Bench Memos

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Cuomo and War Powers


In USA Today today (see why that was a dumb name for a newspaper?), Mario Cuomo is angry about something or other on the subject of war powers and the Constitution.  Sort of.  I guess.

He begins by writing that back in 2002, in the run-up to the Iraq war, “Congress could have–and should have–immediately insisted that by virtue of the unmistakably clear language of our Constitution, the power to declare war resides in the Congress and not the presidency.”  But no one ever claimed otherwise, and Congress certainly asserted itself at the time.

As Cuomo then tacitly concedes, the Congress exercised its constitutional power in the authorization it passed for war in Iraq.  His complaint is not really that the Constitution was flouted, but that it was followed, with results he dislikes.  Then, changing the subject again, he writes this priceless sentence:

Unfortunately, the justices [of the Supreme Court] are very reluctant to intervene in any dispute between Congress and the president over war powers, particularly when Congress has made the mistake of authorizing it.

Unfortunately?  A president requests authority to wage war.  Congress grants it.  And Cuomo thinks it is unfortunate that the judiciary won’t step in to gainsay the joint determination of the other branches?

Shortly thereafter, Cuomo seems to lose interest in his own ostensible argument, meandering off into questions of the war’s necessity, wisdom, tactics, the prospects of extrication, his own deep funk about the “tragedy of Iraq” (apparently the tragic prospect of victory while a Republican sits in the White House).  Just at the end, waking up from his nap, Cuomo returns to bleating about the “clear language of the Constitution,” about which he has had . . . really . . . nothing to say.

Mario Cuomo is now practicing law.  Whatever he’s billing by the hour, it’s too much.


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