Notes: The United States Congress has gone missing. Before the rise of the "imperial presidency," Congress participated in America's foreign policy. Congress now leaves Americans without representative democracy in that crucial area.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. coined the phrase "imperial presidency" in his 1973 book The Imperial Presidency. "America's rise to global dominance and Cold War leadership, Schlesinger explained, had dangerously concentrated power in the presidency, transforming the Framers' energetic but constitutionally constrained chief executive into a sort of elected emperor with virtually unchecked authority in the international arena," writes Gene Healy in his essay "Arrogance of Power Reborn: The Imperial Presidency and Foreign Policy in the Clinton Years."
Some date the imperial presidency as far back as Franklin Roosevelt. Others say it was most expressed by Richard Nixon. Regardless, George W. Bush has taken up the baton with his unilateral approach to foreign policy and the wrong-headed Bush Doctrine of preventive war.
Last Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb) said in a speech before the Gallup Organization World Conference in Omaha, "[w]hen the security of this nation is threatened, Congress and the American people give the president great latitude. We probably have given this president more flexibility, more latitude, more range, unquestioned, than any president since Franklin Roosevelt -- probably too much. The Congress, in my opinion, really abrogated much of its responsibility." (This quote is from an Associated Press report appearing in the Washington Post on October 21.) Hagel is a senior member to the Foreign Relations Committee.
The Constitution has given Congress five foreign policy powers: 1) Congress has the power to declare war; 2) to ratify treaties; 3) to pass legislation of international scope; 4) to control spending on foreign policy; and 5) to regulate commerce with foreign nations. (Source: Nuclearfiles.org).
The fault for the creation of the "imperial presidency" lies with a cowardly Congress. Its members have been all too willing to cede responsibility to the president for fear of blame by voters on serious issues -- e.g., giving Bush the authority to attack Iraq without requiring a declaration of war or of oversight. In doing so, Congress removes representative democracy from our foreign policy. However, that is exactly why members of Congress are elected in the first place -- to represent the American people. 10.26.03