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?

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

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. Congress shouldnt vote on anything until the President brings them his detailed plan of action. There is nothing for them to vote up or down at this point. It is not Congress’ purview to develop the planning.

    JD (83e692)

  3. Remember the “rush to war” nonsense?

    JD (83e692)

  4. “Dictator in Chief” Patterico, you are better than that. I’m not saying you are completely off base for your opprobrium, but language like that makes the right look nutty.

    bskb (1d2d1a)

  5. bskb, you are better than that -oh, wait, no you’re not.

    felipe (b5e0f4)

  6. Congress has been avoiding war declarations since WW II ended. Why is this time different? Is the NYT just ignorant or are they blaming Obama’s reckless warmongering on Congress?

    BTW Libya is the most nonsensical failure of a war in my lifetime. Funny how no one talks about that.

    Patricia (5fc097)

  7. What is a good non-nutty word to describe a President that circumvents Congress and the Constitution, as a matter of practice?

    JD (83e692)

  8. food stamp did indeed dictate that we have to go sprinkle billions of dollars worth of bombs on some terrorists or maybe on some civilians or maybe on some infrastructure we built what we still owe the chinesers for – the important thing is we has a STRATEGY

    which apparently involves arming and training a viciously moderate army of jew-hating trash in Syria


    so sad

    happyfeet (a785d5)

  9. The administration has been situational when it comes to asking Congress for the approval to use military force.

    The NY Times has been situational when it comes to interpreting Mr Obama’s self-serving and mutually contradictory rationalizations for either bypassing or seeking Congressional approval to use military force.


    ropelight (260c85)

  10. That word may be “criminal”

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  11. “Now”?

    He’s saying something he did not say before. They are talking aboput unjustifiable interpretations

    I have a question as to why they write

    unjustifiable interpretations – plural – since they seem to cite only one.

    What botehrs the New York Times is that Obama is now saying that the 2001 law authorizing the use of force in Afghanistan – maybe they make it plural because he is also using the 2002 law authorizing force in Iraq – covers attacking ISIS/ISIL?IS/DAESH/Whatchamacallit in Syria.

    The 2001 law authroized the use of force against those who planned the September 11, 2011 attacks.

    But ISIS/ISIL/IS/DAESH/WHATCHAMACALLIT is a breakaway faction that didn’t exist at all in 2001!

    Is it still the planners of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks?

    (Note: Come to think of it, actually al Qaeda did exist in Iraq in 2001 in a corner of Kurdistan that Saddam Hussein had ceded to it)

    Libya also was a “kinetic military action” and Obama also relied on the NATO treaty I think.

    Obama has also relied upon repeated periodic 60-day notifications of Congress.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  12. #7, JD, Usurper is the correct term.

    ropelight (260c85)

  13. As the rest of the world has discovered, although some were slow to the understanding, Barack Obama is not a Serious Man.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  14. Obama’s idea of military intelligence is that he must clearly state to each and every enemy what he plans to do, what means he will use, how many troops will be committed, what dates will be involved, and exactly what he rules out in making his plans.

    Militarily, this is completely insane.

    [Also posted at PJMedia]

    Fred Beloit (e503e2)

  15. “Constitutional Law Scholar”? Psshawww

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  16. Mr. Beloit you Republicans were so mean to food stamp cause of he was very honest and said no no no we do not have a STRATEGY

    well guess what now we do!

    careful what you ask for pickle

    happyfeet (a785d5)

  17. Greetings:

    I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve always found “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” quite convenient.

    11B40 (6abb5c)

  18. If your going to bomb these nuts, Use one like Harry S. did.

    mg (31009b)

  19. “Barack Obama is not a Serious Man.”

    Bingo !

    The non-war stuff began with Harry Truman who stated that Korea was a “police action.” Vietnam began as assistance and morphed into war after Congress gave LBJ carte blanche after Tonkin Gulf, which was a phony excuse. Bush went to Congress but Congress wants the option, as exercised by Hillary, Biden and Kerry, to deny they were in the room when Colonel Mustard was murdered. It all goes back to parlor games.

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  20. Oslo called. They want their Peace Prize back.

    Lorem Ipsum (cee048)

  21. Barack Obama is a very serious man. Those who underestimate his achievements, or judge him incompetent, frivolous, distracted, or unserious are refusing to face an obvious fact: this President isn’t on our side.

