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Signs of Constitutional Life

The Senate, lead by presidential aspirant John McCain, has drafted legislation that would regulate the detention and interrogation of individuals held by the US military. Though such a law is unlikely to emerge from the House, the fact that several prominent Republican senators have opposed President Bush signals the dwindling of support for the administration’s policy. The regulations take the form of amendments, authored by McCain and tacked on to a military spending bill. If they became law, the amendments would require a uniform manual for handling those in US custody.

Though there is no doubt some cheap pandering here in the shadow of the alleged torture at Gitmo that was so dubiously exaggerated by the media, McCain’s amendments have merit. It is hard to argue with a call for procedures involving human rights where now there are only conflicting protocols and jurisdictions.

However, President Bush’s claim is also valid. Such a manual might undercut some necessary interrogation and bind the US military to unrealistic considerations in a time of war. The manual would not pertain merely to those held at Gitmo, but also to those apprehended in battle or during terrorist attacks both here and abroad.

What we have here is a good old-fashioned constitutional crisis, and it warms my heart. Congress is showing a little institutional spine in response to a perceived over-reach of the executive. The executive is asserting inferred powers and questioning Congress’ right to even speak to the matter. Some may say that this arguing is mere partisan bickering or playing to the crowd, but this is the way the constitution was meant to work. In the words of Hamilton, “Let ambition check ambition.” Congress is unlikely to prevail here, but they will certainly call out the President to make an accounting of his policies.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 7, 2005 12:12 PM.

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