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The Innocent Bystander Fable Goes Into Overdrive

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The Washington Post is the latest Establishment media organ to push what I have called the Innocent Bystander Fable (memorialized here.

This is the myth that Democrats have no power to stop the war, despite controlling both houses of Congress. The Post writes, "Democrats began their fight against what came to be called the surge with public opinion on their side, but with
virtually no real weapons to force Bush to change." 

For reference, here is
Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law."

Translated into vernacular, that's the part of the Constitution that says the Congress - and only the Congress - has the power of the purse. If congressional leaders decided to NOT use that power of the purse, this war would be over. 

And let's be clear on one more thing. You know how we're hearing all this talk of "we don't have 60 votes, much less 67 votes" to pass a bill to end the war? The Post regurgitates it, claiming that "because of a Senate rule requiring 60 votes to shut off debate and 67 votes to overturn a veto, Reid faced an almost impossible challenge" to end the war.

Just stop for a moment and flip the argument around. The argument inherently admits that all you need is 40 votes to stop a blank check from passing the U.S. Senate (and this says nothing of the simple fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could simply refuse to bring another blank check war spending bill to the floor of their respective houses of Congress). 

So while you may or may not agree that Congress should use its power of the purse to end the war, there is no debate that Congress does, in fact, have the power of the purse to end the war - and thus Democrats who control Congress do have a very "real weapon to force Bush to change."

Now, I understand why Democratic politicians in Washington are pushing the Innocent Bystander Fable. Facing
polls that show the vast majority of Americans want an end to this war, they need to come up with an excuse as to why they refuse to end the war - and so their excuse is the Innocent Bystander Fable's claim that they just don't have the power.

But now the
Innocent Bystander Fable is being taken up by the Beltway media as an assumed fact. It is being woven into the political narrative as something as concretely true as water being wet. Reporters have, in other words, become totally complicit with scheming politicians who want to pretend that the U.S. Constitution quite literally does not exist. 

Such irresponsible behavior by the press rivals its complicity in pushing the nation to war by refusing to ask questions about pre-war intelligence. Only this time, it's arguably worse. Whereas beforehand, reporters could at least sound vaguely credible by arguing that they were "fooled" and didn't have access to the raw intelligence, this time, it's impossible to pretend they don't know what the U.S. Constitution is or didn't have access to a copy of it

And the result is basically the same: Casualties mount and American national security is weakened all because the folks in Washington refuse to ask our political leaders the most basic questions about the most basic facts.

originally published by working assets 

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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