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Friday, February 27, 2009

Longest-Serving Senator Gives Obama a History Lesson

Senator Robert C. Byrd, whose career in the Senate has spanned five decades, advised President Obama this week to keep in check the powers of members of the White House staff to prevent an erosion of the “Constitutional system of checks and balances.” In a letter, Mr. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat, drew examples from the Republican administrations of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush to drive home his concerns. He suggested that the president’s creation of offices of health care reform, urban affairs and energy and climate change policy within the White House could undermine the role of cabinet secretaries.
“I am concerned about the relationship between these new White House positions and their executive branch counterparts,” Mr. Byrd wrote in the letter dated Feb 23. “Too often, I have seen these lines of authority and responsibility become tangled and blurred, sometimes purposely, to shield information and to obscure the decision-making process.”

Mr. Byrd pointed out what he viewed as Henry Kissinger’s outsized role in shaping the foreign policy of the Nixon Administration as an assistant to the president on the National Security Council and, more recently, to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, who as deputy national security adviser to President Bush, coordinated Iraq and Afghanistan policy from the White House.


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