Senator Chuck Hagel Is Very Confused

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From NewsHour tonight.

Well, first, if, in fact, the Senate passes a resolution, that's rather significant.

Not if it is a nonbinding resolution, no, it's not. In fact, it has no actual significance whatsoever. That's what "nonbinding" means.

Let's think about this for a moment, what that does say?

Nothing important or interesting.

The United States Senate is part of a co-equal branch of our government. It's worked pretty well for 200 years, Gwen.

In fact, no. We do not have coequal branches of government. We have, as James Madison said, a predominant legislative branch. I know this doesn't hurt his actual point, but it helps show how confused he is. It is amazing to me how many ignorant people we have in our government on such a fundamental tenet of our government.

For a president to step away from that -- if, in fact, we would pass a resolution, putting the Senate on record opposing his plan -- that's rather significant, and it represents the voices of the people we represent.

Step away from what? There is nothing to step away from. It's nonbinding. It means nothing. It is nothing.

Who cares if the Senate, and the people the Senators represent (which has been the case for far less than 200 years, in fact, Senator: closer to 100 years), don't like the plan? We do not have a democracy, we have a republic. We have a leader elected every four years specifically so he will be less inclined to give a rip about what the people think.

We do not want a President to care about what the people think. That's the whole point. If you disagree, I respectfully submit that you probably have never read Federalist #10. A democracy -- what you want if you want the President to automatically bend to the whims of Congress or "the people" -- is the very thing the Founders were attempting to avoid.

We have a Constitution. That Constitution says nothing about nonbinding resolutions, or the President only acting unless the Senate takes a poll that says he shouldn't.

The real problem here is that Hagel is emphasizing the wrong feature of our government. It's not coequality -- which is a myth anyway -- but separation of powers that matters here. And part of the doctrine of separation of powers tells us that it is entirely inappropriate for one branch of the government to extert its will over another branch except through those defined means, such as the President signing legislation, the Senate approving nominees, and so on.

That is, the Senate is violating the Constitution if it attempts to hold the President to a nonbinding resolution, and is violating the spirit of the Constitution if it tries to do so even informally. Hagel's saying what he does above is so contrary to the Constitution it's amazing that any Senator could even think such a thing, let alone say it.

The fact is, on November 7th of last year, there was an election, and I think it's quite clear. Some of the senators who are not back and House members who are not back went down because of one predominant issue, and that is the American people wanted a change in direction, not just on Iraq, but a number of things.

And, of course, as a New York Times reporter in Baghdad noted on Monday, Bush's plan is "a pretty big change in strategy." So it is not logical to say "the people want change so they don't want Bush's plan." Nor is it reasonable to look at the polls, because, frankly, the people don't know what the heck they are talking about in regard to this "surge," and even if they did, they don't get to vote on it.

You -- though not the people, who had their chance in 2004 -- do get a vote on it. The problem is, you are not actually taking a vote on it. Instead, you're futzing around with a meaningless nonbinding resolution. Pass an actual bill and then maybe you can expect anyone to care.

The way we're doing this is the responsible way. The American people expect it; they deserve it.

I've not met one person who "expects" or feels they "deserve" this meaningless resolution. I am sure some are out there, but I don't think this is quite right.

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