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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have! - Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Follow the Constitution: Only Congress Can Declare War, Bob Barr Says

“Former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher have proposed a new statute to encourage the president and Congress to cooperate in going to war. But the Constitution already sets forth a clear rule: Congress, and only Congress, is tasked with declaring war,” explains Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate. “Absent exigent circumstances, like defending against a surprise attack, only Congress has the authority to take America into a conflict.”

Secretaries Baker and Christopher understandably complain that the current system is broken and the 1973 War Powers Resolution has failed to ensure executive branch consultation with Congress. “But a new law won’t change anything unless future Congresses and presidents commit to follow the Constitution,” says Barr. “The present confusion reflects the fact that Congresses and presidents don’t understand or won’t follow the constitutional framework. The new law likely would just paper over existing problems, leading to even more confusion in the years ahead.”

First, “presidents must acknowledge that being military commander-in-chief does not entitle them to take the nation into war. Rather, they are to fight only conflicts authorized by Congress,” Barr observes. “At the same time, Congresses must be willing to confront tough issues, rather than leave them for the president. Legislators have no higher responsibility under the Constitution and to the voters than to decide when Americans must fight abroad.”

Sen. John McCain’s staff announced that he “would make consultations with Congress a priority,” but that’s not nearly enough, Barr explains. “The Constitution does not say Congress is to be consulted. Rather, the Constitution vests the power to decide on war in Congress alone.”

The problem is bipartisan. “Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both treated the Constitution’s war powers clause as an ancient relic,” notes Barr. “Sen. Barack Obama, a former law professor, has said nothing to suggest any difference from Sen. McCain.” Republicans and Democrats alike need to relearn their respect for the Constitution and take their cue from Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in World War II and later NATO commander, who explained: “When it comes to the matter of war, there is only one place that I would go, and that is to the Congress of the United States.”

“The Founders placed the power to decide on war in the Congress because they did not want to entrust that enormous authority to any one man or woman,” emphasizes Barr. “The world has changed, but not the need for checks and balances in government.” The Constitution is clear. “The power to decide on war is up to Congress alone, and as president I would not initiate conflict without congressional assent,” says Barr.

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