Civics 101 For Conservatives

I’ve often noted the authoritarian tendencies of the right wing as they see the Executive Branch as above the law and ignore the separation of powers and checks and balances envisioned by the founding fathers. Blog Critics asks why our tax dollars are being spent to send Senators Kerry and Dodd to Damascus, and questions the fact that they are meeting with Syrian leaders writing, “I never knew that congress discussed foreign policy matters with the leaders of other nations, especially those who are considered to be America’s ‘enemies.'”

What they forget is that the government has three branches, and the duties of the Legislative Branch include both involvement in foreign policy and oversight of the Executive Branch. John Kerry and Christopher Dodd are both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here’s an overview of their responsibilities in an introduction written by the outgoing Republican Chairman of the committee:

Welcome to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee website. Our Committee is responsible for the foreign policy activities of the U.S. Senate. We evaluate all treaties with foreign governments; approve all diplomatic nominations; and write legislation pertaining to U.S. foreign policy, the State Department, Foreign Assistance programs, and many associated topics. I hope that you find this website to be a valuable resource in following our activities and understanding the role of the Senate in foreign policy.

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  1. 1
    Chip says:


    In your eagerness to denigrate conservatives, you overlook the obvious fact that senators cannot independently negotiate treaties.


    Consider yourself enlightened. 😉


  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    Nobody is claiming Senators can independently negotiate treaties. This is rather irrelevant to this post. The point is that meeting with foreign leaders such Kerry is doing is part of the duties of Senators.

  3. 3
    Probus says:

    Ron, as you rightly state, Congress is a co-equal branch of government. Repugs sometimes forget how strong Congressional oversight can be and will be. The dems are now have the powers we need to conduct the oversight, the investigations and the much needed checks and balances the American people voted for in November of this year. It is ridiculous to question why members of the Foreign Relations Committee can’t meet other heads of state. If the administration was against this trip why didn’t Rice stop Sen. Kerry and Dodd from visiting Syria? Sen. Kerry met her in person and she didn’t voice any objections to his trip. Instead she gave Sen. Dodd a list of questions to ask the Syrian President. The Repugs have hard lessons to learn, if they want to get anything done they will have to learn to work with the dems in Congress. Without their help the repugs won’t get much done in the next 2 years.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    Another point is that, while we have our objections to some things Rice has done, she is far saner than many of the conservative bloggers. She has been far less political as Secretary of State than I feared she would be when first nominated by Bush. (Of course I started out with very low expectations which might have made it easy for her to exceed them.)

  5. 5
    Chip says:


    The point is not what you claimed, but rather your apparent lack of appreciation of the fact the Senate and Administration are not co-equal in regards to matters of foreign policy. Indeed, our three branches of government are co-equal, but with different authorities granted by the Constitution.

    Furthermore, you’ve yet to make a case for how the Kerry/Dodd visit helps our interests more than it hurts.

    Secretary Rice is far saner than many of the liberal bloggers as well. Oh, and more mature, educated and cultured, too. Apparently you’re OK with referring to Republicans as Repugs. Very enlightening. In regards to your agenda, that is. 😉


  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:


    No, the point is that Kerry and Dodd’s chip is entirely witin the law, in contrast to the claims made by many conservative bloggers. The fact that each branch has different functions in no way contradicts the point of my post.

    Being saner than some bloggers, both liberal and conservative, clearly means little as there are plenty of kooks on each side. The idea that there is something wrong about Senators doing their job has been fairly prevalent among conservative bloggers but fortunately this is a view not held by Rice. (It is not clear how widespread this view is because many have not commented on this which may or may not mean they do not hold this idea.)

    “Apparently you’re OK with referring to Republicans as Repugs.”

    I’ve never referred to Republicans as Repugs.

  7. 7
    kj says:

    Home from the holiday bash, with the inevitable cold, and had hopes to read more and maybe actually wake up before commenting… until this post.

    Maybe a minor point to you, Chip, but Ron has never referred to Republicans as Repugs. (And for the record, neither have I.) When I read your (Chip) post above, I was shocked, shocked! and scrolled around to see if Ron might have momentarily lost his mind and wrote “Repug.” He didn’t of course. It’s just not his style.

    As for conservative bloggers not wanting to see Kerry and Dodd engaged in due diligence re: their roles as Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I guess I gotta remind them, this country held an election on November 7, 2006. The voters spoke with their votes… there won’t be one party control over all three branches of government in just a few short weeks. Democrats will be active, ummmm, what can I say, get used to it?
    😉 🙂

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:


    The case is even stronger now that they will be controlling Congress, but such foreign travel was also one of the functions of Senators from the minority party.

  9. 9
    kj says:


    While it does not require a party majority for senators to travel overseas for diplomatic missions/reasons, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t as many conservatives as liberals who, it seems, have yet to grasp the signifigance of the results of the November 2006 election. Especially when compared to the results of the November 2004 election. Two short years =’ed a sea change.

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