Patterico's Pontifications


One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago Today…

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 2:44 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

…Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens told us exactly what the Confederacy was about in his famous “Cornerstone Speech.”  Here’s the most relevant portion.  Strap yourself in, cause it gets ugly.  But we owe it to those who fought to end it and thus who suffered under the whip of slavery, to bear witness:

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever,all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”


This Illegal War

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 12:56 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Update: See the end for the opinion of a Constitutional scholar you might have heard of.

Update (II): Lindsey Graham demonstrates his constitutional ignorance.

I glossed over this earlier today, relying on what my high school teacher and the New York Times said about the War Powers Act.  But after looking carefully at the Constitution, and the War Powers Act I can only conclude one thing: this war is illegal.

And let me start by saying that this has nothing to do with whether I support the idea of military action.  I do.  My chief complaint about this action is that it might be too little, too late.  And anyone who followed my twitter would see me say that I believed that we were missing a historic opportunity in our inaction.  But it is not enough to do the right thing under our Constitution.  We must do the right thing, the right way.

First, it is a war.  When our planes are dropping bombs on enemy armies, what else can one call it?  Even if it is unlawful, it is still war.

And it is not authorized by The War Powers Act which is codified as 50 U.S.C. § 1541 et seq. Just follow the link and use the “next” link towards the top to browse during the different sections.  Section 1541 states that the President can only go to war…

…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 I am not one of those kinds of constitutional formalists who says that the declaration of war has to be called a “Declaration of War.”  The constitution is about substance and not form and therefore the substance of a Declaration of War is to authorize the creation of a state of war between two nations where none previously existed.  A simple authorization to use force, for instance, qualifies.

But we don’t even have that.  Nor can we say that Gdaffy has attacked the U.S., our territories, or even our military, except for the reason that our military is attacking his country and the statute makes it exceedingly clear that this doesn’t count for self-defense purposes.

So it’s not authorized by the War Power Act.  But is it perhaps justified under the Constitution itself?

It would seem not.  First, of course, only Congress has the right to declare war.  This appears to be the only way our nation can create a state of war between our nation and another, where none previously existed.  We were not at war with Gdaffy before we invaded his territory and the state of war that exists is solely because of that invasion.  Again, this isn’t to say it is wrong, but it is being done the wrong way.  Congress would have every legal and moral right to declare “sic semper tyrannis!” and declare war on Libya.  But the President  does not have that legal right.

For instance, it is not altogether clear that the President could actually wage war on his own accord if we were invaded.  The Constitution states that it is a Congressional power to “provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions[.]”  Arguably, that is exactly what the War Powers Act was all about.  But let us say for the sake of argument that by implication coming from provisions like the Take Care Clause and the fact that the constitution differentiates between the Militia, the Army and the Navy, that maybe the president has the implied power to at least deploy the army and navy in self-defense.  But nothing in the Constitution could be stretched to allow for a war of choice in a far-off land, where we were not attacked first.

And no, the U.N. resolution doesn’t provide justification, either.  The Constitution assigns the power to declare war to Congress and no treaty can abrogate that.

So what do we do?  I think we do two things.  First, we consider and if appropriate, pass an authorization of force.  I wish we would call it a “Declaration of War,” but that is not likely.  And then I think Congress should officially Censure Obama, for unlawfully starting a war.  I don’t believe impeachment should be on the table, but we should make it clear that if he dares to try this twice, impeachment will follow.  The President must be reminded that the decision to go to war is not his, or the United Nations’, but Congress’.  To do anything less would risk turning the Declaration of War Clause into a dead letter.

Hat Tip: Dustin.

Update: I forgot to add that the Constitutional-Scholar-in-Chief himself agreed with me, when auditioning for this job:

2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.” The recent NIE tells us that Iran in 2003 halted its effort to design a nuclear weapon. While this does not mean that Iran is no longer a threat to the United States or its allies, it does give us time to conduct aggressive and principled personal diplomacy aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Thanks to SPQR for reminding me.

And the link comes to me from Marginal Revolution via Volokh.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

AP Caught Revising a Story on Obama Playing Soccer as We Go to War Without Issuing a Correction

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:30 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Stop me if you heard this before (note the link has changed from before because I “bumped” it several times).

So this morning the Jammie Wearing Fool (JWF) takes a swipe Obama for playing soccer in Brazil as our nation goes to war.

And the article by the AP makes an attempt to, in JWF’s words, “prop up Obama” writing:

The competing stories of Obama’s itinerary – a war front in Africa, an economic commitment to South America – divided his time in incongruous ways. By morning, he spoke with his security team about the international assault against Moammar Gadhafi’s defenses; by night, he was to stand atop a mountain and admire Rio’s world famous statue of Jesus.

Meanwhile, U.S. warplanes pounded faraway Libya.

It was all summed up by one image: Obama, adeptly juggling a soccer ball, as his aides helped him juggle his agenda.

But a funny thing happened when I clicked on the link JMF provided.  The reference to soccer was gone.  Mind you, it was in many other versions of the story.  But it was not at the link JMF provided.  I asked him about that, and he told me “it was apparently rewritten.”  Now there is not so much of a mention of any soccer ball.  Indeed the author even changed.

So it seems that as hard as they tried, the image of our President playing soccer as our military goes to war, was too much for the AP to successfully spin, so they tried to nix that part of the story entirely.  Nice.

