Posted by Rojas @ 7:56 pm on March 21st 2011

The Republican Congress votes “present”

Let us not, in the course of slapping President Obama around on his Libya strategy, neglect to give the Republican House and the Republican Senate leadership a taste of the lash.

It is, after all, the responsibility of Congress to declare war, and more generally authorize (or decline to authorize) the use of force by the executive. The Republican strategy in this regard has been quite spineless, and amounts to an active abetting of the imperial executive. They complain that the President has not sufficiently “explained” his strategy; yet they are unwilling, as a body, to put themselves on the record on the matter.

One of this blog’s oldest friends, Doug Mataconis, discusses the matter at length, pointing out that in most cases Congress does not seek to fulfill its constitutional function for fear of being put on the record. Such is, as he outlines, a disgusting tendency in any public official:

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the fact that we’ve strayed so far from the intended separation of powers when it comes to the power to make war. However, we are not just talking about a situation where President’s have grabbed power. This has been a willful abdication by a Congress that doesn’t want to get its hands dirty in the foreign policy arena, and doesn’t want to take responsibility for the decisions that they should be making in that area. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

The political explanation–that the Republicans in Congress don’t want to be accused of “tying the President’s hands”–is entirely unsatisfactory. Such hand-tying, when necessary, is one of the core checks on the executive provided by the Constitution. We have a right to expect our elected officials to either exercise that check or explain in no uncertain terms that they deem it unnecessary.

I am not going to listen to after-the-fact critiques of the Libya action from people who failed to make those criticisms count when it mattered.

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