Paul Hager for Congress

For more information contact campaign manager R. David Fisher (812-723-4288 office) or the candidate directly (317-510-3198 office).

Clinton's "Wag the Dog" problem due to Congressional surrender of war powers.

For immediate release: 30-August-1998

(Bloomington, IN) - "If the President and Congress adhered to the Constitution, no one would be suggesting that the reprisal raids ordered by Clinton were like something out of Wag the Dog." So says Libertarian candidate Paul Hager, noting the concern expressed in some quarters that the timing and targets of the reprisal raids ordered by President Bill Clinton were motivated in part by his domestic political problems.

"In ordering the attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan, President Clinton committed acts of war," said Hager. "The power to declare war is reserved to Congress, though in fairness to Clinton, he is merely doing what every President from Truman on has done. Since the end of World War II, Congress has basically surrendered its responsibility to authorize military actions to the executive branch."

Hager says that the exigencies of nuclear deterrence can be accommodated under the Constitution. "The President as Commander in Chief has not only the authority but also the responsibility to take action to defend the United States from attack. Placing the armed forces on alert, deploying troops, and sending carrier battle groups hither and yon are legitimate powers of the President. However, it is up to Congress to commit American forces to war, whether it be firing cruise missiles or sending soldiers off to fight."

"It is important to remember," continues Hager, "that the President is the chief executive of a federal republic and not an emperor. Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #69 observed that the British monarch was the supreme commander of the army and the navy. However, stated Hamilton, the power of the British King also extended to '...the declaring of war and regulating of fleets and armies; all of which by the Constitution under consideration would appertain to the Legislature.' Having just won their independence from an all-powerful despot, the framers of the Constitution were loath to see so much power invested in one person again."

The evolution of the President into an all-powerful generalissimo over the past 50-odd years, says Hager, actually undermines the legitimacy of American military action, and this is the problem now dogging Clinton. "Congress represents the popular voice of the American people. A President acting in response to a Congressional mandate for military action will be largely immune from criticism for launching a military operation against a designated country. Of course, a President may still be called to account for errors in strategy."

According to Hager, the attack on Sudan provides ample fodder for critics. "Even if we accept that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks on the U.S. Embassies," says Hager, "the connection between bin Laden and the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan is tenuous at best. The administration is now attempting to justify the attack through a torturous series of implausible links between bin Laden, the Iraqi poison gas program, and the Sudanese facility," notes Hager. "The weakness of the evidence and the desperate quality of the justifications lead a prudent person to conclude that American forces may have hit the wrong target. This, in turn, raises the question of whether or not this apparent serious error in judgement was the result of the President's domestic political problems."

"The question would never arise if Congress as a body had authorized the President to conduct attacks in Sudan and elsewhere," declares Hager. "I personally have little interest in Starr's investigation of the squalid Lewinski affair. However, I am very concerned when the legitimacy of the American reaction to a heinous terrorist attack is called into question. I place much of the blame for this on the debasement of Congressional war powers."

Hager would like to see Congress move to reclaim its power. "This has been an issue I've thought about for 30 years, going back to the Vietnam War, which was itself an undeclared war. Once again, events have proven that those dead white guys in the powdered wigs had the right idea -- separation of powers is essential for the functioning of our republic."

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