March 21, 2011

David Weigel smugly mouths a most despicable theory of presidential power.

His post is titled "Why Obama Doesn't Need to Ask Congress Before Attacking Libya." He posits:
It's simple: Most of Washington doesn't want him to. To coin a phrase: If they want the president to do it, that means it's legal.
The allusion is to the famous Nixon quote (which was distorted for effect in ads for the movie "Frost/Nixon"): "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal." Why would Weigel repurpose that quote? Is he criticizing Obama? Nixon asserted that "in war time, a president does have certain extraordinary powers which would make acts that would otherwise be unlawful, lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the nation and the Constitution, which is essential for the rights we’re all talking about."

Does anyone argue that attacking Libya is needed to preserve the United States? But quite aside from that, Nixon was talking about the President stepping up and doing what he thinks is needed. That's entirely different from saying that a structural safeguard entrusted to Congress may be dispensed with whenever Congress doesn't feel like taking responsibility.

Now, possibly Weigel is thinking everyone knows Nixon was wrong — false, but let's assume it — and so presenting a theory in the Nixon format is a way of saying it's wrong. But I think that's way too subtle for Weigel to have intended. I think what he meant was to adopt a political pragmatism, which he imagines Nixon to have used. In that view, the President acquires power when Congress avoids its responsibility. Weigel continues in this vein [quoting Lindsey Graham, with apparent approbation]:
"I don't believe he needs to come to Congress. I'd gladly vote on what he did. I think it's inherent within the authority of the commander-in-chief to take such action."
Such action? What action? Helping out rebels in a foreign country where our national security is not at stake?
"We have been overly cautious, unnervingly indecisive. This thing melted down. I wish we would have acted sooner. I don't feel a need to bless this action before he took it. I'd be glad to vote on it afterwards."
BlessGlad? It's not about your feelings or Congress's avoidance of formal gestures. Either there is a serious constitutional safeguard here or there is not. If there is, it doesn't disappear because you are comfortable without it or because Congress holds back. If there is a constitutional safeguard, it is a permanent guarantee that goes to us, the people.

136 comments:

Lincolntf said...

Oh cripes, must I dissect yet another Weigel shitshow?
Liar.
Loser.
Lamebrain.

Now can I go back to my "Reno 911" re-runs?

Mary said...

Why are you wasting time w/Weigel? An embarrassment to Medill...

Pastafarian said...

Had Obama asked congress for authorization to use military force, they almost certainly would have voted for it.

So why didn't he?

Pastafarian said...

And if they didn't vote for it, then he's off the hook -- he can blame them for the massacre of the rebels and the continued reign of an anti-American dictator, and go back to his golf and NCAA brackets and Rio beaches.

Seriously -- why didn't he?

ThreeSheets said...

@Pastfarian: He would've asked Congress for authorization but it was an emergency. He had an 8:30 tee-off time in Brazil and had to get back to the White House for a 7:30 Santana concert. C'mon, he's the President!

Conserve Liberty said...

Boehner's phone was busy when Obama was at the turn to the back nine.

Big Mike said...

Regardless of whether Weigel is right about the attitudes of the people sitting in Congress, the Constitution simply doesn't stretch that far. Congress was made part of the decision to go to war as a specific part of the system of checks and balances.

Here's what I don't get about Weigel and the rest of what Lee Stranahan dubbed the "lockstep liberals." Do they think they'll always hold the presidency? Don't they think this is a terrible precedent to establish?

Lincolntf said...

The Commander in Chief can order whatever military action he wants, wherever he wants, whenever he wants. The Generals don't wait for Congress.

mesquito said...

Yet the president, with this brief set of remarks, has crafted something of an Obama Doctrine for military intervention: The United States will join in a multilateral fight for democracy and humanitarian aims when it is in the nation’s interest and when the locals are involved and desire US participation. In short, the Anti-Bush Doctrine.
---
Can a no-fly zone work at this point? Is it possible to protect Libyan civilians from Qaddafi’s wrath—the raison d’ĂȘtre of the UN resolution—without placing boots on the ground? The challenge at hand may be more akin to Rwanda than Iraq.

-David Corn

http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/libya-obama-anti-bush-doctrine

I invite one of you Lefties to unpack that for me.

vbspurs said...

A commenter in the Slate article wrote something I've been thinking of since the Libyan crisis began, but didn't know how to formulate it as legal justification.

Since there is no "statute of limitations" on "Acts of War" -the Lockerbie Bombing gives Obama a clear basis for this.
a) it was sovereign US Soil (all US Flagged airplanes are "ships" who's are part of sovereign US territory)
b) it was an attack
c) no peace treaty was ever signed.


