“In the United States today, the Declaration of Independence hangs on schoolroom walls, but foreign policy follows Machiavelli”

As Senator McCain visits Baghdad heavily guarded and wearing a flak vest to assure Americans that we’re turning another corner in Iraq ( Maybe we should start calling it the Octagonal War since we’re always turning corners) some have objected to spending taxpayer dollars on his fact finding trip. We shouldn’t object per se to our elected officials from either party going on such trips. It is the timing and circumstances that might concern some taxpayers. After all the Republican senator is running for president and the so-called liberal media is all too happy to supplement this publicly funded publicity stunt with what else, but free publicity. It may have back fired as Joe and Jane Sixpack get back from walking the dog without benefit of the protection of 100 soldiers, 3 Blackhawks and 2 Apache gunships and watch the Senator do a clown act in downtown Baghdad. McCain also brings home a lot of bacon or pork depending on one’s POV to Arizona’s defense industry as MatthewYglesias points out.. There is nothing inherently wrong with defense spending, nor is there much news in a senator trying to bring some government i.e. taxpayer gravy to their home state. Still McCain’s support of a war without end does at least bring up the specter of certain conflicts of interests – is he doing what is best for America or is he looking out for his special interests – contributors back home.

McCain isn’t the only busy little war forever bee in the middle-east Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is over there picking up on some rug bargains (seriously). But what’s bothering the Right or rather what are they whining about, Pelosi will talk kidnapped soldiers with Syrian president

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she will bring up the plight of Israeli soldiers kidnapped by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah during her delegation’s visit to Syria next week.

and, Pelosi to ask Syria to stop sponsoring terror

JERUSALEM – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will tell Syrian leaders when she visits Damascus this week on a trip criticized by the Bush administration that Israel will engage in peace talks only if Syria stops supporting Palestinian militants, Israel said Sunday.

The message came during Pelosi’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during the Israel part of her Mideast tour.

and from The Jerusalem Post, Pelosi speech to Knesset warmly received

In her speech at a state dinner held in her honor at the Knesset Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Dem.-CA) vowed to present Israel’s case to the leaders of Syria.

Her speech was uniformly supportive of Israel, and she received a standing ovation at the end.

To rational moderate minded Americans Speaker Pelosi is doing exactly what she was elected to do. She is doing some proactive fence mending that Americans wanted and voted for just a few months ago (if we had a parliamentary government Bush would have easily been kicked out with the ultra-right Congress in 2006, but as Will Rogers once said, “On account of being a democracy and run by the people, we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does.”). Well according to conservative blogger Captain Ed she’s “undermining foreign policy”. April 01, 2007, Republicans Join Pelosi In Undermining Foreign Policy, Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 1, 2007 11:48 AM

Jimmy Carter and to a lesser extent Jesse Jackson have made a career of screwing up international relations. Nothing good has ever come of it. I found this type of thing distasteful when it happened to Bill Clinton as well. The President, regardless of the party to which he belongs, needs to present American policy as a united front. It’s bad enough when the opposition party undermines that credibility; it’s astoundingly idiotic for the President’s own party to destroy it.

Cap obviously belongs to the John Yoo imperial presidency school of thought. A distinctly un-American point of view that completely ignores the fact that the three branches of government are equal. Congress has always had a role in shaping foreign policy. As a matter of fact the presidents regardless of party cannot carry out a foreign policy without Congress, unless Cap and his like minded clones know of some policy that can be carried out gratis. Congress has a legal right to carry out certain tasks. Obviously there have always been frictions about where Congress’s power starts and the president’s end, but it is by no means the simplistic and unsupported line of reasoning that Cap presents. It doesn’t matter whether the Right may also conveniently support  the Yoo school of foreign policy for Democratic presidents too. The position that any president free to conduct foreign policy without Congressional oversight is dangerous and not supported by our history, the Constitutional or legal precedent. The president may negotiate treaties , but Congress must approve them. Congress maintains the power to fund or not fund any foreign policy initiatives. Only Congress has the right to declare war ( at least in strict textual terms – reality has been another matter) – the particulars of Congressional war powers include – the authority to stop funding for existing or prospective deployments of the military, limit the size of military deployments and proscribe the timing and details of troop deployments ( including which missions are authorized). An example of this would be former Senator Jesse Helms(R) who tried to cut funding for several U.S. missions or the Boland Amendment. If Republicans would like to assert that any president may act out his foreign policy without Congressional oversight that is certainly their prerogative. It is not just that our Constitution offers no clear support of that view, it is without doubt a dangerous view of what the president’s role is in a democracy. It would in fact be granting the president all the powers of a king.

As a practical matter may Speaker Pelosi negotiate in any treaties on her own? No. She can only play the role of fact finder and to some degree diplomat. One reason we shouldn’t object to Senators from either party, on principle from gathering facts, from talking to and observing things first hand is that Bush and a very sympathetic media has fed the American people so many lies and distortions that maybe with Congress doing its own leg work we get less spin and more facts – Senator McCain’s thinly veiled publicly financed campaign trips to Iraq not with standing.

“In the United States today, the Declaration of Independence hangs on schoolroom walls, but foreign policy follows Machiavelli.” – Howard Zinn