    Naively assuming Barack Obama ever intended to lead the nation back to strength and prosperity is to ignore or deny his record in office for the last 6 years. The evidence is clear and compelling, the pattern of destruction is unmistakable. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.

    There is no ambiguity: Barack Obama has undermined our economy at every turn, handicapped our military, denied instances of Islamic terrorism both here and abroad, released high level terrorists from GITMO, conducted illegal secret operations out of the White House, armed and assisted fundamentalist Islamic fighters in Egypt, Libya, and Syria, covered up the death of Americans in Fast-n-Furious and Benghazi, repeatedly lied to the nation, spied on journalists and on ordinary citizens, used the IRS to screw the TEA Party, circumvented or stonewalled Congressional investigations, and placed himself above the law, all among a great many other outrages and usurpations.

    And each time he or one or more of his surrogates offered some idiot excuse, or outright lie, to cover his betrayal, and every time his defenders and enablers in the national media rushed to make excuses, blame others, or simply ignore the facts and accuse the accusers of racism, or some similar calumny. But, no individual, no hollow man, no journalist, no doting sycophant, no true believer, no leftist propaganda merchant, can explain the totality of Obama’s ongoing pattern of destruction.

    Yet, we find reasonable, informed men, casting about for an explanation of why the things Obama does invariably do more harm to the nation than good. The problem is one of presumption: it consists of assuming Barack Obama harbors good intentions, he doesn’t and his record proves it. Seriously.

    ropelight (260c85)

  22. Rush to war? What reality do these people live in?

    hadoop (f7d5ba)

  23. @ ropelight: Well, “The Messiah” DID promise to “fundamentally transform” America. The problem was (and still is) that the kool-ade drinkers didn’t understand that he intended to change us from a superpower, to a third-World socialist/Marxist hellhole.

    SNuss (25df35)

  24. 23 @hadoop

    Rush to war? What reality do these people live in?

    The New York Times really thinks Obama wants to do more than he does. (or did yesterday)

    The main front page headline Thursday, September 11, was this:


    Will Send 475 More Advisers to Iraq and
    Mount Attacks on ISIS in Syria

    And their lead editorial yesterday was headlined:

    The Attack on ISIS Expands to Syria

    that’s what all the reporters thought.

    taht editorial, although moistly it discussed things factually, and raised some practical difficulties, did already say (in paragraph 4 of 11) that it “demands congressional approval,” in spite of “his claim of authority under the Iraq war resolution and the War Powers Resolution.”

    Today they decided to devote an entire editorioal to just that point alone. (and in the meantime Obama had added, or they had learned of, an attempt to use the 2001 resolution against the planners of the September 11th 2001 attacks as well.)

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  25. One of Obama;s advisers made a mistake:

    Saudi Arabia has a border with Iraq, and ISIS controls that part of Iraq, but not with Syria.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  26. BTW, a shorter explanation of what Obama is doing to this Country is quite simple; He is following Cloward-Piven economic theory. If he is allowed to reach his goal, America will become the 21th century version of the Weimar Republic.

    SNuss (25df35)

  27. “Oslo called. They want their Peace Prize back.”

    As if!

    C. S. P. Schofield (848299)

  28. Here it is:

    ISIL has been I think a galvanizing threat around the Sunni partners in the region. They view it as an existential threat to them. Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Syria…

    Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Iraq. ISIS is in both places but where it is in Syria it’s not near any southern border and the border theer is with Jordan.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  29. Bob Schieffer of CNS was considerably more hawkish than the New York Times.

    While Scott Pelley was back as a anchor last night, (on Wednesday Scott Pelley was in Iraq and just did one story from there) Bob Schieffer was brought in, for some analysis – and I think an editorial: (start listenting at about 45 seconds into this link)

    ……[Obama told us] we can’t negotiate with these people. They must be destroyed…

    Bob Schieffer spoke a bit about how the ironies are inescapable. He said the problems with wars is they are never over until both sides say they are over.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  30. I meant Bob Schieffer of CBS!

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  31. What is a good non-nutty word to describe a President that circumvents Congress and
    the Constitution, as a matter of practice?


    jakee308 (ba1e65)

  32. “What is a good non-nutty word to describe a President that circumvents Congress and
    the Constitution, as a matter of practice?”


