Impeachment

     War, or even the threat of it, has always seemed to give the president more power. In
times of war Americans often readily give more power to the president, but once
the crisis is over the public then becomes concerned with whether they have
created an office that has become imperial. The office of the president has
become increasingly more powerful over the last 50-60 years. Even though the
power to declare war and send US troops into war belonged to Congress there have
many presidents who have chosen to disregard that point and enter our country
into war. Recent history has shown that there have been several occasions when
the president has taken upon himself to deploy troops or order attacks, without
even as much as consulting Congress. One president was able to trick the

Congress into entering into war, and still others have informed Congress after
the fact. In 1950, President Harry Truman dispatched troops to South Korea after
it had been invaded by Communist North Korea, without a declaration of war from

Congress. Facing re-election in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson, wanting to be
seen as taking a hard stance on Communism entered a war he never really
supported in the first place. In recently released, secretly recorded tapes,

Johnson dicussing Viet Nam is heard telling his national security adviser,

McGeorge Bundy, " It looks to me like weíre getting into another Korea, I
donít see what we can ever hope to get out of there with once weíre
committed....I donít think itís worth fighting for and I donít think we
can get out, and itís just the biggest damn mess." (Scheer) But within three
months of his statement, Johnson entered the US into the Viet Nam War. Johnson
was able to enter the US into the Viet Nam War by withholding information form

Congress. American ships had reported a possible attack by the North Vietnamese.

That report turned out to be in error, a fact that President Johnson knew about,
but withheld from Congress for three days in order to persuade them to pass the

Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution. President Johnson had presented the resolution to

Congress as just an authorization to repel North Vietnamese attacks. That
resolution gave the president the power to do what he thought was needed
militarily. President Johnson immediately ordered the bombing of North

Vietnamese naval bases, resulting in the US being drawn full scale into the Viet

Nam War. In 1973, Congress had enough and reclaimed the war making power when
they passed, over the veto of President Richard Nixon, the War Powers

Resolution. The War Powers Resolution called for the President to consult

Congress at least 48 hours in advance before sending military forces into
imminent danger. Congress must also approve the continued deployment of troops
or weapons within 60 days or the president must pull them out. (Church) However,
in 1980, President Jimmy Carter ignored the resolution when he launched a
mission in hopes of rescuing American hostages being held in the Middle East. It
was only after the bombers were in the air and nearing their targets that Carter
informed Congress. Eight servicemen died in a mission that was eventually
aborted. The next president, Ronald Reagan, more than once refused to seek

Congressional approval before sending US troops to foreign countries. Reagan
ordered the invasion of Granada to protect American medical students. Reagan
also sent warships to the Persian Gulf and defended his actions by contending
that because the situation was non-imminent he had the power to deploy troops
without the permission of Congress. Following Reaganís presidency, President

George Bush also sent troops to foreign soil without the approval of Congress.

President Bush sent troops to invade Panama because of escalating violence
against Americans there. In 1994, President William Clinton ordered a military
invasion of Haiti to overthrow the government there without even consulting

Congress. That mission, like Carterís was also aborted.(Schell) Clinton never
had the full support of Congress when he entered Somolia or Bosnia. Bill Cohen,
a political commentary, describes this type of behavior by these presidents best
when he says: "When Congress is not informed, or misinformed, when it is
advised of actions long after they have occurred, the system of checks and
balances is arrested. Democratic government, in effect, deteriorates toward
dictatorship." Another example of the Executive Branch taking matters into
their own hands and disregarding the Constitution is the Iran-Contra Scandal.

The scandal came about when it was revealed that President Reagan and Vice

President Bush had secretly negotiated with Iran for the release of hostages.

Reagan and Bush had agreed to send arms(missiles) through and intermediary to

Iran in exchange for the hostages. This arrangement was clearly against US
policy. The Iran-Contra episode involved extensive lawbreaking, perjury,
cover-up and a betrayal of the constitution.(Government) Again I go to Bill

Cohen to best describe the situation: "When an Administration adopts
objectives whose goals, however defensible, are at odds with the actions taken
by Congress, or with its own publicly acknowledged positions, it embarks on a
perilous course. Subordinates of any President are motivated primarily by a
desire to carry out his wishes, whatever the consequences. Without an
appreciation of the balance between the branches, such subordinates may be
ignoring the law, even if it means taking actions which violate publicly stated

US policy." Another issue that lends itself to the idea of an Imperial

Presidency is that of the line-item veto. On June 1, 1997, a new law came into
effect that allowed the president to reject specific items in appropriation
bills, new entitlement programs, and special interest tax breaks without vetoing
the entire bill. Existing entitlement programs such as Medicare and entitlement
programs affecting more than 100 people are protected and could not be touched.

The first president to have this freedom of line-item veto is President Bill

Clinton, the man who actually signed the bill into law.(Grolier 1997) Proponents
of this law say it will let President Clinton cut unnecessary or"pork-barrel" spending. "Pork-barrel" spending is appropriations
obtained by senators and congressmen for their states or districts. Proponents
say that the President could cut this type of spending out of a bill without
vetoing the entire bill, bringing discipline to the budgeting process.(Dodge)

But opponents of the line-item veto have fears over the shifting of power from

Capitol Hill to the White House. The line-item veto gives the president enormous
leverage against Congress when the two branches of government are
wrangling.(Welch) The President can indeed use this new law to cut spending, but
the real danger lies in what else he may be able to achieve with it. The

President could use it to put pressure on lawmakers to confirm his appointees to
the courts, the Cabinet, or Ambassadors. The President could also use the threat
of a line-item veto to win support for his versions of laws, programs and
treaties. There are those who feel that members of Congress will no longer
oppose the president even on such issues as foreign policy in fear of
retaliation on their home state projects.(Line) Senator Patrick Moynihan, a
leading opponent of the line item veto, said: "In the history of the

Constitution there has never come before us an issue considering the relations
between executive and legislative branches as important as this one."(Mauro)

However, the line-item veto has serious constitutional problems. In Article 1,

Section 7 of the Constitution it states that Congress passes bills and the
president may veto them. It does not say "part of a bill" or "individual
lines of a bill" it says "bill"."(Matthew) In March of 1998, John Murtha
finished his testimony before the Congress regarding the line-item veto by
saying: " Let me conclude by saying the Constitution is clear, appropriation
bills start in the house, and if passed by the senate, the bill is confrenced,
repassed by both bodies and sent to the President where he can sign or veto the
bill. Anything less, changes the balance which was set up under the
constitution, and if it is to be changed it can only be changed by a
constitutional amendment."(Line) On June 25, 1998 the Supreme Court agreed
with Murtha. The Court ruled that a true line-item veto would take a

Constitutional amendment and the 82 times that Clinton had used it had been
unconstitutional.(Kenyon) The line item-veto had unconstitutionally shifted
power from Congress to the president. Supporters of the line-item veto have
already introduced new legislation to restore the presidentís ability to limit
congressional spending. Unfortunately, the bipartisan phenomenon of an imperial
presidency is still able to avoid the safeguards set up in the constitution and
abuse their powers in a way that benefits their own objectives. Les Aspin warned
of "crazed dictators" while testifying during the Iran-Contra hearings. His
warning is just as applicable today: "It behooves Congress to use this
interlude to dismantle the infrastructure of subterranean government, where the
opportunity for so much abuse lurks."