Daniel W. Drezner

This looks like a job for Shadow Government

Let me be the first FP blogger to welcome Shadow Government into the fold. As the Democrats take over the executive branch, it will be good to have some critical voices around to push and prod their foreign policies. That said, I’d also love it if Shadow Government could also provide some evaluation on any ...

Let me be the first FP blogger to welcome Shadow Government into the fold. As the Democrats take over the executive branch, it will be good to have some critical voices around to push and prod their foreign policies.

That said, I’d also love it if Shadow Government could also provide some evaluation on any criticism provided by other former Bush officials as the changeover commences. Do these criticisms have validity, or are they merely tactical justifications given the GOP’s minority status?

For example, consider today’s New York Times op-ed by John Bolton and John Yoo:

The Constitution’s Treaty Clause has long been seen, rightly, as a bulwark against presidential inclinations to lock the United States into unwise foreign commitments. The clause will likely be tested by Barack Obama’s administration, as the new president and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, led by the legal academics in whose circles they have long traveled, contemplate binding down American power and interests in a dense web of treaties and international bureaucracies.

Like past presidents, Mr. Obama will likely be tempted to avoid the requirement that treaties must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate. The usual methods around this constitutional constraint are executive agreements or a majority vote in the House and Senate to pass a treaty as a simple law (known as a Congressional-executive agreement).

Executive agreements have an acknowledged but limited place in our foreign affairs. Congressional-executive agreements are far more troubling.

Now, on the one hand, one could interpret this advice as a warning about the dangers of implementing international agreements without the broad support of Congress and the American people.

One could also, however, interpret this advice as awfully strange, as it emanates from officials who have, heretofore, been mostly concerned with the augmentation of the executive branch’s power at all costs (and implemented plenty of congressional-executive agreements while in office).

It is terribly convenient, now that they are out of power, to be suddenly concerned with Obama running roughshod over the legislative branch. The domestic parallel would be if Bush officials who embraced No Child Left Behind and intervened in the case of Terry Schiavo suddenly developed a Strange New Respect for federalism.

So, Shadow Government, should one take Bolton and Yoo at face value?

UPDATE:  Drezner gets results from Shadow Government.  [Has the ten-year old in you has always wanted to type that sentence?–ed.  Yes.  Yes, he has.]

 Twitter: @dandrezner
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