    C. S. P. Schofield (848299)

  33. Il Douche is arming those he bombs and will send the surplus war surplus someplace else. Ebola continues its current custom of killing in the last three weeks 1/2 of the total count for this outbreak, 10,000 cases will be reached Sept. 24.

    Some volcano in Iceland continues to erupt and tonight an X1.6 Solar flare reaches Earth, if it clears up I might catch my first aurora since ’96. Japanese yen now trades for over 107 to the greenback, negative interest rates are being paid by EU banks on bonds and deposits.

    Ho, hum.

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  34. 6. Patricia (5fc097) — 9/12/2014 @ 8:27 am

    Congress has been avoiding war declarations since WW II ended. Why is this time different?
    the New York Times doesn’t want a declaration of war, but what they think is the equivalent

    But even the Federalist papers Alexander Hamilton wrote taht declarations of war had fallen out of fashion.

    You know in 1778, France did not declare war.

    The declaration of war provision was there in the constitution for legal reasons – so that it would not be treason to oppose a war unless Congress had declared it. It’s not a restriction on the use of force.

    BTW Libya is the most nonsensical failure of a war in my lifetime.

    It’s not a failure of the war. It’s a failure to win the peace – again.

    Part of the problem is we think there is only one enemy. A mistake you can’t make in syria.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  35. 32. 33. Lincolnesque?

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  36. Malaysia called. They want all their canine protein back.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  37. For Barack Obama, the chickens are truly coming home… to roost!!!

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  38. 34. Ebola.

    The New York Times has an op-ed claiming that people concerned with it are afraid to discuss even among themselves the possiility it may get a mutation and become transmissible by air.

    It won’t get such a mutation – what would it be?

    But it probably already can be transitted that way – except that ebola victims don’t cough much.

    Use common sense.

    Sammy Finkelman (e6d54e)

  39. 39. The number of infected and deceased have been doubling every three weeks for months now, the outbreak for 6.

    What’s interesting about three weeks? Its outside of the exposure to onset period.

    In Liberia especially, the whole infrastructure is failing, no one can get treated for anything, people in affected areas cannot find food or work or go to school.

    It will take approximately 6 months to grow and extract Zmapp in quantity. NYT said current death toll 2300. Double that number 9 times. 2^9 = 512 x 2300 = 1.2 Million dead.

    Looks like we did not order enough Zmapp, don’t it?

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  40. 39. Cont. “It won’t get such a mutation – what would it be?”

    The filoviruses are small negative-sense RNA viruses, say 3000 base pairs comprising like 4 genes. Evidently they have novel mechanisms to extract more genetic information out of there sequence than would be coded in a single pass.

    Because they are so small with a rate of error in transcription of and error per 1000 base pairs and the number of replications on the order of 10 Billion per infected host the pathogen is mutating rapidly. Moreover as a zoonotic disease it is not in its expected host and might be thought to be under evolutionary stress enhancing the rate of mutation.

    The Harvard genomic specialist studing the outbreak insisted it had already mutated 250 times months ago.

    The gene of interest is the attachment protein which links to a receptor on the host cell’s membrane creating a channel of entry, effectively tripping a trap door.

    What is worrisome is that the small virion would once aerosolized have a comparatively long hang time in air, much as the SARS virus.

    To me the rates of infection among health workers, reported as high as 1 in 10, is too high to permit transmission solely by bodily fluid.

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  41. From what I have seen, the 3 Americans infected and brought back to the states are thought to have contracted the illness from people NOT known to have the virus, so in interactions where precautions were not taken.

    gary, I do not know your educational background, but maybe you know more about aspects of virology than I do (which would not be real hard….)
    Behe and others have talked about the “limits of evolution”, how observations of adaptation, such as humans with SS trait for malaria, are generally the product of actually the loss of information of the organism.
    I have thought that it would be interesting to calculate out the reproduction and mutation rate of HIV and compare it to the reproduction of mammalian species since the first mammals appeared. In spite of the prolific reproduction and mutation rate of HIV, it still is HIV essentially. No doc ever considers that somehow HIV has mutated into something that can be transmitted via a respiratory route. My hunch is the history of HIV replication may dwarf the possible number of offspring of the first mammals since they supposedly crawled out of water.
    I’m not staking a scientific career or professional reputation on it, but I think it would be an interesting enterprise for someone who knows more about mathematical modeling than me.

