In a recent press conference on the issue of the supplemental defense spending bill, which includes a rider in which Congress has mandated the creation of a timeline for withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; the assistant press secretary to the Bush Administration, expressed regret that Congressional leaders declined an invitation to meet, but not negotiate, with the President over the issue.
Dana Perino (acting White House press secretary while Tony Snow is undergoing treatment for colon cancer) commented to the effect that as Bush is Commander in Chief it should not be the job of Congress to "micromanage" his prosecution of the war in Iraq. While this popular argument holds some merit with regard to how the president exercises military policy, there is one glaring flaw in the comments made by the press secretary, and the continued position taken by the Office of the President.
One of the provisions made in the establishment of the United States, was the policy of civilian oversight on the military, to prevent a military general or other authority from ever exceeding the will of the people (or rather, the will of the elected officials who act in lieu of their constituents).
In peacetime, the President and Congress share the responsibility for the management and maintenance of the department of defense, to ensure that the nation's borders and foreign interests are well prepared and protected from outside attack.
During war or armed conflict the President is granted greater latitude in the exercise of military power as befits his responsibility as the highest ranked military member.
However, during a time of military action, the highest ranked military member (the commander in chief) is required to be accountable to civilian authority; in this case the Congress of the United States, who act to maintain the balance on this military authority through "The power of the Purse", the ability to make (or deny) budget appropriations for funding of military action; and from their authority to make or rescind a formal declaration of war. These provisions were established as a solution to the clear conflict of interest that exists when the President is required to take on the additional duties of CnC for an extended period.
By denying Congress the opportunity to meet openly, to recognize their responsibility and authority to manage not the troops on the ground, but the actions and agenda of the Executive branch, Mr. Bush is no longer acting as a presidential authority, but a regal one. Particularly in the case were in no formal declaration of war has been established by Congress, placing a limit on the exercises of military strength to police action and limited deployment of troops and resources.
To fail to recognize this as an issue of the balance of powers between Congress and the Executive branch would be to act as a Military Ruler, a position above the control of civilian oversight; and far beyond the legal authority of the President of the United States.
While this may have the appearance of a subtle bid for control, it is significant enough that it may raise the ire of even the Republican minority in the Congress. While many on the GOP side are the position that they do not favor the timeline on troop deployment, it is certain that they would more strongly be in disagreement with an act from another branch of government that attempts to wrest political power away from the Legislative body.
The refusal to negotiate with Congressional leadership over this issue sends a signal; a veto following this refusal (if it goes unchallenged) sends a clear message. The message would be that "King" George, in his role as Military Commander, no longer sees fit to respond to the requests of civilian authority. And it is a signal and message that should cause true conservatives in this nation to take notice, a message that liberals have long feared to be true.