The current issue of The National Interest contains a perceptive essay by former Senator Jim Webb, “Congressional Abdication.” George F. Will echoes Webb’s arguments at The Washington Post, in “A bipartisan abdication.”
So, some abdication has occurred. Of what?
A congressional role in making U.S. foreign policy:
When it comes to the long-term commitments that our country makes in the international arena, ours can be a complicated and sometimes frustrating process. But our Founding Fathers deliberately placed checks and counterchecks into our constitutional system for exactly that purpose. The congressional “nuisance factor” is supposed to act as a valuable tool to ensure that our leaders — and especially our commander in chief — do not succumb to the emotions of the moment or the persuasions of a very few.
The problem, Webb argues, is that Congress has given up most of its power and authority, just letting presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama do pretty much whatever they want. And recently it’s gotten much worse. “President Obama has arguably established the authority of the president to intervene militarily virtually anywhere without the consent or the approval of Congress,” writes Webb, “at his own discretion and for as long as he wishes.”
Will summarizes the problem thusly: “Imperial presidents and invertebrate legislators of both parties have produced what Webb correctly calls ‘a breakdown of our constitutional process.’ Syria may be the next such bipartisan episode” of undeclared war . . . where the Congress merely sits on its hands and waits for the CNN reports.
The imperial nature of our system has been a long time emerging. As with ancient Rome, Big Men usurped power, and legislative bodies ceded authority, step by step, over time — becoming less republican.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.