Andrew McCarthy gives ’em a lesson in Constitutional government — one they’ll ignore just like all the others:
With Speaker Pelosi caught in the web of her own deceit over what the CIA told her about “torture,” and the Obama administration in the middle of its latest 180-degree reversal over CIA interrogators (Attorney General Holder is now considering prosecutions despite Obama’s promise of no prosecutions), Democrats have trumped up a charge that the CIA, on the orders of Vice President Dick Cheney, failed to notify Congress that it was contemplating — not implementing, but essentially brainstorming about — plans to kill or capture top al-Qaeda figures.
This is their most ludicrous gambit in a long time — and that’s saying something. Given their eight years of complaints about President Bush’s failure to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, and given President Clinton’s indignant insistence (against the weight of the evidence) that he absolutely wanted the CIA to kill bin Laden, one is moved to ask: What did Democrats think the CIA was doing for the last eight years?
Intelligence activities are not reliant on congressional authorization or supervision. Like all executive power under the Constitution, the president is checked in this area by Congress’s enumerated powers, particularly the power of the purse. As is its wont, Congress tries to leverage this authority to usurp presidential prerogatives — to make itself a partner in the actual running of intelligence activities, albeit a partner with no accountability (see Nancy Pelosi, supra).
Alexander Hamilton warned in Federalist No. 73 that this “propensity of the legislative department to intrude upon the rights, and to absorb the powers, of the other departments” would be a constant concern. That’s why presidents are expected to defend their turf and are armed with the capacity to do so. But it is also true that our country is best defended when the political branches work cooperatively: Presidents who explain themselves to Congress are less apt to make policy errors, and Congress is more inclined to offer support when administrations consult with it ahead of time.
So the president and Congress are locked in a tense, dynamic dance. Since no one wants needlessly to provoke a constitutional crisis, presidents have occasionally (and foolishly) agreed as a matter of comity to legislation that seemingly permits Congress to intrude on intelligence and military operations. Presidents conduct those operations in a practical manner that is respectful — but not subservient.
Good stuff so far, but it gets better:
So, to score some political points, Democrats have put themselves in the position of opposing CIA efforts to defeat our enemies. This misbegotten strategy can only remind the public of a few unwelcome facts:
First, when Democrats were in charge in the 1990s, at the time when bin Laden declared war on the United States and then bombed our embassies and the U.S.S. Cole, the Democrats’ strategy to protect the country was to file indictments — with no meaningful effort to capture bin Laden or his top aide, Ayman al-Zawahiri, much less kill them.
Second, when opportunities to kill bin Laden arose, the CIA’s hands were tied because President Clinton so muddled the rules of engagement that our special-ops agents could not be sure whether Democrats would indict them for such operations.
Third, after 9/11, even as President Bush’s warfare strategy decimated al-Qaeda’s top hierarchy, Democrats complained that the Bush administration had failed to kill or capture bin Laden. Now that the political winds have shifted, they have returned to their default position of complaining that government agents were trying to kill or capture bin Laden.
Fourth, this bizarre complaint comes in the form of grousing about a failure to notify Congress, voiced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among others. But consider that back in February, Senator Feinstein publicly revealed that Pakistan’s government was allowing the United States to use Pakistani territory as a base for Predator drones being used for controversial targeted assassinations. Unlike Leahy’s aforementioned malfeasance, Feinstein’s unfortunate revelation was doubtlessly inadvertent. But it underscores the danger of informing Congress about intelligence activities.
The last point is a critical one, showing starkly the difference between Democrats and Republicans on national security.
It sure does. Democrats have long been perceived as weak on national security for one simple reason: they are. Their tendency for decades now has been to side with America’s enemies, bash America’s friends, and undermine any active effort to take national defense seriously — up to and including outright acts of near-treason such as Leahy’s and Feinstein’s.
The ugly spectacle of them raising all kinds of hell because Cheney was serious about getting top al Qaeda leaders is unedifying and offensive to any patriotic American, certainly. But it serves to highlight once again just what exactly we can expect from them in terms of defending this nation from its avowed enemies: nothing remotely meaningful or effective; nothing but self-righteous posturing and preening designed not to protect America, but to protect Democrats from their main enemy: foreign-policy hawks, Republicans and conservatives.
You bet your ass I question their patriotism. Anybody with half a brain ought to. It’s clear enough where their loyalty lies: with themselves and their unbridled lust for power, and absolutely nowhere else.