The notion of the commander-in-chief as monarch, promoted by former Bush administration official and law professor John Yoo, has received some useful debunking in recent days. First Garry Wills in the New York Times noted that the phrase itself is overblown and, for the most part, inappropriate, at least when used to refer to American citizens. It applies to the military. Unless you’re a member of the U.S. military, Bush isn’t your commander.
Today Fred Barbash follows on with a valuable op-ed in the Washington Post. He notes that the stakes over nonbinding resolutions about a troop buildup in Iraq cut to the issue of the separation of powers. Until now, Congress has been largely supine.
The problem is a constitutional one. We’ve gotten very lazy about adhering to Article I, which says that the House and Senate have the authority to “declare war.” Problem is, their hasn’t been much declaring in the past decades. Ever since the cold war began, U.S. presidents have slid into wars rather than requesting explicit authorization from Congress. Bush, however, by overreaching may well have prompted Congress to reassert itself. It can’t happen too soon.
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