Useless News of the Day


It's a no-brainer that news including the words "panel" and "Jim Baker III" would be useless, but this is a special case.

[A bipartisan] panel, led by former secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher, determined that the 1973 War Powers Act had failed and should be replaced. It was passed during the Vietnam War to limit the president's power to launch hostilities, but presidents of both parties have argued it is unconstitutional.

"The fundamental purpose of our statute is to ensure that the president consults with Congress before taking the nation to war," Christopher said at a news conference with Baker and other panel members.

On first read it sounds like a scale-back of presidential power to make war. On second read…

The proposed law would not have stopped President Bush from going to war in Iraq, members of the panel said, because he won approval from Congress in 2002 to use military force against Baghdad.

"Congress was in on the takeoff," Baker said.

But it would have forced Bush to consult formally with Congress more frequently after the war began.

Functionally, that's useless: It conjures a future of namby-pamby senators asking for "consultation" and getting blown off until the White House decides to stop blowing them off.

The whole recommendation is a ruse, even though it's probably not headed anywhere. Congress not only has the power to declare war—it controls the purse strings and can stop funding presidential action it doesn't approve of at, theoretically, any time. The revolution of the last 15 or 20 years is that it simply doesn't do that anymore. Baker's recommendation is the equivalent of a kid who's been sent to his room demanding the right to sit on his bed instead of on his beanbag chair.