10/27/2006 07:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

New York Times Says Dem Congress Won't Have Authority to Change Course of Iraq War

Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, October 27

Incredible, but true.

In the course of an article making fun of Congressional Democrats for not having a unified position on the war, the New York Times reported today that "even if the Democrats win one or both houses of Congress, they will not have the authority to change the course of the war significantly."

Say what?

I can think of four explanations -

1) The New York Times has gone over to the dark side, and now supports the theory of the unitary executive, according to which President Bush has the sole power to determine how to perform his duties. Doesn't seem likely.

The Times wrote in an editorial on July 25:

"Some of Mr. Bush's signing statements have become notorious, like the one in which he said he didn't feel bound by the new law against torturing prisoners...But all serve the 'unitary executive theory' cherished by some of Mr. Bush's most extreme advisers, including Vice President Dick Cheney and his legal staff. This theory says that the president -- and not Congress or the courts -- has the sole power to decide how to carry out his duties."

That would be a big turnaround.

2) The Times thinks that the Bush Administration could continue to carry out the war even if Congress cut off funding. It's happened before, you say, like when Congress cut off funding in the 1980's for the CIA's terrorist army in Nicaragua, and the Reagan Administration continued to fund them using intermediaries, in what is now known as the Iran-Contra scandal. But we're talking about 140,000 U.S. troops here. This is not an operation that can be run in secrecy.

3) The Times is confused between the authority to do something and the willingness to do it. This is possible, but seems unlikely.

4) Someone told this to the reporter and he didn't bother to attribute it and the editor didn't bother to check it. This seems to me like the most plausible explanation.

In any event, if it bothers you that the New York Times is reporting that Congress has no authority over Iraq policy, do let the Public Editor know.


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