Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testifying to the House Foreign Affairs Committee (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testifying to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

George F. Will writes today that Congress has fallen short of its checks-and-balances duties, allowing the executive branch to start, plan, negotiate, continue and end military conflicts all on its own. As former Virginia senator Jim Webb has argued, Congress’s abdication of its role gives the president powers like those of a prime minister, which is not how the United States is supposed to run.

And, despite a lot of back-and-forth about which president most deserves the term “Imperial President,” the commentariat largely agrees. Possibly because the odds are the commentariat hates Congress as much as everyone else in the country does right now, and possibly because the waging of war could really, really use some oversight. All in all, it seems like the Constitution was right to advise Congress to actually do things.

But the cultural conversation keeps going round and round about which party is singlehandedly to blame about everything, and while the commentariat agrees with Will (who was careful to point out bipartisan failings), commenters also want to make it a one-party problem, the kind we can solve by voting really hard next election.

Note army164, who as far as PostScript can tell, agrees totally with Will:

This is pure nonsense, George. The problem isn’t the President, no the problem is a Congressional oversight system that has failed. The world rotates on an axis and does so in one complete revolution every twenty-four hours. Events occur and situations change rapidly and the idea that a global power, the single most indispensable global power, can sit by and wait while the Senate fiddles and the House attempts to repeal Obamacare for the thirty-fourth time is foolish. The national legislature of the United States is a joke and can’t be trusted to govern anyway — there are no principled stands — it’s all about the defense pork in their state and districts and their reelection — so is there any doubt why we need an executive that can actually act in the face of perceived threats? I think not.


Interesting conservatives(?) became obsessed with the federal debt and the so called imperial presidency when a Democrat gained the WH. What hypocrisy.


It is amusing that all of the Bush haters are using him as a defense of this Imperial President.


Not sure I would blame the president for getting things done while the Congress (specifically the House) focuses on getting things undone. Not “spineless”. I think the word you’re looking for is dysfunctional.

It’s interesting that partisanship might be overcoming our ability to realize we agree with an argument, because edbyronadams says that Congress’s dysfunction is an effect of extreme partisanship – -that a Democrat will not get attacked for pursuing Republicanish priorities, and vice versa:

This is the outgrowth of a political strategy, triangulation. It allows a President to much more freedom to move in the direction of the opposite party. Tribal affiliation is one of the most powerful emotions and that affiliation leads members to remain silent when a President with the same letter after their name as their voting preference to remain silent when they violate principle.

The attack on Libya was ill advised from the principle of separation of powers but it was also ill advised on the idea of self interest of the nation. Republicans love that military stuff and their authoritarian bias wants to leave the Commander in Chief unfettered. The Democrats just stayed silent because of party loyalty.

So at the moment, we can count only on the parties to check and balance each other, not the branches of government. The way Supreme Court analysts have taken to calling Supreme Court justices, or even particular sides of a case, “Democratic” or “Republican.”

And mhenshaw argues that this might keep snowballing into more and more foreign intervention:

The difference is that Bush at least could make the argument that, if the intelligence on Saddam’s WMD programs was even remotely correct, there was a national security interest at stake. “Humanitarian intervention” isn’t a national security interest. As Will points out, we can’t even define it. It’s a mushy idea that amounts to “we feel really bad for those suffering people so we’re going to send in the troops.” If that’s our standard for military action, we should be occupying half the world by now. Democrats used to be the ones who were skeptical about the overzealous use of military power. What happened? I don’t think conservatives are the only ones showing a double standard here.

So what’s a way out of this bipartisan mess if both parties are enabling it? Who can there be to check and balance them?

whorton1 suggests one answer:

Oh my god…is…is Jim Webb a…a…LIBERTARIAN? I totally just got butterflies. I’d vote for him tomorrow. Twice.

Are you listening, Rand Paul?