Will Editorialists Eat Their Words On War Powers?
by L. Brent Bozell III
December 17, 1998
Bill Clinton's decision to unleash the dogs of war as he
tip-toes on the precipice of impeachment conjures up a vision of White House
defense lawyer Greg Craig appearing before Congress declaring: "The
President's military action was evasive, incomplete, misleading, even
maddening - but it's not impeachable."
There's no dodging the suspicion that Clinton is seeking to
save his bacon by dropping some megatonnage on Saddam Hussein. After all, it's
just what he did when he bombed Osama bin Laden's alleged facilities in Sudan
and Afghanistan this summer. Both actions were launched with little or no
consultation with Congress, and with too little consultation with the service
chiefs at the Pentagon. Oh my, how the talking heads like Alan Dershowitz and
NBC anchor-in-training Brian Williams are going nuts over that suggestion. How
vile! How unpatriotic!
What hypocrites. How about the Democrats? In 1983, Clinton
defender John Conyers called for Reagan's impeachment for invading Grenada.
(For good measure, he earlier called for impeachment over the Gipper's alleged
"incompetence" in dealing with unemployment.) In 1984, as he ran for
President, and again in 1986, Jesse Jackson suggested Reagan should be subject
to an impeachment probe over U.S. actions in Nicaragua. Rep. Henry Gonzalez
called for impeachment in 1983 over Grenada and again in 1987 over
Iran-Contra. The National Organization for Women and the American Civil
Liberties Union advocated impeaching Reagan in 1987.
The major media didn't thump the tub for impeachment, but
did suggest forcefully that Reagan's actions were even worse than the
Watergate offenses that got Richard Nixon impeached. For example, in the
January 9, 1984 New York Times, then-Senior Editor John B. Oakes proclaimed:
"President Reagan's consistent elevation of militarism over diplomacy
creates a clear and present danger to the internal and external security of
the United States. Presidents have been impeached for less."
Oakes wasn't alone at the Times. On December 12, 1986,
columnist Tom Wicker offered an echo: "Mr. Reagan probably won't be
impeached or forced to resign - though the offenses resulting from his policy,
or his somnolence on the job, are more serious than any charge the House
Judiciary Committee approved against Mr. Nixon."
On February 24, 1987, Times columnist Anthony Lewis joined
the chorus: "In Watergate, the impeachment process carried forward so
impressively by the House Judiciary Committee viewed the President's
responsibility in constitutional terms. Each of the three articles of
impeachment approved by the committee found, in different particulars, that
President Nixon has violated the duty put on Presidents by the Constitution to
'take care that the laws be faithfully executed.' The abuses of power now
known to have taken place in the Reagan administration are more serious, more
fundamental, than those involved in Watergate."
Fast forward to August 4, 1987, when in the first of many
columns over 10 years attacking Congress for failing to impeach Reagan over
Iran-Contra, Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory complained: "But
because the President has thrown two rascals out [John Poindexter and Oliver
North] and replaced them with rational men, congress is ready to start over.
It is grateful to Reagan for not making them impeach him. Congress, like a
battered wife, will take back the abusive husband....Divorce, like
impeachment, can be so messy."
That liberal argument wasn't contained to editorial pages.
It surfaced in Time news writer Ed Magnuson's copy on June 22, 1987: "The
Iran-contra mess has been more complex and difficult for Americans to follow
than the Watergate tragedy, but according to New Jersey Congressman Peter
Rodino, the newer scandal illustrates a similar 'arrogance of power.' Rodino
knows the subject better than most; he chaired the House Judiciary Committee
that voted articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. No similar threat
imperils Ronald Reagan, and there are many differences between the two events.
Still, as the hearings demonstrated, the Iran-contra misdeeds in some ways are
more far-reaching in their implications, placing U.S. foreign policy in the
hands of private citizens and arms merchants whose yearning for profits may
have exceeded their patriotism."
So where are these noble folks today? Have you noticed how
the words "War Powers Act" haven't been invoked much by the liberal
media in the last, oh, six years, now that a President they favor is lobbing
the bombs? Where are the calls for impeachment from John Conyers and Jesse
Jackson? Where are the charges of abuse of power from the editorial pages of
The New York Times and The Washington Post?
Nothing but silence. Stinking dead silence.
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