Useless News of the Day

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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.

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  1. It conjures a future of namby-pamby senators asking for “consultation”

    “C’mon, you guys! I want to look important, too! Tell me, I won’t blab.”

  2. The Congress still has full control of the budget. If they don’t bother to use it then making yet another law to tell them to use their existing powers is just so many wasted electrons.

    As mentioned in recent threads, also passed in the 1970s as a counter to the Nixon, and previous presidents, expenditure discression, the Congress took all discression away from the Executive.

    The Commander in Chief might be able to order troops into battle, but they can’t stay there very long without money.

  3. When was the last time any Jim Baker III news wasn’t useless, with or without panel?

  4. 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.

    By this logic (which I agree with), the Democrat-controlled Congress therefore approves of the war in Iraq.

  5. the Democrat-controlled Congress therefore approves of the war in Iraq.

    …or is abominably lazy. Don’t forget that possibility!

    Congress is an elected body. Therefore, by the same logic we could say American-voter-controlled America approves of the war in Iraq. Insofar as far as surveys are to be trusted, the assertion is not empircally supported.

  6. If Congress would only step up and enforce this:

    The Congress shall have the power

    1. To …provide for the common defence…. of the United States…

    10. To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the law of nations:

    11. To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water:

    12. To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years:

    13. To provide and maintain a navy:

    14. To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces:

    15. To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions:

    16. To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress:

    And,

    18. To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof. – U.S. Constitution, Article I

    ..then no WPA would be needed. The wusses haven’t been willing to do so since, at least, 1945.

    Kevin

  7. I’ve always thought the Wars Powers act a little humorous given that the President has sole and immediate launch authority over tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. So, the President cannot seed troops down to some banana republic without consulting congress but he can destroy the world without asking anybody.

    I think this situation reveals how changing technology undermines the assumptions that legal theories are based on. The constitution says that only congress can declare war but the realities of nuclear warfare meant that at time decisions had to made in a few minutes.

    In any case, improved communication means that congress has more control over day-to-day military operations than at any time in history. In pre-radio days, US military officers on the scene used to start and stop small scale wars on their own authority, sometimes killing hundreds and congress wouldn’t know about until months after the fact. Today, such an act even would give half of Washington an attack of the vapors.

  8. calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union

    Why don’t they send the National Guard to surround the White House and apprehend the lawbreakers currently occupying it?

  9. Alternatively, Congress may not approve of the war in Iraq per se, even though it continues to fund it. Bills presented for purposes of funding the war are not solely concerned with funding the war. A vote for an Iraq war funding bill could be the result of stronger preference for other bundled things.

    Why are bills permitted to be such inadequate indicators of Congress’s particular preferences? The first draft often comes from the President’s office. Otherwise, the process is heavily mediated by individual congressmen with control over committees and parilamentary procedure.

    That leaves Congress either willing the war to continue, lacking the will to stop it, or lacking the institutional capacity to stop it.

  10. LOL, you right. useless is as Useless does. LOL

    JT
    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  11. That leaves Congress either willing the war to continue, lacking the will to stop it, or lacking the institutional capacity to stop it.

    They have the capacity. It’s just that the administration and GOP have figured out that it’s incredibly easy to buy off Democratic politicians with some social spending bundled into war bills.

    The first and foremost priority in a politician’s life is to be re-elected. Doing the right thing isn’t even remotely on the radar.

  12. “The revolution of the last 15 or 20 years is that it simply doesn’t do that anymore.”

    ???

    When was the last undeclared “war”, with US troops on the ground, that Congress refused to fund? Since the last declared war ended in 1945, I am guessing “15 to 20 years” is really going to require quite a multiplier.

  13. Okay folks, if you are expecting an official “we declare war” form or format that the Congress must use to concur with the President’s use of military force, then produce one.

    Otherwise, either make one for submission through your fderal representatives or quit whining about it.

  14. Okay folks, if you are expecting an official “we declare war” form or format that the Congress must use to concur with the President’s use of military force, then produce one.

    Ron Paul beat you to it.

  15. NW,

    Ron Paul did not creat a form, he just made a bunch of wording that nobody would vote for.

    Now, no more responses will be entertained without the proper form.

    Have a great day!

  16. The first and foremost priority in a politician’s life is to be re-elected.

    If that’s true–if the President can be restrained by Congress and Congress only cares about elections, then electors control the process. We can’t blame Congress for the result at all.

    Polls say American voters will the war to end (though polls may lie, and voters may just not care). That leaves the institutional capacity (elections). In that case, American elections do not express voter preferences, therefore the war continues.

  17. They have the capacity. It’s just that the administration and GOP have figured out that it’s incredibly easy to buy off Democratic politicians with some social spending bundled into war bills.

    I don’t even think that’s it — they have caved to the GOP many times without even getting any concessions. The Democratic party is a broken party. They piss their pants any time a GOPer says “terrorism” or “weak national security”. They really believe that if they just give the GOP whatever they want, they will take those issues off the table for elections and the GOP won’t attack them on national security issues. Someone ask Max Cleland how that worked out?

    Even if there was absolutely no money for social spending in a war funding bill, do you think that the Dems would oppose war funding? I remember right after the mid terms in ’06 and the DEMS were out there saying “Of course we won’t cut funding for the war. We aren’t gonna leave our troops out there and risk them running out of ammo”. Dems were out there basically spouting right wing talking points instead of attacking Bush the war and trying to pressure him to get troops out if they don

    The reality is that the Dem. party only knows how to play defense. They don’t have a strategy other than not rocking the boat. There are no real attack dogs on the Dem side — their whole strategy seems to be :
    Let’s not get into any fights, let’s not stand on any principles, and lets try and find a mushy middle on everything and hopefully America will choose us because we know how to compromise.