    In the more immediate situation, I think the US media has lost interest in Ebola after the direct US involvement, and are ignoring a catastrophe. From what I have read, there are no hospital beds for sick people, you take a taxi to the hospital, febrile and vomiting, and they have no room for you and send you home with some disposable gloves, some bleach, and some pain killers. I do not see a good answer except coming in after the catastrophe and burying the dead. One might have better survival odds parachuting into ISIS-land with a special ops unit than going to Monrovia to fight Ebola. Maybe I’m wrong, it would be good to be. Perhaps we need a ton of volunteers who have no dependents, older folk with grown kids.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  42. some of those intrepid Japanese nuclear power plant workers don’t have super long lives to look forward to

    happyfeet (a785d5)

  43. I’m reminded of Crichton’s Andromeda strain, the alien organism mutates, but it still propagates, I read Preston and Garrett, twenty years ago, and I’m not sanguine about any of this,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  44. 42. I think your original call that this would be an unimaginable catastrophe for Africa but contained in the West is proving out.

    I have no advanced degrees but about 350 institutional credits. No donuts, just the holes covered.

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  45. I believe they are well past the stage where they can do what they need to, care for people in isolation. They don’t have the facilities. People are either left to die so no one else catches it from the infected person, or people try to do the best they can which is usually not enough.
    They could use a miracle.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  46. Rush to war? What reality do these people live in?

    They just like to say it; feigning shock at the “rush to war” sounds really exciting and ennobling and pacifist! They saw Les Mis and imagine themselves all handsome and brave and waving the flag of something or other, peace, on the barricades, just like in the stage production.

    Patricia (5fc097)

  47. 46. “Miracle”, like the virus mutating away from its zoonotic efficacy. Some believe that is exactly what happened some prior outbreaks.

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  48. 42. “I have thought that it would be interesting to calculate out the reproduction and mutation rate of HIV and compare it to the reproduction of mammalian species”

    Bionomics? I have a book around somewhere, back uncracked, on the subject. And Finite Math, permutations and combinations too.

    Re the attachment receptor: the mammalian genome would be very conservative, as the channel selects for a necessary intercourse, whereas the opportunist pathogen has an incentive to mutate.

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  49. I think a bacteria or virus (especially) that reproduces at an astounding rate “can afford” to be sloppy with it’s nucleic acid replication and survive. More complex organisms with a much larger genome with a much slower reproductive capacity need to make “every opportunity count” and can’t afford to be sloppy with those nucleotides.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  50. More about ebola later.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  51. 38. Colonel Haiku (2601c0) — 9/12/2014 @ 2:43 pm

    For Barack Obama, the chickens are truly coming home… to roost!!!

    Says Lindsey Graham.

    Aug 2013:

    Assad has sized up Obama and he said this, I don’t really believe the guy means what he says, and a weak response by the president reinforces a longer war. And the longer this war goes on, the more likely chemical weapons get into the hands of terrorist organizations. The kind of Jordan is likely to fall. Lebanon and Iraq are falling apart because Syria is a cancer.

    The president has mishandled this as badly as he could. Quite frankly, the chickens have come home to roost from Obama foreign policy of leading from behind and being passive. So a pinprick strike, giving an aspirin to a person who has cancer, is the worst of all worlds.

    This past Sunday he use dthe word roost, without the word chickens:

    ROBERTS: We heard earlier from the White House, for what does Congress think about the president’s plan to defeat ISIS and what role will they play in the weeks and months ahead. Joining us now from South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and here in the studio with me Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat. Senator Graham, let’s start with you. Do you have any faith that the president’s plan is going to work?


    Not much. There’s probably a pony in that interview you did with Denis McDonough, but at the end of the day ISIL has to be encouraged about what was just said. When the White House tells the world we say what we mean and we do what we say, nobody believes that anymore. This is a turning point in the war in terror. We’re fighting a terrorist army, not an organization. It’s going to take an army to beat an army. And this idea we’ll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy. And all this has come home to roost over the last three years of incompetent decisions, so to destroy ISIL, what I was told or what I heard in your interview won’t even come close to destroy ISIL. It’s delusional in the way they approach this.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

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