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We have only one president

By Charles Bloomer
web posted December 10, 2001

Senate Democrats, irritated by the president's high poll numbers, have decided to do some grandstanding. Democrats have worked themselves into a lather because the president chooses to exercise his authority as the nation's chief executive. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last week took potshots at the Bush administration for following the law.

Senator Leahy is upset that President Bush has ordered terrorists to be tried by military tribunal rather that civilian courts. Even more upsetting to Senator Leahy is the fact that the president made this decision without first informing congress.

Senator Leahy and other Democrats on the Judiciary panel must have forgotten a couple of important points. On September 14, the senate passed a resolution by a unanimous vote that stated: "The president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist acts that occurred on Sept. 11, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." Every Democrat in the senate voted for that resolution. It seems the Democrats may be having second thoughts. Of course, they never dreamed that the president would actually DO anything about the terrorist acts perpetrated against the United States, having previously worked with a president that did nothing but posture and talk.

The September 14 resolution passed by the senate did not require, request or even recommend that the president inform congress before he took specific actions to fight the war on terrorism. The president is not required to inform the senate of anything other than what is identified in the constitution or as directed by other laws. The constitution requires the president to inform congress of the state of the union from time to time, and to inform congress of the reasons for vetoing a bill. Other laws, such as the War Powers Act require the president to notify congress of his intentions. Those requirements notwithstanding, the president does not have to seek permission from congress to perform his job.

The senate Democrats have conveniently forgotten the concept of separation of powers within the government of the United States. The role of the legislative branch, of which the senate is part, is to produce legislation and deliver it to the president for his signature. The constitution does not give executive authority to the congress. Article II, Section 1 of the constitution says, "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States". Article II, Section 2 identifies the president as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The day-to-day execution of the laws of the United States and the leadership of the armed forces are the responsibilities of the president.

Any complaint from any member of congress about being left out is nothing more than grandstanding. Complaining members of congress want to show that they are still "relevant" and important. Their inflated egos cannot tolerate the lack of attention - attention that is focused on a president doing his job, and doing it superbly. Their over-inflated sense of their importance cannot tolerate their being bystanders during this critical crisis. Unfortunately, since there is so little constructive they can do, some members of congress choose to attack the president and his policies. To these people, a negative contribution is better than no contribution at all, especially if it gets their names in the press.

While we listen to the complaints and hot air, we would do well to remember that we have only one president. The senate contains 100 senators. The house has 435 representatives. None of those 535 is the president. None of them has the authority or responsibility for the day-to-day leadership of the nation. That responsibility rests with the president.

Whatever the advantages or disadvantages of the decision to try terrorists by military tribunal, the decision was the president's to make. Senator Leahy may not like the decision, but then Senator Leahy is not the president; George W. Bush is.

Charles Bloomer is a Senior Writer at Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at clbloomer@enterstageright.com © 2001 Charles Bloomer

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