Founders Feared The Imperial Presidency

[Sen. Daschle will be here to answer your questions and respond to your comments at 10:30AM EST — Ed.]

In one of the best books on the Constitutional balance of powers in the conduct of foreign affairs, Pat Holt — Chief of Staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee throughout the 1960s and 1970s — characterized the competing and overlapping grants of power in the Constitution “an invitation to struggle.”

Consider this:

— Section 2 of Article II of the Constitution makes the President the “Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States” but Section 8 Article I makes clear that only the Congress can “declare War.”

— Section 2 of Article II permits the President to “make Treaties” and appoint “Ambassadors and other Public Ministers and Counsels” but only with agreement of 2/3 of the Senate.

In their wisdom, the Founders did not give outright power on these critical matters of war and peace to any one branch of government. Instead, they left it up to the elected political leaders to debate and struggle over these questions in the hopes that such debate would be the surest way to end up with sound policy.

By refusing to even cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee efforts to oversee the legality of the NSA program, the Administration is ignoring the Founders’ sound advice. By refusing to allow the Senate Intelligence Committee to look into the NSA program, Chairman Roberts is doing the same.

The Constitution invites us to struggle about these questions, not ignore them. Chairman Specter, Senator Rockefeller and others have accepted the invitation. I hope others in the Senate will follow their lead.