I wonder if the freed Lockerbie bomber, al-Megrahi, is quaking in some Libyan villa, as he "dies" from his cancer.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt said...

I believe Obama should have asked Congress for authorization to use military force.

BUT.

I don't see this as being any different from Reagan's invasion of Grenada, Reagan's attacks in Libya at Tripoli and (ironically) Benghazi, Bush Sr.'s invasion of Panama, Bush Sr.'s deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia, Clinton's deployment of troops into Hati, Clinton's airstrikes against Yugoslavia and US involvement with the Bosnian conflict, Clinton sending US armed forces into combat with Somalia's Unified Task Force and UNOSOM I and II, Clinton's airstrikes in Afghanistan and Sudan... (And those are just the examples after the passing of the War Powers Act-there are many, many examples of Presidents entering US into wars without express prior authorization from Congress, including the Korean War and elements of the Vietnam War.)

I disagree with many of John Yoo's work at the Office of Legal Counsel, and while I don't necessarily support his conclusions in his September 25, 2001 memo "THE PRESIDENT'S CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY TO CONDUCT MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST TERRORISTS AND NATIONS SUPPORTING THEM," it does give a decent history of military action without Congressional authorization. http://www.justice.gov/olc/warpowers925.htm

This just isn't anything new.

PETER V. BELLA said...

The people? When has Congress ever cared about the people?

steve said...

Most of what you're attributing to Weigel is him blockquoting Lindsey Graham. (If you're using an RSS reader, sometimes it screws up blockquoting.)

Steve Koch said...

The constitution as written is amazing but our politicians and judges have done their best to bypass it.

There is no doubt that congress lets the president wage war without consulting congress. This way congress does not have to go on record re: the war. Congress shares a large part of the responsibility for the creation of the imperial presidency.

In particular, Republican politicians have not defended the constitution rigorously, passionately, energetically, and courageously. This is a shame because if the Republicans don't defend the constitution, who will?

Dems are happy to see the constitution eroded and bypassed because the constitution impedes the expansion of government power (so you can't expect Dem politicians to defend the constitution).

The Republicans are often clueless about what to do. Persistently defending the constitution would be a good first step.

Ann Althouse said...

"The people? When has Congress ever cared about the people?"

It doesn't matter whether they care. Weigel purports to talk about what the Constitution means. The abuse of power remains an abuse of power whether anyone cares or not. That's my point.

ricpic said...

A partial answer to Pastafarian's question might be that a debate in Congress, even if it were short and ended with approval, would have forced the Obama administration to present both a Lybian strategy and a Lybian endgame, neither of which exist.

Julius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"Most of what you're attributing to Weigel is him blockquoting Lindsey Graham. (If you're using an RSS reader, sometimes it screws up blockquoting.)"

Sorry. I knew there were blockquotes. I think Weigel adopts them as his own theory. I've tweaked the post to make that clear.

Mary said...

Why are you wasting time w/Weigel?

(Nevermind. Prolly reminds you of your son...)

Ann Althouse said...

"There is no doubt that congress lets the president wage war without consulting congress. This way congress does not have to go on record re: the war. Congress shares a large part of the responsibility for the creation of the imperial presidency."

My point is that Congress does not have the power to give away power that was not created for the pleasure and convenience of Congress. It was created as a safeguard for the people. If there is law here, it can be violated. That fact that is is violated doesn't eradicate the violation.

Michael K said...

Weigel is a punk. I keep seeing these 25 year old kids who don't know any history writing as if someone should pay attention to them.

Klein is another one. They don't know what they don't know. God ! If only Rumsfeld was 10 years younger !

vbspurs said...

BTW, the optics of the South American tour are awful, just awful.

Visiting Corcovado with Michelle and the girls

Cheering a Capoeira display

There's great wine in Chile

Imagine if George Bush had gone on a tour of Brazil and Chile, after US sending troops into battle.

MY GOD, WHO ADVISES THIS MAN.

Cheers,
Victoria

Lem said...

Obama's so called transformative presidency is becoming more unrecognisable by the hour.

Julius said...

I can imagine Mark Anthony putting forth the exact same "despicable" theory that David Weigel is touting.

Or a more recent example: Look at Russia after the Wall fell. The lack of a legislative body with any strength, combined with a willingness to ceed power to a strongman Alpha male, has made Putin into a dictator in all but name... just like Augustus.

