The Abdication of Congress

When Congress voted to grant President Bush the power to launch a pre-emptive war, at a time of his own choosing, on a nation that has not attacked the United States, it reached its nadir.

The abdication, the capitulation, the surrender was absolute.

Senators admonishing Bush to use the war power wisely call to mind parents who hand over the keys to the family car to a teen-ager who has just boasted to his siblings about his prowess as a drag-racer.

We have crossed the line between republic and empire. This Senate reminds one of the Roman Senate after Cicero's tongue had been cut out.

That a Democratic Senate would again surrender its war powers to a president, when the memory of the Tonkin Gulf resolution is still fresh, is remarkable. For that resolution passed only after North Vietnam appeared to have attacked the U.S. destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy. Nothing has happened in a decade to lead us to conclude Iraq is about to attack the United States.

All the evidence points the other way. Saddam sleeps in a different bed each night. Plastic surgery has created three or four "doubles," or Xerox copies, of Saddam, to take an assassin's bullet for him. His secretive regime is opening up its weapons sites to U.N. inspectors. His military is in defensive mode. His aid to the Palestinians consists not of firing Scuds in solidarity, but of mailing checks to homeless families of suicide bombers.

This is not Adolph Hitler about to crash into Poland.

It is a tribute to the president's leadership that he has compelled Congress to cede to him the most important power it has. Yet, to many observers, Congress is only doing what comes naturally – recoiling from the accountability that goes with the exercise of power.

For the truth is: Congress does not want the responsibility of having to decide whether we go to war with Iraq. It wants the president to make the decision, as long as it retains the right to criticize and carp and second-guess. After all, Congress opposed war on Serbia, but Clinton went ahead and bombed for 78 days. But rather than impeach him for waging an unconstitutional war, the House impeached him for his romp with Monica and for making a bad confession to the grand jury.

Nor is it only on the issue of war that Congress has abdicated. The next most important constitutional power a Congress has is the "power of the purse." Congress is to decide where tax revenues shall be expended. Yet, it voted to give Bill Clinton the "line-item veto" – the power to veto separately virtually every expenditure Congress makes.

Why would Congress surrender such power?

Simple. Members of Congress wish to retain the right to buy friends and influence people by voting tax dollars for their special interests, but they want the president to have the obligation and be the one to pay the political price of having to say, "No."

After Congress voted to give the president the line-item veto, the Supreme Court was forced to step in and explain that Congress cannot give up its constitutional powers without a constitutional amendment. The Court had to rescue Congress from its own Munich.

Earlier this year, members were photographed smiling behind the president as he signed "fast track." What does fast track mean? It means Congress surrenders all rights to amend trade treaties.

These treaties can run to tens of thousands of pages. But by giving up the right to alter them in any way, congressmen can go home and truthfully tell constituents they simply could not save the factories on which the district depends. Fast track enables the Congress to tell constituents: "It's not our fault. There is nothing we can do about it. The president did it."

From abortion to busing to flag-burning, the Supreme Court long ago usurped the role of Congress in setting social policy. The World Bank and IMF put American taxpayers at risk for loans running into the scores of billions of dollars – without Congress' approval. On issues that affect the economic life of the country, the regulatory agencies have been flexing their muscles and seizing turf at the expense of Congress.

Once the First Branch of Government, Congress seems indifferent, even oblivious, to its own dispossession. To hear Democrats wail against a president for "politicizing" the war, by forcing them to vote on war before an election, is beyond parody.

How cruel of the president to force our solons, who earn $150,000 a year to govern us, to have to make their views known to voters about the wisdom of pre-emptive wars. How beastly Mr. Bush is to them.

Patrick J. Buchanan WorldNetDaily

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