We often hear the United States Senate referred to as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” That expression was coined by the fifteenth President of the United States, the otherwise unremarkable James Buchanan. You could say that the United States Civil War was just Abraham Lincoln cleaning up the mess Buchanan left behind. Since Buchanan was himself once a Senator, calling a body of which he was a member “the world’s greatest” anything smacks of shameless self-promotion.
The Power to Make War
In 1967, Under-secretary of State Nick Katzenbach was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the progress of United States military operations in Vietnam. When Senator Fulbright expressed concern that President Johnson was waging war in Southeast Asia without the authority of a Congressional declaration of war, Katzenbach scoffed that this constitutionally-enumerated power reserved to the legislature was obsolete in the nuclear age, when a president might have mere minutes to respond to a Soviet missile launch.