Monday, February 11, 2008
The Audacity Of Nope
About halfway through reading this Congressional testimony by Col. Douglas Macgregor (Ret.) explaining why the Joint Declaration of Principles between the US and Iraq more closely resembles the Warsaw Pact-era Brezhnev Doctrine than a US Status of Forces Agreement, it occurred to me that for all the outrage over the executive power grab of the past seven years, the Bush-Cheney administration has done nothing that the Founders did not foresee and anticipate. They understood and accepted as a matter of course that the executive would have a tendency to encroach on the powers of Congress.
But while the Founders also understood the corrosive effect of political parties on a democracy, I think what might very well have surprised them about today's political climate would be the degree to which Congress, faced with the Bush-Cheney putsch, has simply rolled over. From torture to habeas corpus to domestic wiretapping to signing statements, President Bush might have run roughshod over the Constitution, but Congress did nothing to stop him.
It's worth thinking about that for a moment, now that interest in the presidential campaign has reached a frenzied peak. A lot of thought and discussion has been devoted to which of the two Democratic candidates would be most likely to pull back from the expansive precedent of the Bush imperial presidency. Less has gone into identifying and promoting the kind of Congressional leadership in the Democratic Party that will actually push back against executive overreach.
With the superdelegates (of whom Congressional Democrats make up roughly a third) poised to decide the party's nominee, now would be a good time to consider just what Congress will be getting in return for its tie-breaking Convention votes. Obviously these sorts of deals are made between individuals. But hopefully there will be some institutional dealmaking going on as well.