Molly Ivins died today. From The Fort Worth Star-Telegram :

Molly Ivins, whose biting columns mixed liberal populism with an irreverent Texas wit, died at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at her home in Austin after an up-and-down battle with breast cancer she had waged for seven years. She was 62.

Ms. Ivins, the Star-Telegram’s political columnist for nine years ending in 2001, had written for the New York Times, the Dallas Times-Herald and Time magazine and had long been a sought-after pundit on the television talk-show circuit to provide a Texas slant on issues ranging from President Bush’s pedigree to the culture wars rooted in the 1960s.

Molly Ivins has been a bright light in very dark times. Back when Bush was riding high in the polls and news media was dancing to his tune, Molly Ivins’s columns were proof that there was at least one sane citizen left in America.

She made a brief return to writing in mid-January, urging readers to resist President Bush’s plan to increase the number of U.S. troops deployed to Iraq. She likened her call to an old-fashioned “newspaper crusade.”

“We are the people who run this country,” Ms Ivins said in the column published in the Jan. 14 edition of the Star-Telegram. “We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war.

“Raise hell,” she continued. “Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and are trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge.”

She ended the piece by endorsing the peace march in Washington scheduled for Saturday. 01-27 “We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!’ ” she wrote.

Thank you, Molly. We’ll miss you.

Will Congress Cave?

There was a blogger conference call today with Sen. Harry Reid, who (remarkably) didn’t read us a prepared statement but simply took our questions. Bob Geiger blogs about it here. See also Chicago Dyke at Corrente.

In the course of the call, I brought up the apparent buildup to war in Iran, and let him know that y’all (including me) are worried to death that the Senate is going to cave in to Bush’s warmongering. Actually, I think I said “wimp out.” Or something like that. He assured me the Senate would stand up to the White House on this matter, as well as taking on a stronger oversight role in Iraq.

In the Washington Post today, Fred Barbash has quite a good column asking a good question — Why Would Congress Surrender?

At issue is the constitutional law governing the war power of the executive branch, specifically the vastness of the “battlefield” over which President Bush claims inherent authority as commander in chief. Also at issue are all the comparable claims yet to be made by presidents yet unborn, armed with the precedents being set right now.

In these matters, there is no such thing as inaction. In a contest between two branches over separation of powers, silence speaks as powerfully as words. …

… Inaction, indeed, strengthens that precedent. Over time, inaction is taken as acquiescence, a form of approval, and the precedent becomes entrenched until it’s as good as law.

This is precisely what has occurred over the years. Successive decades of congressional acquiescence in the face of executive claims of war power have allowed the law to be settled exclusively by the executive branch. …

… Article II does indeed make the president commander in chief.

But Article I gives Congress not merely the power of the purse. It vests in the House and Senate the authority to “declare war,” to “make rules concerning captures on land and water,” to “provide for the common defense,” to “raise and support Armies,” and to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.” In addition, the Senate advises and consents on important military appointments, which is why Lt. Gen. David Petraeus was on Capitol Hill last week for confirmation as the general in command of U.S. forces in Iraq.

War is a shared responsibility. The records of the 1787 convention at which the Constitution was drafted unquestionably demonstrate that. An early version of Article I, for example, gave Congress the power to “make war.”

The delegates changed the wording to “declare war,” not to remove Congress from the process but to leave the commander in chief the “power to repel sudden attacks,” as James Madison put it. “The executive should be able to repel and not to commence war,” agreed Roger Sherman. In the eyes of some delegates, this limited authority was safe in the hands of a president because “no executive would ever make war but when the nation will support it,” said delegate Pierce Butler.

As I wrote here, there is no way in hell the authors of the Constitution intended to give the President the kind of war powers Bush has assumed. But the parameters of the presidential war powers have been pushed outward for a long time. Until now the chief executives have been reasonably responsible, if only because they were mindful of public opinion. But now we’ve got a Creature in the Oval Office with no sense of responsibility at all, but with some kind of unresolved adolescent resentment against authority other than his own.

For more than two centuries we’ve respected the Constitution as the Law of the Land. Certainly there have been many disagreements about what this or that clause means, or how to interpret a 17th century document in the light of 21st century reality. Even presidents have taken actions that were found to be unconstitutional later on. But I can’t think of another time in our history in which we were threatened by an executive branch that just plain wanted to blow the Constitution off and rule any way they damn well pleased.

This is a precedent Congress must not allow to stand. They must not just try to keep the Creature in check for the next two years until his term expires. Congress’s authorities must be made clear.

Rogue Nation

I don’t know if Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is worried about us, but we’re scaring the socks off Europe. Ian Traynor and Jonathan Steele write for the Guardian:

Senior European policy-makers are increasingly worried that the US administration will resort to air strikes against Iran to try to destroy its suspect nuclear programme.

As transatlantic friction over how to deal with the Iranian impasse intensifies, there are fears in European capitals that the nuclear crisis could come to a head this year because of US frustration with Russian stalling tactics at the UN security council. “The clock is ticking,” said one European official. “Military action has come back on to the table more seriously than before. The language in the US has changed.”

As the Americans continue their biggest naval build-up in the Gulf since the start of the Iraq war four years ago, a transatlantic rift is opening up on several important aspects of the Iran dispute.

The Bush administration will shortly publish a dossier of charges of alleged Iranian subversion in Iraq. “Iran has steadily ramped up its activity in Iraq in the last three to four months. This applies to the scope and pace of their operations. You could call these brazen activities,” a senior US official said in London yesterday.

Although the Iranians were primarily in Shia areas, they were not confined to them, the US source said, implying that they had formed links with Sunni insurgents and were helping them with booby-trap bombs aimed at Iraqi and US forces, new versions of the “improvised explosive devices”.

Let’s say I’m way skeptical the Iranians would be helping the Sunnis. This would work against their own interests, assuming that their interest is to make Iraq a Shia-controlled nation.

… diplomats in Brussels and those dealing with the dispute in Vienna say a fissure has opened up between the US and western Europe on three crucial aspects – the military option; how and how quickly to hit Iran with economic sanctions already decreed by the UN security council; and how to deal with Russian opposition to action against Iran through the security council.

Also at the Guardian, Francis Fukuyama chides his former comrades-in-neoconism.

Neoconservative theorists saw America exercising a benevolent hegemony over the world, using its enormous power wisely and decisively to fix problems such as terrorism, proliferation, rogue states, and human-rights abuses. But even if friends and allies were inclined to trust America’s good intentions, it would be hard for them not to be dismayed at the actual execution of policy and the amount of broken china this particular bull left behind. …

… What I find remarkable about the neoconservative line of argument on Iran, however, is how little changed it is in its basic assumptions and tonalities from that taken on Iraq in 2002, despite the momentous events of the past five years and the manifest failure of policies that neoconservatives themselves advocated. What may change is the American public’s willingness to listen to them.

Francis Fukuyama seems to have learned a few things since he wrote that “end of history” claptrap back in the 1980s. In his Guardian op-ed he admits that the use of force in Iraq has been counterproductive and that “preventive war” is not a sustainable foreign policy. It’s actually worth reading.

Speaking of war and idiots — here’s another headline to love:

Whatever happened to Democrats being split on Iraq War strategy? Hmmm?

The story, by Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray, is in today’s Washington Post.