President Bush today marked the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war by urging Congress to pass an emergency war-spending bill, and he warned of "hard days" that lurk in the future. He asked for the "patience" of American citizens in the months ahead.
The President's remarks anticipate the efforts by House and Senate Democrats to introduce measures that would create a timetable on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. These bills, however, are full of administration-friendly loopholes, and are little more than window dressing by 2008-looking Democrats.
The truth is that the American presidency has been on a century-long cruise toward ever-increasing power, and the half-measures proposed by congressional Democrats reflect the weakened position of Congress in the Washington balance of power.
More power is wielded through Executive Orders and National Security Directives - none of which require Congressional approval - than through the thousands of pieces of Congressional legislation that are passed each year. The idea that an enfeebled Congress will actually pass legislation that can check the President is naïve.
The last time Congress collectively asserted itself was in 1973 with the passage of the War Powers Act of 1973, but Presidents since that time have found plenty of ways to get around this piece of inconvenient legislation.
Partisan politics are partly to blame for the rise of the imperial Presidency, and Democrats are surely as much to blame as Republicans. FDR was perhaps the epitome of the imperial President, but he was far from the first to enhance presidential powers at the expense of Congress. Ultimately, Congressional partisans in both parties sat idly by as their party colleagues in the White House augmented presidential powers.
Yes, there will be hard days ahead, but I suspect that the turmoil in Iraq will pale in comparison with what life will be like under the first President who assumes dictatorial powers via Executive Order 12919. And - I have to say - that President will be as likely to have a "D" after his or her name as an "R."