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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Remember the Constitution?

Delaware Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden appeared on Meet the Press on September 9, 2007 to weigh in on the upcoming report on the Iraq surge strategy and American options going forward. In one span no more than 2 minutes apart, Biden made two comments that do much to explain the mess in which President Bush and Congress have placed the country. (#1)

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First of all, let’s speak truth to power here. You need 67 votes to cut that off. All 51 votes will do is delay building these vehicles. And, look, Tim, if you tell me I’ve got to take away this protection for these kids in order to win the election, some things aren’t worth it.
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I'm not sure what is more alarming about this statement -- Biden's forgetfullness about the Constitution or his lack of logic. First, by alluding to 67 votes, he is referring to a veto-proof majority in the Senate. He then couples that with the topic of initiating additional spending, forgetting that according to the Constitution (remember the Constitution?), all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives. Do I really need to cite the reference on this? Apparently, I do. (#2) (#3)

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Section. 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Section. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States; To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy;

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Biden's comment also defies logic because he's implying you need a veto-proof majority in either house of Congress to NOT do something. This of course implies that ABSENT any action by Congress, the Executive Branch can initiate new spending or continue spending of an existing program (or even a war) across a Congressional term. In a word, NO. I again refer the diligent reader to the above highlighted excerpts from the United States Constitution. Remember the Constitution?

The situation in Iraq is a perfect example of why, as part of the balance of powers, the Founding Fathers put that power squarely in the hands of the House of Representatives, the elected officials theoretically closest to the immediate will of the people by virtue of their two year term.

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I will vote, as long as there’s a single troop in there that we are taking out or maintaining, either way I will vote for the money necessary to protect them, period.
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Biden made this point after patting himself on the back for spending on new up-armored troop carriers with V-shaped bottoms designed to deflect explosive forces away from the troops inside. The new transports are a welcome improvement for the troops but Biden fails to mention why Congress failed to investigate why such an obvious tool took so long to deploy. Biden made a second poorly worded, poorly thought out point about the benefit of the new transports ("lives are increased -- lifespans increase 80 percent if we continue to fund building these vehicles") which epitomized the larger flaw in the logic of "supporting the troops" in a failed war. Biden was attempting to indicate casualties are reduced 80% or so by the new transport vehicles therefore continuing spending would help reduce American casualties.

Increasing the spending on a tool that reduces casualties 80 percent in an attack makes perfect sense when taking the risk of the attack is necessary and produces a material improvement in our tactical and long term military goal. In a conflict consisting of nearly 100 percent asymmetric warfare, neither of these conditions are satisfied. Faced with a choice of providing a tool that reduces casualties 80 percent while continuing the risk of attack versus changing strategy and reducing our exposure to attack, spending more on gear that doesn't improve our position makes no sense. Biden's "protect the troops" justification of continued funding is flawed to its very core and represents a gross perversion of the hierarchy of responsibilities of Congress.

We are facing a situation in which a war was instigated by an Executive branch which provided grossly incorrect and misleading information to Congress to "prove" a security threat that wasn't present. The Executive branch's fixation on the Iraq war and its planning shortchanged resources in the existing war in Afghanistan which yielded a less-than-complete defeat of the Taliban, allowing them to reconstitute their forces and keep us tied down in Afghanistan. The Executive branch chose a strategy for conducting the war that understaffed boots on the ground and over-emphasized outsourced efforts for support work and reconstruction, costing American tax payers TENS OF BILLIONS of dollars, including over EIGHT BILLION IN CASH delivered by the ton into a war zone dominated by terrorists which vanished with zero accountability . The Executive Branch has lied to Congress repeatedly about domestic spying programs.

Most importantly, with all of that history already behind it, the Executive branch and this President completely fabricated the intent of the so-called surge. It was publicly pitched as an effort to create an demonstrable increase in security for a significant period of time to allow a "virtuous circle" to have time to kick in and allow all of the original benefits of Saddam's ouster to take effect. Instead, it is absolutely clear the intent of the surge was to increase troop levels so if Congress and the American people later decided they had enough and demanded a change, thirty thousand or so troops could be withdrawn with much public protest from the President and war supporters to yield...

...the exact same disastrous situation with which we started the year. One involving 130,000 troops stuck in the middle of a civil war between factions living in an environment that is literally TOXIC to democracy and the rule of law.

Of course, the surge failure has produced two key differences. The President who instigated this disaster has been allowed to defer further strategy changes to avoid the enormity of the failure becoming apparent until after he leaves office. The shame of our withdrawal will be left to the next President (likely a Democrat) so the remaining neo-conservative true believers can spend the next fifty years fantasizing about the victory that coulda / shoulda been had not the enemies of freedom not again chickened out at the last minute.

The other key difference between January 2007 and now is of course the thousands of additional dead and wounded (American and Iraqi) who sacrificed everything while politicians (American and Iraqi) continue their charades.

With all those facts in evidence, Joe Biden's "protect the kids" position is no less disingenuous than the trumped up security concerns cited by President Bush to start a war we didn't need in the first place. If Congress cannot grasp the deceit presented to it by the Executive branch and its conduct of this war and put an end to it, they are risking far more lives than the 160,000 troops already trapped in the current quagmire. They are risking countless more in future quagmires launched with equally fraudulent justifications and executed with equally incompetent and corrupt leadership. Without a change, those troops are in harm's way fighting for one man and his pride and arrogance, rather than the Constitution.

Remember the Constitution?

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#1) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20676549/page/4/

#2) http://www.constitution.org/constit_.htm

#3) (WTH: While the Constitution only mentions "raising revenue" and not "spending" or appropriation of that revenue, in practice that is exactly how the House and Senate behave.)