will publicly articulate the view that it is unconstitutional and not binding on the executive."
Others speculate that Bush may be backpedaling a bit from his broad assertions of presidential power, some of which the Supreme Court rejected last summer when it struck down his plan for trying terrorism suspects in military tribunals.
Meanwhile, the ThinkProgress bloggers uncover more evidence that Republican congressfolks' brains have been cooking out in the sun too long.