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A permanent bipartisan committee of senior statesmen is needed to check presidential power

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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-16-07 09:30 AM
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A permanent bipartisan committee of senior statesmen is needed to check presidential power
http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0716/p09s01-coop.html

Baker-Hamilton 2.0
A permanent bipartisan committee of senior statesmen is needed to check presidential power.
By Clark Kent Ervin and Andy Zelleke

Page 1 of 2

Washington; and Cambridge, Mass. - With the recent House vote to reconstitute the Iraq Study Group (ISG) in anticipation of fall reports from Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, a fresh look at its first iteration is warranted.

It has become conventional wisdom that the much heralded ISG report had negligible impact on President Bush. At the time of its issuance last December, he damned it with faint praise.

This president was not about to talk to "rogue" regimes just because some unelected body told him to, no matter how "blue ribbon" its members. And no selfrespecting president would effectively outsource policymaking on the nation's top security issues.

Upon reflection, though, the impact of the BakerHamilton report has been grossly understated. A single sentence "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating" was enough to force the president to change the way he and his administration talked about the war. Gone ever since has been the happy talk about "staying the course" and the progress being made toward political reconciliation and greater security.

To be sure, the group's policy recommendations were mostly ignored. Most conspicuous, the group recommended a troop drawdown, rather than a "surge." Still, the report did something very significant: It rebranded the war as the impending failure that it is.

Because of the eminence of the ISG's members and the group's nonpartisan approach, they accomplished what none of the war's other critics in government, in the media, and in think tanks and universities could. Ever since, the administration has taken pains to acknowledge that things are not going well in Iraq, and that time is running out to show progress there.

This important, but largely unnoticed, accomplishment is an exception that proves a rule. It highlights how rare it is for a president to be held to account on matters of foreign policy and national security.

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