In a strongly worded column published in Monday’s New York Times, Assistant Editor Adam Cohen argues that America’s founding fathers feared an “imperial presidency” such as George W. Bush’s when drafting the Constitution.
Cohen, a lawyer and member of the Times editorial board since 2002, writes, “The nation is heading toward a constitutional showdown over the Iraq war. Congress is moving closer to passing a bill to limit or end the war, but President Bush insists Congress doesn’t have the power to do it. ‘I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war,’ he said at a recent press conference. ‘I think they ought to be funding the troops.’ He added magnanimously: ‘I’m certainly interested in their opinion.'”
“The war is hardly the only area where the Bush administration is trying to expand its powers beyond all legal justification,” Cohen continues. “But the danger of an imperial presidency is particularly great when a president takes the nation to war, something the founders understood well. In the looming showdown, the founders and the Constitution are firmly on Congress’s side.”
Excerpts from column:
The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”
Members of Congress should not be intimidated into thinking that they are overstepping their constitutional bounds. If the founders were looking on now, it is not Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who would strike them as out of line, but George W. Bush, who would seem less like a president than a king.