Obama is building upon the work of Bush II and is turning the Presidency into a temporary dictatorship. During his tenture, his regime decide the national interpretation of the law, and his regime selectively enforces the subset of our myriad rules and regulations that suit them. The promised transparency has long since been abandoned. He doesn't answer to the press. He certainly doesn't answer to the public will (and we have more polls than at any time in history... oh so many polls!!!)

I support the action in Libya. It should have happened sooner. But that does not excuse the larger, and more insidious, plan that Obama has seem to have undertaken.

Althouse said...

The abuse of power remains an abuse of power whether anyone cares or not. That's my point.

You could have said that to Marius, to Sulla, to my namesake J.C., and on and on and on... Perhaps it is just human nature to want to have one man at the top to defer to, and to blame if need be.

MikeDC said...

Weigel is an asshole, but unfortunately he is exactly right.

Why do we have an imperial presidency twisted beyond any recognizable Constitutional form?

Because we (our elected legislators) allowed it. Over and over again until the President doesn't even bother to ask for permission.

Yes, legally the Congress could meet tonight and put an immediate stop to this by ordering the President to withdraw from this conflict.

I'm not holding my breath.

DADvocate said...

Rules and laws are for the little people. The aristocracy can do as it pleases because it is the aristocracy.

Lem said...

Sending troops into harms way is the most serious decision a president can make..

I get the sense this attack on Libya has been decided in a cavalier manner.

Mostly because Obama is not doing much talking about it.. for one.

For a guy who loves to tell people to have conversations about every little thing?

wtf?

Simon said...

Pastafarian said...
"Had Obama asked congress for authorization to use military force, they almost certainly would have voted for it. So why didn't he? … And if they didn't vote for it, then he's off the hook -- he can blame them for the massacre of the rebels and the continued reign of an anti-American dictator, and go back to his golf and NCAA brackets and Rio beaches. Seriously -- why didn't he?"

I had been assuming that he saw the light and realized that he didn't need to. But a commenter at Volokh this morning offered a disturbing alternative possibility: He may have felt that the UN's blessing was more pertinent. I'll let Bart DePalma speak for himself: "I would suggest that Obama is not so much exercising “executive supremacy” as he is implementing the left’s developing doctrine of UN supremacy. Obama did indeed seek permission to go to war — from the UN." That's pretty good, and troubling.

Nevertheless, in this case, the stakes are unusually low. Congress is still debating this year's budget. If they feel that the President has overstepped his powers, they have ample (and unusually immediate) recourse. Who knows, perhaps this will break the budget logjam, uniting small government budget cutters with incensed liberal doves?

Mary said...

Y'all missed Ralph Macchio and Kirstie Alley debuting on DWTH, to take Dave Weigel seriously...

Stick w/your bread and butter, Professor ?

Mary said...

dwtS, rather.

madawaskan said...

This just isn't anything new.

It's something that's been discussed since the Cold War.

Does the Congress have the code to the nuclear football?

Why or why not?

So we could say that technology might ask the Constitution to bend because of time critical constraints but then someone left this in the comments section at Patterico's:

I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensabale means, that government — that nation — of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it.

-Abraham Lincoln

enicar333 said...

It is all about oil, peak oil, and the price of oil. Begin here, with "Economics and National Security: Issues and Implications for US Policy" http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41589.pdf

Next, read about the "Joint Operating Environment", official DOD policy, that includes, amongst other threats, energy and peak oil. Libya, because of oil, is an issue of National Security, hence Obamas action.
http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf

These documents should prove enlightening.

Maguro said...

Did Clinton ask Congress before we started bombing the crap out of Serbia? I can't remember.

Quaestor said...

Big Mike wrote: Here's what I don't get about... the "lockstep liberals." Do they think...? Don't they think... ?

There's your problem right before your eyes. Coupling "liberals" and "think" in the same paragraph is asking for trouble.

madawaskan said...

Preemptively I am only making those references to support the fact that this discussion is nothing new.

Julius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
enicar333 said...

Since the price of a barrel of oil affects GDP and can cause a recession, it is a matter of National Security. Here are some facts regarding that. http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2011/02/libya_oil_price.html

Lem said...

Did Clinton ask Congress before we started bombing the crap out of Serbia? I can't remember.

Clinton's 'wag the dog' didn't need congressional approval ;)

enicar333 said...

OOPS. I'll try that link again.
http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2011/02/libya_oil_price.html

AJ Lynch said...

David Corn wrote:
" The United States will join in a multilateral fight for democracy and humanitarian aims when it is in the nation’s interest and when the locals are involved and desire US participation. "

When the locals ...desire US participation? How do we know that? Are we psychics? Jeez- I got so tired of seeing the Madison protestors claim they were in the majority when they just lost an election! Now librul Corn can intuit whether the Libyan protestors represented the majority.