Now as you guys know, I have tangled with the AP changing its story without any indication to the new reader that any change had been made.  Indeed, that is why I believe JWF when he says that the story at the link had changed.   Their stated policy is that breaking news stories can change.  Well, good, but did the AP suddenly decide the President didn’t play soccer?  Because, um, there is a picture there of him doing that.  What seems to have changed was what the AP felt like highlighting as examples of incongruous behavior:

Still, his team was eager to portray him as fully engaged in Libyan decision-making, even as the photographs and television images showed him touring a Rio de Janeiro shantytown and gazing with his family at Christ the Redeemer, the massive Art Deco mountaintop statue that has come to symbolize Rio.

See, touring in the shantytown sounds and looking at a statue of Jesus sounds a lot better than playing soccer.

Look, let me say that as a matter of fact the President should have some down time.  So I don’t object to him following March Madness, filling out his own brackets.  But what I object to is him doing it for the cameras.  He has an image to project, for his own sake and for the sake of our interests.  Going into the very room where Roosevelt managed WWII and filling out basketball brackets doesn’t send that image.  (And don’t even get me started about telling the world he had been bullied as a child.)  And if you have to play soccer and prove that you can hang with da kidz, can you at least try to look Presidential as you do it?

And to the AP, don’t cover up unpleasant truths just because it harms your side, okay?

And for the sake of preservation, I will cut and paste the text of both versions of the story after the break.


On Libyan Schadenfreude… Please Stop (Update: Hotairalanche! And Instalanche!)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 5:29 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Update: Hotairalanche!  Joking aside, thanks to Hot Air for the link.  Please enjoy the main site, and you might also be interested in this post arguing that as it stands now, the war in Libya is illegal.

Update (II): Instalanche!  Thanks!  And for the record, Glenn, I totally understand the desire, even if I am trying (and maybe failing some) to resist the temptation.


So over the weekend our military swung into action against Libya and we have bombed a few spots.  It’s full on war.

And it’s quite tempting to then start pointing out the contradiction between supporting this action and opposing the war in Iraq.  For instance, I wrote this almost a month ago:

On the other hand our military is preparing options for Obama.  Which raises the question…  Why?  I mean assuming we don’t have Americans being taken hostages or anything like that, then, why?  Would some liberal who claimed that it was wrong to intervene in Iraq explain why this is different?  Why is it wrong to intervene to topple a dictator in Iraq, but okay in Libya?  And what about the phrase, “no blood for oil?”  Ring any bells?

Of course I am being facetious.  I have consistently believed that it is actually okay to expend our military resources “merely” for human rights.  It says something about the decency and honor of this country that most sane people are willing to do that now and then.  But if our planes impose a no-fly zone, or what have you, unless the liberals take to streets in protest, it will prove that their opposition to the Iraq war was always about politics and not principle.

And indeed, more than a few people are pointing today the contradiction between Obama’s position on the Iraq War and this one.

And there’s nothing logically invalid about this.  From the beginning, even when talking to the club for dictators known as the U.N., President Bush (II) depicted the impending war with Iraq as being at least in part about liberation.  And today the only justification offered is that Libya is committing atrocities.  If that justifies military action in Libya, how does it not in Iraq?  And of course there is a far more compelling argument that if Qdaffy* survives this, we can expect him to disavow every agreement with the west, including the one forswearing WMDs.  But then again, the argument that even if Qdaffy doesn’t currently have WMDs, he might get them in the future as a justification for war…  would be very hypocritical if offered by an opponent of the Iraq War.

But before we hammer the President too hard, ask yourself a simple question.  Is he right, right now?  Forget what he said when he represented one of the most liberal jurisdictions in America, but is he right, right now?  If he is, then we have, to a degree, a patriotic duty to put those criticisms aside.  Maybe the President is too small to admit it, but either 1) he was full of it when opposing the Iraq War, or 2) he has changed his mind.  And if you think he is making the right decision, we shouldn’t make it too difficult, politically, to do the right thing, or else he might stop doing the right thing.  In other words, please lay off.

And I say that having done exactly the same thing in that quote above.  I shouldn’t have and I won’t be doing it now.  Yes, yes, we  watched the left unfairly and dishonestly malign the Iraq War, giving our enemies aid and comfort as we fought that war.  Hell, we have watched our media give out enemy propaganda that has actually led terrorists to kill our troops.  The temptation to turn the screws on them is powerful.  But sometimes patriotism requires us to suck it up and/or bite our tongues.

Of course, the next time the left complains about the Iraq War, we can bring this up.  But we didn’t need this Libyan no-fly zone to prove the left was (mostly) hypocritical and likely insincere in their opposition to this war.  We could have easily cited the actions we took in the former Yugoslavia to make that point.

And that is not to say that there is nothing to criticize, here, or that you should withhold those criticisms of the current war.  For instance, am I the only person who finds it creepy that the President seemed to have no desire to go to war until the U.N. passed its resolution?  The implication that we not only need their permission, but we are positively their attack dog is bad enough, but couldn’t we have at least been the leader of the pack instead of a beta male?  And of course I question the President’s decision to go to war without Congressional approval.  And no, I don’t think the War Powers Act really counts.

(Update: Discussion of the Constitutional issue, here.)

But I had lectured the left throughout the Iraq War that criticism has to be responsible, with an eye toward the safety of our soldiers and the success of the mission.  That means going forward 1) we have to be careful not to report enemy propaganda as gospel truth, and 2) only serious substantive objections to this war should be raised.  We should not be using this war to score points or to vindicate an honorable war (Iraq) that had been unfairly maligned.  We owe our military men and women that much.


Oh and off-topic, but “Operation Odyssey Dawn“?  Really?  Shouldn’t the name of the war sound at least mildly badass?


* I have resolved from now on to call Libya’s leader Qdaffy, which I think originated with Iowahawk’s tweets.  It seems about as valid a spelling as any other the others, right?

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

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