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When Congress Gets Mad

Foreign Policy Battles in the 1950s and Today

President Truman signs the Atomic Energy Act on August 1 1946. Wikimedia Commons

The scholar Edward Corwin famously described the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches set out in the U.S. Constitution as “an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy.” With different parties controlling different branches of government, partisan politics tends to intensify this struggle, and the consequences can be ugly. These days, for example, hardly a week seems to go by without vicious sniping between the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress over one issue or another—from China to Russia, Iran to Syria, Cuba to Israel. And on most issues, process as well as discourse has broken down, with each side openly trying to thwart or bypass the other.

This is not the first time things have descended to such a level. What the current situation most resembles, in fact, is the early Cold War era, when Republicans in Congress made

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