Some of the most irresponsible comments have come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence materials. They are known to have a high opinion of their own analytical capabilities. (Laughter.) And they were free to reach their own judgments based upon the evidence.
Without getting into the details of exactly who had what information when, what makes that sentence so jarring is that the fundamental philosophy of Bush and Cheney -- and to a lesser degree their predecessors in the White House -- is that members of Congress, in their view, should absolutely not be "free to reach their own judgments" on matters of foreign policy and national security. Rather, advocates of executive branch power argue, the president is due substantial deference on all these questions. After all, to quote the cliche of all executive-branch defenders, "we can't have 535 Secretaries of State." The need to act with a uniform national voice, especially in a crisis, together with the fact that members of Congress will have neither complete intelligence information nor the giant organization needed to properly cull, evaluate, and reach a decision about it, is a strong argument in favor of deference to the executive.