Patterico's Pontifications


NYT: Obama “Now” Embracing “Unjustifiable Interpretations of the Executive Branch’s Authority”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:51 am

“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.” — Candidate Barack Obama, 2007

It’s rare that I agree with the chuckleheads at the New York Times editorial board, but I do here:

As the Pentagon gears up to expand its fight against ISIS, a fundamentalist Sunni militant group that controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, Congress appears perfectly willing to abdicate one of its most consequential powers: the authority to declare war.

The cowardice in Congress, never to be underestimated, is outrageous. Some lawmakers have made it known that they would rather not face a war authorization vote shortly before midterm elections, saying they’d rather sit on the fence for a while to see whether an expanded military campaign starts looking like a success story or a debacle. By avoiding responsibility, they allow President Obama free rein to set a dangerous precedent that will last well past this particular military campaign.

But then they (predictably) go off the rails.

Mr. Obama, who has spent much of his presidency seeking to wean the United States off a perpetual state of war, is now putting forward unjustifiable interpretations of the executive branch’s authority to use military force without explicit approval from Congress.



There was this little thing called Libya, where our Dictator in Chief bombed a foreign country without any authorization from Congress. Oddly, the editorial board does get around to mentioning this:

The administration has been situational when it comes to asking Congress for the approval to use military force. When Mr. Obama authorized an air campaign in Libya in 2011 to help embattled rebels overthrow Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, he chose not to get permission from Congress. That decision was remarkable because the president overruled the top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department, who argued that under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, any military action that lasted more than 60 days required formal authorization from Congress.

Last year, when Mr. Obama came close to launching cruise missiles in response to a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government, he argued that it was imperative to seek a congressional vote. When it became clear that lawmakers and the public wouldn’t support an attack, the administration backed down and was lucky to find a diplomatic alternative.

Wow. So . . . Obama shares some blame here, you say? And he’s done it before — claiming that the term “hostilities” does not include “bombing”?


It’s almost as if he has not spent his presidency trying to wean us off a state of war. It’s almost as if saying that he “now” is putting forth “unjustifiable interpretations of the executive branch’s authority” whitewashes the fact that this isn’t the first time.

Overall, I suppose the piece is OK in describing the sorry state of affairs that we have come to. But the gutless editorial writers fail to answer one very important question.

Let’s say the Congress were to bring this bombing campaign up for a vote. And voted it down.

And Obama said he was going to do it anyway.

What should Congress do in that situation, editorial writers?

Is there a reason you do not want to put your answer in writing?

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