Picking and choosing sound bites doesn't clarify picking and choosing parts of the Constitution to support.

We’re having a very interesting primary in Virginia in a couple of weeks. On June 12 Republicans will select who will be our candidate for the seat in the US Senate being vacated by Jim Webb. We already know the Democrats are putting up former Gov. Tim Kaine for the seat. The question now is which of the 4 Republicans will run against him.

We have former Gov. George Allen, Jamie Radtke, Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall, and E. W. Jackson all in the running. I’l go on the record right now and state that I will support any of these fine people in this race and every single one of them is a huge, vast improvement over having Tim Kaine in there. But, and also for the record, I’m leaning toward George Allen or Jamie Radtke right now. I’m paying attention to them both and there’s things they’re both saying that I like. Jamie Radtke, particularly, is making a lot of sense to me and she got some supporters that I respect a great deal.

Which is what make me wince when I see the kinds of characterizations coming out of political ads like this one and the statements some of her supporters are making. The issue Radtke and her supporters are trying to make is that the current front-runner, George Allen, is trying to “pick only the parts of the US Constitution he likes…” Let’s go to the tape:

OK, so the question asked is this: “Would you support deployment of American troops in Iran, or any other country, without first having an effective declaration of war by Congress?” I’m annoyed with the question because it’s damned vague. What the hell is “an effective declaration of war?” There is a very specific thing called a “declaration of war” and there’s there’s the bombastically-titled “Authorization for Use of Military Force.” If that’s what was meant then that’s what should have been asked.

I’m annoyed with George Allen’s response because 1) he doesn’t actually answer the question and 2) he comes off like it’s not a question that’s important – that’s it’s more important to be concerned with whether the troops are even equipped to respond to orders telling them to get into combat. That’s all well and good to be concerned about your troops but there’s an saying that you go to war with the army you have. We’d all love to have gear that permits our troops to walk unscathed into the face of the most ferocious fire the enemy can bring to bear. That’s not the question. The question is whether you’d support deployment of troops without a Congressional act?

Radtke is right as far as she goes: you should follow the process as specified in the Constitution. (I’m a little bit concerned that she doesn’t know that the President does not need Congressional approval to deploy troops into a shooting conflict for up to 60 days, with another 30 granted to him to evac those troops.) But this video is put up there by Radtke’s campaign as showing that she’s “taking on” Allen. It’s being linked and shared by her supporters as proof that Allen doesn’t like to follow the Constitution. The fact of the matter is that Allen never said anything about following the Constitution. His answer dealt with support of the troops in terms of making sure they have the right gear. To suggest that the answer somehow proves George Allen isn’t considering himself bound to uphold the Constitution is reading things into his answer that just aren’t there.

As I said, I like Jamie Radtke. She’s not making this an easy decision, which would otherwise be a quick nod to George Allen. I’m all for her throwing down with George Allen and being aggressively loud in pointing out where her philosphy and priorities differ from him, but I would like her to be a bit more grounded in her attacks on him.


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