On The Fence

The President says he can take America to war without asking Congress. The lawmakers disagree -- but most would rather not take a public stand at all.

In the Persian Gulf two massive armies squared off across miles of desert sand as the Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait drew nearer. But with the world anxiously awaiting the outcome of this week's last-chance meeting between U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, a different battle was brewing back in Washington. This fight was over constitutional prerogatives and political power. The burning question at the center of it all: Could President Bush send U.S. troops into battle without congressional approval?

The showdown over that issue was surprisingly long in coming. Congress was...

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