John McCaslin

What happened to Robert F. Turner last week unfortunately happens all too often on Capitol Hill, although one might argue the University of Virginia professor — more than most witnesses called to testify before Congress — was inconvenienced tremendously by his experience.

We'll allow Mr. Turner to speak for himself, but for background he was invited by Caleb Rossiter of the House Foreign Affairs' subcommittee on international organizations, human rights and oversight to testify at a hearing Thursday on war powers in the 21st century. Indeed, his name remained on the witness list that was still posted yesterday by the committee.

A former acting assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration and co-founder and associate director of the UVa. Center for National Security Law, the professor has written two books on the War Powers Resolution and testified on the issue many times over the decades before various congressional committees.

"Since I had worked on war-powers issues in the Pentagon, the White House and Department of State ... I agreed to take part — knowing that it would require me to reschedule one class and change my travel plans for a lecture tour in California in order to fly back to Washington in time for the April 24 hearing," Mr. Turner tells this column.

At which point, Mr. Rossiter "confirmed the invitation, e-mailed me an official letter of invitation signed by the committee chairman, and sent me some material," he says. "Thinking that these issues were important, I canceled virtually all of my discretionary activities (including telling my 15-year-old son we could not attend the UVa.-Dartmouth lacrosse game for which we already had tickets) and worked into the early hours of the morning, night after night, writing at my computer. Because of my commitments to lecture in California, I did all of the final writing in hotel rooms."

As requested, the professor last Tuesday sent Mr. Rossiter his testimony "and he called me and asked me to make several changes ... I finally finished the revisions to my prepared statement at 4 a.m. (California time) on Wednesday, April 23," he says, adding it was more than 25,000 words and contained more than 100 footnotes to primary sources (e.g., the papers of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, John Locke, etc.) — "a rather detailed effort to fully discuss the issue and be responsive to a request from Congress.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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