Oh, OK – We Totally Understand This Now

It turns out that the adventure in Libya isn’t really a shocking display of lawlessness by the President after all.

Boy, what a relief.

“First of all, consultation with Congress is important, as I said. Secondly, the administration welcomes the support of Congress in whatever form that they want to express that support. Third, as I indicated during the course of the briefing, this is a limited — in terms of scope, duration and task — operation, which does fall in the president’s authorities. Fourth, the circumstances arose with the passage of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, the night before a congressional recess. So he did, even with that, call Congress — those who remained in town on Friday and those who are out of town — on the phone to consult with them.”

That from Tom Donilon, who is Obama’s national security adviser.

And as it happens, Obama sent a letter to Congress invoking the War Powers Act. After the fact, of course.

Just in case you’re not up on the War Powers Act, you’ll find it in Title 50, Chapter 33, Section 1541 of the U.S. Code. This is what it says

§ 1541. Purpose and policy

(a) Congressional declaration

It is the purpose of this chapter to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.

(b) Congressional legislative power under necessary and proper clause

Under article I, section 8, of the Constitution, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer hereof.

(c) Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to…

(1) a declaration of war,

(2) specific statutory authorization, or

(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

Now, ask yourself where in part (c) you find the authority for Libya. Then go back to Donilon’s statement and see if any of it matches up to what the law requires.

Obama’s Libyan war is unlawful. It’s not a partisan statement to say it. Dennis Kucinich is saying it. So is Jim Webb. So is Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut lefty who heretofore was as big an Obama booster as you’ll find. Michael Moore is all over Twitter making an ass of himself screaming about Libya. Our readers saw Calypso Louie Farrakhan’s unhinged rant on the subject yesterday.

And the comparisons with George W. Bush and Iraq are off-base. Whatever you think of that war, we had a national debate for almost an entire year about it – and we had a vote in Congress providing the specific statutory authorization the War Powers Act demands. That was not an “illegal” war unless you take the Ronulan position that anything short of a declaration of war makes military action illegal.

Obama probably could have gotten a majority in Congress and the Senate in favor of the Libya action. There is a residue of animus toward Qaddafi over the Lockerbie thing, which was recently fanned over the disgrace surrounding Scotland’s release of that Megrahi character who masterminded that bombing, and enough of our representatives would have a taste for the dictator’s blood that going in and removing him would be at least arguably a good idea to them.

But he didn’t bother. Because he respects neither the laws of the land, the authority of a Republican majority in the House of Representatives nor the limitations of his own office.

At the end of the day, what Obama did with Libya isn’t a surprise. This administration hasn’t shown any respect for the framework the country’s government is built on since it took office. If it had…

  • the Justice Department would have prosecuted the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation when it was a slam-dunk case;
  • when both Congress and a federal court told the administration it couldn’t pursue Net Neutrality, the FCC wouldn’t have tried to implement it by administrative fiat;
  • we wouldn’t have an attempt by the National Labor Relations Board to impose Card Check by administrative rule;
  • the Interior Department wouldn’t be in contempt of a federal court over the offshore drilling moratorium;
  • the administration wouldn’t have attempted to ignore Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling that Obamacare is unconstitutional;
  • the EPA wouldn’t be attempting to impose Cap and Trade through regulation after it died in Congress, attempting to destroy industry through ratcheting down ozone levels without Congressional action to do so or harass the shale gas industry on hydraulic fracturing.

We could come up with lots of other examples of actions taken by this administration which are in contravention of law. Obama isn’t the first recent president who’s had an issue with playing fast and loose with the limits of his powers. He might be the first so far to do so without having an existential scandal erupt over it, though.

Or maybe he might not.

Aaron Worthing at Patterico had a good suggestion yesterday. Congress should hold a vote authorizing the use of force in Libya – though I’d add that the authorization should be strictly limited to only the actions currently being taken and nothing else – and then another vote censuring the president for acting in contravention of the War Powers Act and warning him that future disregard of the body will engender consequences.



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