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McCain Crew Seeks to Shore Up Bush's Wartime Powers

August 31, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

There is a push on in Congress to reaffirm and make permanent the war powers that President Bush secretly used as legal justification for many of his most infamous policies – warrantless wiretapping, torture and the suspension of Habeas Corpus. The language, which was originally proposed by the White House, is included in a bill introduced recently by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of John McCain’s closets advisers and national co-chairman of his 2008 presidential campaign, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the guy McCain wanted most as his running mate.

Buried on page 8 in the Saturday New York Times was this story:

>Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision that has received almost no public attention, yet in many ways captures one of President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.
>Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush’s advisers assert that many Americans may have forgotten that. So they want Congress to say so and “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”
>The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism. Echoing a measure that Congress passed just days after the Sept. 11 attacks, it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say.
>Some lawmakers are concerned that the administration’s effort to declare anew a war footing is an 11th-hour maneuver to re-establish its broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, even in the face of challenges from the Supreme Court and Congress.

The Times article notes that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, recently introduced the administration’s proposed language into Congress through the Enemy Combatant Detention Review Act of 2008.

But it doesn’t mention that two of McCain’s key allies, Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, along with Kit Bond (R-MO), are sponsoring the same exact bill in the Senate. The Senate version of the bill isn’t available yet on OpenCongress (I’ll update as soon as it is), but, for now, you can view it at by clicking here.

In its “Statement of Authority” section, the bill states that “Congress reaffirms that the United States is in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad.” This reaffirmation recalls the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution that Congress passed in September 2001, which authorized President Bush “to use all necessary and appropriate force against” the terrorists responsible for 9/11. This authorization, which Congress assumed would apply only to the use of military force against the Taliban, was also used by the Bush administration to justify such controversial and possibly unconstitutional practices as listening in on domestic communications without obtaining a FISA warrant, torturing terrorist suspects and detaining suspects indefinitely without filing charges, holding hearings, or entitling them to a legal consultant.

The language is embedded in a somewhat less controversial bill seeking to clarify procedures relating to how Guantanamo detainees’ habeas petitions are dealt with by the courts. If Congress passes this bill, it will pass the responsibility of Bush’s war policies onto the next president, giving an Obama administration an uphill battle in arguing to undo the policies, and a McCain administration a strong position from which to defend them.

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  • Anonymous 09/01/2008 8:06am

    This is done around election. Like, before Clinton got in there we should have limited his powers. So, since McCain is apparently going to win, we want the powers increased. If we thought it was an insane dem, like Obama, and his bizarre foreign policy and huge check writing over five year debt entitlement payments; we limit the power. Biden was just Obama saying thanks for all that foreign aid money and the new terms of the entitlements.

    It’s good McCain will win, but we’re better off limiting the power because the dems are giving away hundreds of billions in foreign aid while food prices go up, your house is lost and your gas is too expensive. We need to cut off the foreign aid until the economy comes back. Congress will just write checks. So, if it’s McCain, he’ll have to go along with the foreign aid or have his budgets doubled or tripled and put out five or ten years.

    Once foreign aid spending is down to zero, we can talk about what the President can do because Congress will just spend us into foreign aid long term debt entitlements as the average American just goes broke.

    A dem president is just going to say it’s the war, so we should spend more on foreign aid, which is why we’re going broke. The answer is you cut off foreign aid until the war is over. You then bring back the economy and can do foreign aid short term and build it back. Congress has spent us into debt blaming the wars. We don’t want increased presidential spending when the foreign aid budgets are tripled and put out ten years. Congress and the President need to stop spending on the foreign aid until the wars are over.

    Passing war funding cost us 100s of billions in foreign aid from Congress. These probably shouldn’t be in charge of our money. Dems use the war to give money away and that is not a person we need in office. McCain will do the same thing.

  • Anonymous 09/05/2008 3:49pm

    Interesting how similar these provisions are to the Enabling Acts of 1933 ( Patriotism and fear of enemies have commonly been invoked by tyrants as a means of expanding their powers (

  • Anonymous 09/07/2008 4:07pm
    Link Reply
    + -1


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  • Anonymous 10/06/2008 3:34pm

    George W. Bush’s sentence-by-sentence speaking skills are deteriorating. Apparently, this may be due to a mental illness called “presenile dementia.” Bush may or may not be secretly still drinking heavily. Bush lied, and thousands of people died. Bush suffers from narcissism and megalomania. Moreover, Bush has been arrested three times. Bush was arrested for disorderly conduct. Bush was arrested for stealing. Bush was also arrested for a serious crime—driving under the influence of alcohol. There are reasons to believe that Bush suffers from a learning disability. Bush’s learning disability would explain a lot of things. All in all, Bush is a severely mentally ill individual. Bush is not fit to be the president of the United States.

    Bush should be locked up.

    Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang
    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA

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