The fifth question concerns Iraq and Congress' constitutional role in the conduct of foreign policy. On Nov. 26, 2007, Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a "Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship." Pursuant to this declaration, a status of forces agreement -- or perhaps something substantially more sweeping than such agreements often are -- is to be completed by July 31. The declaration says that the agreement will include "security assurances and commitments" requiring the United States to defend Iraq "against internal and external threats," and to "support" Iraq's attempts to "defeat and uproot" all "terrorist groups," including "al-Qaeda, Saddamists, and all other outlaw groups," and to "destroy their logistical networks and their sources of finance."
In a Dec. 19 letter to the president, Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said constitutional law and "over 200 years of practice" establish that such an agreement would require congressional authorization in the form of a treaty, statute or concurrent resolution by both houses. Sen. Hillary Clinton has introduced, and Sen. Barack Obama is co-sponsoring, legislation to deny funds to implement any such agreement that is not approved by Congress. Hundreds of such agreements, major (e.g., NATO) and minor (the Reagan administration's security commitment to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia), have been submitted to Congress. Does McCain agree with Clinton and Obama?
"War," wrote Randolph Bourne in 1918, "is the health of the state." War especially enhances presidential power, which probably is one reason why Theodore Roosevelt, Bourne's contemporary and one of McCain's heroes, relished war. "No triumph of peace," Roosevelt said, "is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war." Roosevelt, who also said, "I don't think that any harm comes from the concentration of power in one man's hands," was the archetype of the modern, hyperkinetic president.
McCain, who sometimes seems to regard his enthusiasms and disgusts as self-legitimizing and grounds for government action, probably would be TR's sort of president. The Democratic nominee will probe, and voters have nine months to ponder, the implications of that probability.