    Even after the ’06 midterms — when Bush’s approval rating was dropping like a rock, the dems were taking impeachment off the table — before even having done any investigations of wrongdoing. They were taking their biggest gun and saying “well we would never use this”.

    Clinton gets impeachment hearings for lying under oath about a blowjob, but Bush could kill someone on live TV for sport and the Dems would find a way to retroactively immunize him.

  18. Bills presented for purposes of funding the war are not solely concerned with funding the war. A vote for an Iraq war funding bill could be the result of stronger preference for other bundled things.

    Of course, the Dems control Congress, and so control what is bundled with what, so this doesn’t really get them off the hook. If they wanted a down vote on Iraq war funding, they could get it, no prob.

    I suspect that additional stuff is thrown in with Iraq war funding in order to get the additional stuff passed, not the other way around.

  19. Shannon-

    Yes, a response to a nuclear missile attack would almost certainly be immediate, but haven’t Presidents always had the power to immediately responding to attacks on US soil?

    Having the power to respond immediately, with force proportionate to the threat, does not necessarily mean that an invasion and occupation of another country, in response to something less serious than a nuke, can or should be undertaken without Congressional approval.

  20. I don’t think the issue is social spending in funding bills, it’s the power of the “support the troops” theme. The administration has done a good job of portraying the Congress as ready to take away soldiers’ bullets and put them out in the field with pointy sticks. Also evinced in the “keep fighting in order to respect the sacrifice of those who have fallen” idea. Congress’s first priority is re-election, and congressmen who don’t have nice little yellow ribbon magnets and don’t pay for bullet proof vests don’t stay in office long.

    I wonder if much of this is just the side effect of having a standing army that has become an end in itself as opposed to a shapeless blunt instrument of foreign policy. Not that the Founders didn’t forsee that, right?

  21. Bills presented for purposes of funding the war are not solely concerned with funding the war. A vote for an Iraq war funding bill could be the result of stronger preference for other bundled things.

    And who, exactly is holding the gun to their heads and preventing them from dissecting these Bills into their component parts to be voted on (by roll call) individually?

  22. And who, exactly is holding the gun to their heads and preventing them from dissecting these Bills into their component parts to be voted on (by roll call) individually?

    Oh! I know this one! The President of the Senate of course, becaus he is evil Darth Cheney!

    j/k, nobody is but their apologists are still blaming the minority party anyway.

  23. The idea of Congress using funding to curtail war isn’t that far fetched. The Case-Church ammendment ended the Vietnam War. At least a few other attempts had been made by that time to limit the military action by restricting funding.

  24. Abdul,

    Glad someone to finally pointed that out too.

    BTW, that Congressional action lead directly to the millions of Vietnamese “boat people” during and after the “liberation” of South Vietnam.

    And our side was the only side that stuck to the ‘peace treaty’.

  25. the Democrat-controlled Congress therefore approves of the war in Iraq.

    …or is abominably lazy. Don’t forget that possibility!

    Ummm, no, abominably lazy would end the war by default. Congress has to actively appropriate money from time to time to keep the war going. The Democratic leadership has to actively put said appropriation bills on the agenda for a vote. During conference committee, both chambers have to show up and agree on the wording and vote for it for a bill to pass. It’s incredibly easy to kill a bill without even holding a vote if you control the majority … but you have to want that outcome.

  26. In that case, American elections do not express voter preferences, therefore the war continues.

    Electing politicians does express voter preferences — for individual politicians. Not policies. In the general election, you get to vote for Obama or McCain or Barr, not for specific policies like stopping the war in Iraq.

    You can see this here on Oahu, where politicians overwhelmingly voted in favor of building a multi-billion dollar rail transit system, and are now fighting like hell to keep the voters from putting the issue to a direct vote on the ballot. Why? Because they suspect popular opinion isn’t behind them on this issue even though they got re-elected.

    Now, if ballots also allowed voters to directly vote on issues — say, “Congress shall be prohibited from funding any troops in Iraq one year from approval of this initiative — yes / no?”, we could avoid this problem with nonrepresentative representatives, at least on the big ticket items.

  27. I am sick and tired of the government avoiding the simple question of is going to war require a declaration. The spineless wonders acquise to a war and then question the decision once the going gets tough. I do realize these craven knaves like Rockefeller, Warner, and their ilk can actually believe they were lead lemming like to vote for a policy they didn’t completely understand. Please.

    The Congress can cut off funds any time it desires. It can end the promotions of the heads of the military. There is no neeed for additional mindless measures. There is a need for courage, integrity and honesty.

    All qualities in short supply among our weak kneed politicians. Taken as a whole they are not worth a warm bucket of spit.

  28. prolefeed, I suspect that on the whole more direct democracy would only accelerate our wild ride to serfdom.

  29. …or is abominably lazy. Don’t forget that possibility!

    Ummm, no, abominably lazy would end the war by def

    As one who is abominably lazy myself, i feel i can speak with some expertise on this. All congress has to do, (and does every so often), is say ‘for fy 2009, do exactly the same thing as fy 2008).

    and thus status quo maintains. this is definitely lazy. and i would argue lazier than doing something radical like passing no law whatsoever. the ensuing unpredictability and chaos that would actually require them to exert effort (or lose their jobs – or their lives)

  30. “ummm, no abominable lazy would end the war by default”

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