Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Monday, December 22, 2008
Cheney and the football

Dick Cheney works on his own legacy tour, with an exit interview with Chris Wallace that features an interesting discussion of the president's powers, and a certain "football":
Cheney defended the administration's aggressive prosecution of the War on Terror, which he said was a major reason the nation hasn't been attacked in seven years. He said the 1973 War Powers Act is a violation of the Constitution because Congress does not have the right by statute to alter presidential constitutional power.

"That it is an infringement on the president's authority as the commander-in-chief," Cheney said. "It has never been resolved, but I think it's a very good example of a way in which Congress has tried to limit the president's authority and, frankly, can't.

"The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States," Cheney said. "He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen.

"He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call the Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in."
Cheney also told Wallace he tried to talk Bush out of firing Donald Rumsfeld in 2006:
"I did disagree with the decision," Cheney said. "The president doesn't always take my advice."

Cheney said he supports Rumsfeld's successor, Robert Gates, "but I was a Rumsfeld man. I'd helped recruit him and I thought he did a good job for us."
And he defended cursing at Pat Leahy. But that's not the news, I think, in the interview. It's that football bit. Cheney just declared that the president can start a global, thermonuclear war at his own discretion, without even checking in with Congress! Could that possibly be true? Let's go back in time, to 2002, when the folks at FindLaw were trying to talk sense to the Congress of the United States:

The decision to go to war is exclusively that of Congress

Sadly, it seems we've reached the point where the Constitution is no longer relevant on matters of a president's war-making powers. Presidents, the Congress and the courts have made going to war, once a serious constitutional issue, and a purely political question.

As a result, in the last half century, the war powers clause of the Constitution has become a nullity, if not a quaint relic. While conservatives often insist on following the letter of the Constitution on most issues, on matters of war they ignore it.

That's a disgrace, because the Framers of the Constitution carefully laid out the decision-making process for war. Pursuant to the document, war is a decision to be made exclusively by the representatives of the people -- the Congress. Only Congress is authorized to declare war, raise and support armies, provide and maintain a navy, and make the rules for these armed forces. There is nothing vague or unclear about the language in Article I, ยค 8, clauses 11-16.

And Dick, (who ironically, also spent part of his latest interview mocking Joe Biden's understanding of the Constitution) I think that includes the football... Congress could have stepped in at any time to stop the Bush administration from waging war in Iraq, and had it come to that, they could also stop the president from launching a nuclear strike against, say, Iran. It's within their power to do, Dick. They simply have failed, in recent history, to exercise it.

But the fact that Cheney believes that a president is free to do almost anything ... and yes, he said that too ... in a "time of war," including launch a nuclear war, is truly frightening.

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posted by JReid @ 1:17 AM  
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