Topic: Government and Politics

The Power to Consult about War?

“In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found,” James Madison wrote in 1793, “than in that clause which asks the president to give Congress a courtesy call whenever he’s picked a new country to invade.”  Well, no, that’s not actually what he said.  It went more like this:

In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man.

How to check that temptation?  In 1973, Congress tried the War Powers Resolution, a deeply flawed piece of legislation that has never so much as inconvenienced a president bent on war.  Former Secretaries of State Jim Baker and Warren Christopher – and a bipartisan panel of DC bigwigs – have a new answer: semi-mandatory consultation with Congress backed up by a dread “resolution of disapproval” (that the president can veto!).  Somehow I don’t think this is going to work.   

I haven’t had a chance to read the full report yet, but judging from the coverage and the op-ed Baker and Christopher penned for yesterday’s Times, the Commission’s proposal seems like an exercise in High Broderism.  For some serious attempts at putting teeth in the War Powers Resolution, check here and here

However, as I explain in the Cult of the Presidency, I’m skeptical that any of these megastatute solutions are going to work.  Because no Congress can truly bind a future Congress and no statute can force the courts to resolve separation of powers fights they’d rather duck, such legislative solutions tend to be about as effective as a dieter’s note on the refrigerator.  Unless and until ordinary voters demand that Congress stand and be counted on issues of war and peace–and defund unauthorized wars–we’ll continue as before.  Hey, maybe we are the change we’ve been waiting on.

Democrats Unleash Food Police

Delegates and others attending the Democratic convention may want to stock up on Twinkies before heading to Denver. According to the Rocky Mountain News, the DNC has politically-correct rules promoting “organic” foods and barring “fried” foods. What I don’t understand, though, is the rule requiring three different colors per plate. Is this the Democrats’ quota mentality run amok? But surely this can’t be the case. If anyone knows the reason for this rule, I’m genuinely curious (especially since it may just be a matter of time before we have a Federal Food Police imposing these rules on the rest of us):

The Democratic National Convention host committee guidelines for caterers suggest serving mostly organic fare or Colorado products, and avoiding fried foods. The guidelines even suggest color schemes on plates. “This is the food police,” groused Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown on Monday. “These people stood in line too long at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival.” …DNC host committee meal guidelines

* Half a meal made up of fruits and/or veggies

* At least three of the following five colors on a plate - red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white (garnishes don’t count)

* No fried foods

* At least 70 percent of ingredients (based on precooked weight) certified organic and/or grown or raised in
Colorado

* Use of reusable serviceware

* No bottled water, use pitchers instead

* Encourage staff to use alternative modes of transportation

Will Prosecutors Now Go After Farmers, Welfare Recipients, Defense Contractors, and Senior Citizens?

Fox News reports on a student who is facing prosecution for offering to sell his vote for $10. But that’s a cheap price compared to how much it cost when members of special-interest groups demand handouts from politicians:

Max P. Sanders, 19, was charged with a felony Thursday in Hennepin County District Court after allegedly asking for a minimum of $10 in exchange for voting for the bidder’s preferred candidate. “Good luck!” …Sanders was charged with one count of bribery, treating and soliciting under an 1893 state law that makes it a crime to offer to buy or sell a vote. According to a criminal complaint, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office learned about the offering on the Web site and told prosecutors. Investigators sent a subpoena to eBay and got information that led to Sanders. “We take it very seriously. Fundamentally, we believe it is wrong to sell your vote,” said John Aiken, a spokesman for the office. “There are people that have died for this country for our right to vote, and to take something that lightly, to say, ‘I can be bought.’

McCain’s Budget: Balance by 2013?

In a new campaign document, John McCain detailed some of his economic proposals today. The promise that caught my eye is a pledge to balance the federal budget by 2013. That is curious promise for him to make.

The Joint Committee on Taxation projects that federal revenues in fiscal 2013 – with the extension of the current tax cuts and AMT relief – will be 17.6 percent of GDP.

This year federal spending will come in at about 20.6 percent of GDP. That means that in four years a President McCain would cut spending worth about 3 percent of GDP, or about $427 billion annually in today’s dollars.

That would be fabulous, and Mr. McCain can read my Downsizing plan to find out exactly where to cut. Indeed, he might have already read it (see the picture). However, today’s plan from McCain includes few specifics on discretionary spending cuts, and his (laudatory) entitlement reforms would probably not generate major savings in just the first four years.

Here’s where fiscal conservatives get nervous about Mr. McCain’s intentions. In the same campaign document. McCain repeatedly lauds bipartisan efforts to fix the budget. Thus, if elected, would he actually fight for $427 billion in federal spending cuts? Or would he just trim some minor waste and earmarks, and make up the vast bulk of the budget gap with tax increases in the name of bipartisanship?

To end on a positive note, we have seen in recent years that federal revenues are highly dependent on the strength of the economy. If balancing the budget is the main fiscal goal of the next president, he will need to both cut spending and support pro-growth economic policies. To McCain’s credit, his tax proposals are very growth-oriented, and an economic boom could well boost revenues to higher levels than currently projected.  

State-Worship, McCain Style

Here’s a snip from John McCain’s Parade magazine essay on patriotism:

Patriotism is deeper than its symbolic expressions, than sentiments about place and kinship that move us to hold our hands over our hearts during the national anthem. It is putting the country first, before party or personal ambition, before anything. (emphasis mine)

Before anything? I always thought the Buckley clan had some insights on prioritization of duties.

A Home Fit for a President

According to the Washington Post, Barack and Michelle Obama

wanted to step up from their $415,000 condo. They chose a house with six bedrooms, four fireplaces, a four-car garage and 5 1/2 baths, including a double steam shower and a marble powder room. It had a wine cellar, a music room, a library, a solarium, beveled glass doors and a granite-floored kitchen.

It sounds – and looks – like a home fit for a Roosevelt. Of course, the old-money Roosevelts had their homes, so they didn’t have to go through the costly and distasteful process of taking out a mortgage to buy them. Fortunately for the Obamas, the Chicago-based Northern Trust made the process a lot less costly than it might have been for other people. (See also a comment here from Clio1, who claims to know that the deal was even better than the Post suggested.)

Americans Overwhelmingly Reject Redistribution

In some heartening news, new poll results from Gallup show that Americans decisively reject redistributionist policies by an 84 percent-13 percent margin. Even Democrats prefer that government focuses on growth rather than redistribution by a margin of 77 percent-19 percent. A blogger for the New Republic claims the question was poorly worded, but that seems like wishful thinking. People were basically asked whether government should focus on making the pie bigger or focus on re-slicing the pie, and the results are very encouraging:

…given a choice about how government should address the numerous economic difficulties facing today’s consumer, Americans overwhelmingly – by 84% to 13% – prefer that the government focus on improving overall economic conditions and the jobs situation in the United States as opposed to taking steps to distribute wealth more evenly among Americans. … Americans’ lack of support for redistributing wealth to fix the economy spans political parties: Republicans (by 90% to 9%) prefer that the government focus on improving the economy, as do independents (by 85% to 13%) and Democrats (by 77% to 19%). This sentiment also extends across income groups: upper-income Americans prefer that the government focus on improving the economy and jobs by 88% to 10%, concurring with middle-income (83% to 16%) and lower-income (78% to 17%) Americans. … In sum, free-market advocates can take considerable solace in Americans’ overwhelming belief that the government should not focus on redistributing income and wealth, but on improving the overall economy. And, to a lesser degree, Americans also believe government continues to do too much – not too little – to solve the nation’s problems.