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What the framers would do about Libya; driving and drugs; a 'do-nothing' Congress

July 09, 2011
  • Madison: He anticipated constitutional issues over the president's war powers.
Madison: He anticipated constitutional issues over the president's…

War and the founders

Re "Warring ambitions," Opinion, July 3

In this season in which we reflect upon the founding of our country, I read with interest the article by UCLA historian Joyce Appleby. She makes the point that James Madison would have expected the current conflict between Congress and the president over whether the deployment of our troops in and above Libya requires congressional authorization.

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson sought and obtained congressional approval before deploying American naval forces to Libya. Though America did not formally declare war on the pirates based in Tripoli, Jefferson and a Congress composed of our founding generation decided that military action against the Barbary pirates was called for, and that congressional authorization should precede military action.

Rep. Brad Sherman

(D-Sherman Oaks)

Appleby writes that the War Powers Act, passed in 1973, "came at a time when the Vietnam War had been underway for years without any president asking for congressional approval." This simply repeats a myth.

In August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson requested and Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the president "to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist [South Vietnam]… in defense of its freedom."

That some members of Congress later came to regret their votes does not undermine the legal force of the resolution.

And until 1973, Congress also funded the war and provided the president with the military forces and materiel needed to fight it.

Joseph M. Bessette


The writer is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Zero tolerance behind the wheel

Re "Too high for the highway?," July 3

The Times brings much-needed attention to the public health and public safety threat of drugged driving. In the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy, the Obama administration for the first time identified reducing drugged driving as a major national priority.

Zero-tolerance drugged driving laws are the most effective strategy. Under these laws, any detectable amount of an illegal controlled substance constitutes evidence of a violation.

This standard has been used successfully for all commercial drivers since 1988 and is widely used outside the U.S. Seventeen states have drugged driving laws. These laws are needed in all 50 states.

To accurately identify and enforce drugged driving laws, all impaired driving suspects and drivers in injury or fatal crashes must be drug tested.

Robert DuPont, MD

Rockville, Md.

The writer, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, was the White House drug czar from 1973-78.

Publicly available data show that California's medical marijuana program has had no negative impact on traffic safety.

According to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 1996 and 2008, California's motor vehicle fatality rate fell from 1.43 deaths per 100 million miles driven to 1.05, a decline of 26.5%. During the same period, the national rate fell by 25%.

If medical marijuana users were indeed a traffic menace, as certain people claim, California would have the most dangerous roads in the country. In reality, California's traffic fatality rate is far lower than the national average and steadily declining. Opponents of medical marijuana need to admit the truth.

Anders Froehlich

San Rafael, Calif.

Doing nothing is doing good

Re "Not quite a 'do-nothing Congress,' but it's close," July 4

If a productive Congress is one that produces more laws, then thank goodness for a "do-nothing" Congress. Law pollution is an unacknowledged threat to this country. We already live (or try to) under a million laws. Every time it creates a new law, Congress creates a new group of outlaws. We have been inundated with laws for more than 200 years.

If anyone with a grudge wants to drive you into bankruptcy, it's easy for them to find a law you may have broken and take you to court. Whether you win or lose the case, your financial stability is threatened.

If lawmakers want to be productive, they can start by getting rid of a few thousand laws and regulations.

Wilma Bennett

West Hills

One hundred and fifty years after the outbreak of the Civil War, our elected officials don't seem to realize that war is a very costly way to resolve differences.

What we need in our present crisis are real statesmen and women, people who are able and willing to lay aside their differences in the interest of the far more important issues that our country faces.

Such political fortitude, very unfortunately, is in short supply in Washington. "We the people" must suffer for our officials' lack of maturity and sense of political responsibility.

Peter A. O'Reilly


The debt-ceiling debate's villains

Re "As the debt ceiling turns," Opinion, July 3

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