Thursday, January 25, 2007

President vs. Congress - Round Two & Three

Last week I initiated coverage of the heavyweight boxing match between our co-equal Executive and Legislative branches of government as they battled over the handling of the war in Iraq. In the first round, we saw some early sparring and dancing around the ring. While it was unclear who won the round, the executive branch seemed surprised to find themselves in the ring at all.

Round two went to the President in a split decision on points, when he pretty much had the ring to himself in the State of The Union address on Tuesday evening, scoring with this potent combination:
"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory... We went into this largely united — in our assumptions, and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field — and those on their way."
Some observers have disputed the ringside judges decision to award the round to the President, claiming that Jim Webb's late round flurry was enough to give it to the legislature:
"As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. “When comes the end?” asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during the second world war. And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean war to an end. These presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this president to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way."
Webb has a stinging jab which he used effectively in combinations, but as a freshman Senator, he simply gives up too much political arm-reach, weight and gravitas to the office of the President. Round 2 - POTUS.

Round three commenced the very next day in Senate Armed Services Committee and on the floor of the Senate. With two non-binding resolutions submitted and co-sponsored by senior Senators of his own party, it was clear that the President had failed to deliver a knockout blow to the legislature, and, at best, had only slowed them down. Early in the round Senator Chuck Hagel staggered the executive branch with a big looping right hand haymaker to the head. The blow reminded the President and his colleagues that the Congress is a co-equal branch of government, that the Congress has a responsibility to help shape the strategy on the war, and charged they had shirked that responsibility for the last four years:

Later, on the floor of the Senate, Senator John Warner delivered a series of what appeared to be softer and subtler body blows, but may ultimately prove to be more damaging to the Executive branch defensive "rope-a-dope" posture. This from the New York Times via Donklephant:
"One sponsor, Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, said the measure is “not meant to be confrontational” but rather was an acceptance of the president’s invitation to come forward with alternative plans, if they have any. Yet the senators’ tone suggested deep concern with the present course. Mr. Warner, who has just stepped down as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was alarmed at the prospect of American soldiers continuing to be caught in sectarian violence, “the origins of which sometimes go back thousands of years.” Mr. Warner said that while he saw “no direct parallels” between the Iraq situation and the United States involvement in Vietnam, he said that he vividly recalls the decline of American public and political support for the Vietnam war, when he was Navy Secretary. Restoring support for the Iraq mission and assuring American success there is essential, he said."
The bell will ring for the fourth round next week when these resolutions make it to the floor for a full debate. The Washington Post reports:
"Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Hagel said negotiations with Warner would begin immediately to try to find common ground on a resolution that would attract far more Republican support. But they said that whatever language is sent to the floor will have to include the policy prescriptions that are in both resolutions: a statement against further deployments; a call for U.S. troops to be re-deployed to guard Iraq's borders, focus on counterterrorism and speeding up the training of Iraqi troops; and a call for diplomatic efforts to engage Iraq's neighbors in the pursuit of a political settlement to the war."
DWSUWF expects they will find that common ground and a biparitsan resolution with significant Republican participation will be passed by the Senate. We will see a well deserved vote of no-confidence in this war plan. Like we said in round one - This is not about Republican vs. Democrat. This is about Executive branch vs. Legislative branch.
Special Notice - DWSUWF reserves the right to change from a Boxing metaphor to a World Wrestling Federation Steel Cage Match metaphor at any time in any post and without additional warning.
The WWF metaphor may be more appropriatly applied to the blogosphere, where DWSUWF (mw) waded into the comments thread of related posts in the left-of-center Crooks and Liars, and the right-of-center Captain's Quarters. DWSUWF took and delivered some body slams and hammerlocks in both arenas. It was a good warm-up.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

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