Is No Rhetoric Worse Than Spectacle-Rhetoric?

I think Thom Hartmann made a good point on his radio show yesterday: that Congress at least should have discussed if not voted on the president’s decision to direct American airplanes to bomb Libya and the broader decision to get involved in the civil war there.

Hartmann’s reasoning is that the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war and not, therefore (an implicit therefore, Hartmann admits), the president.

Of interest is that a Rep. on the right and one the left agree with him: Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich. But therein, perhaps, exists a symbolic demonstration of how little power Congress, and thus the people they allegedly represent, has/have over the decision to go to war. For Paul and Kucinich are Congressional eccentrics; some even view one or the other or both as crackpots. This view doesn’t mean they are wrong on the subject; it just means that their position on war-powers will have no influence.

One topic we explore variously on this blog is the decline of public and political discourse, to the extent that such discourse now consists almost entirely of slogans, sound-bites, truthiness, wedge-issues, deceptions, fibs, baiting, astro-turf events, and so on–even as debate, adult conversations, data, common ground, agreed-upon facts, and subtlety have all bit disappeared.

But is no rhetoric–that is, Congress said nothing about bombing Libya–better than pseudocratic rhetoric? A close call, but I’d say no. Even if a “debate” about whether to bomb Libya were nothing more than a posturing-fest, with gas-bags fully inflated, at least Congress would have almost gotten off its Constitutional duff.

On the other hand . . ., I have five fingers: that is, does any of us believe that Congress will take back “war powers” from the Executive Branch? Ever? Still, as sick as I am of listening to politicians talk the way they talk, I think I’d still like the ones in Congress to start talking about war.


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