Robert said...

Ms Althouse: For what it's worth, I took Mr. Weigel's post as a descriptive, not normative, piece.

Rialby said...

Is it just me or have Garage and Jeremy and Alpha been completely missing on these Libyan war threads? What's up with that? Don't they want to come out and debate the merits of BHO's decision to take us to war under the auspices of a UN declaration?

Come on out guys and make yourselves heard.

blum_michael2 said...

"My point is that Congress does not have the power to give away power that was not created for the pleasure and convenience of Congress. It was created as a safeguard for the people. If there is law here, it can be violated. That fact that is is violated doesn't eradicate the violation."

So, if this is the case, what exactly, do we do about it?

If the President and Congress are violating law and refusing to follow Constitutional safeguards, what options are there? The federal courts? What would/could they do? The Supreme Court declaring these actions illegal and ordering us out of Libya while ordering Congress how to act in the future?

David said...

The courts are not the sole enforcers of the Constitution. Congress and the Executive have identical responsibilities, which is why they take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

But Congress and the President, as elected officials, are deep in the electoral game of avoiding responsibility and accountability. Next to fundraising, it is their most prevalent activity.

The avoidance game is why we are on the lead up to a monumental financial crisis arising from government deficits. It is why our government will act only when the crisis is imminent, greatly reducing their options. This will be a shocking moment for our nation and the world, a point when we will need our constitutional protections more than ever.

madAsHell said...

Mr. Weigel isn't very smart. He can't remember what he wrote yesterday.

traditionalguy said...

wait a minute here. The leaving of the US Congress totally out of this governmental decision is no big deal unless you are a traditional American. the UN has authorize its Viceroy for World Military Matters and he has done what he was told to do. The American Congress, representing Americans, is acting mighty arrogant to ask for a primary role in hindrance of efficient World Governance.

Michael K said...

"Or a more recent example: Look at Russia after the Wall fell. The lack of a legislative body with any strength, combined with a willingness to ceed power to a strongman Alpha male, has made Putin into a dictator in all but name... just like Augustus.

Obama is building upon the work of Bush II and is turning the Presidency into a temporary dictatorship. "

You don't mention Yeltsin, the hero of the Russian modern revolution. He was undermined by US "experts" who supported Obama in 2010, like Sachs.

Lem said...

Somebody told Obama Jimmy Carter had been the last president not to start a war.. and Obama said..

I'm no Jimmy Carter.
Prepare to attack Libya.

The Crack Emcee said...

Mary,

Why are you wasting time w/Weigel?

I'm not picking on you, but just using your quote as an example - why do some of you insist on avoiding the point? This isn't about Weigel but a constitutional guarantee.

I tried to make the same point on the Russ Feingold/My Direct Democracy thread - what was important wasn't whether or not Russ Feingold spoke or played a role in Wisconsin protests (which is what everyone insisted on discussing) but that a bogus astrology outfit has taken a major role in directing American politics on the Left.

Why does this happen? Why this inablity to focus on what's important? What made David Weigel more worthy of comment than our constitutional guarantees?

I just don't get it.

Lem said...

Maybe Obama is going to war under a Pelosi era 'self executing' rule.

The War has been 'deemed' approved.

edutcher said...

What Weigel implies about The Zero, that most of what he does is illegal, is perhaps the rationale the Demos will use if it becomes necessary for them to turn on him ($6/gal gas, 20+ U-6, etc.) if they want to hang onto the black vote in '12.

Pastafarian said...

And if they didn't vote for it, then he's off the hook -- he can blame them for the massacre of the rebels and the continued reign of an anti-American dictator, and go back to his golf and NCAA brackets and Rio beaches.

Seriously -- why didn't he?


He's a citizen of the world. Besides, he's no American in the sense of how he sees himself, the only reason he's POTUS is to destroy the country, just like Mommy the Commie wanted.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt said...

I believe Obama should have asked Congress for authorization to use military force.

BUT.

I don't see this as being any different from Reagan's invasion of Grenada, Reagan's attacks in Libya at Tripoli and (ironically) Benghazi, Bush Sr.'s invasion of Panama, Bush Sr.'s deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia, Clinton's deployment of troops into Hati, Clinton's airstrikes against Yugoslavia and US involvement with the Bosnian conflict, Clinton sending US armed forces into combat with Somalia's Unified Task Force and UNOSOM I and II, Clinton's airstrikes in Afghanistan and Sudan... (And those are just the examples after the passing of the War Powers Act-there are many, many examples of Presidents entering US into wars without express prior authorization from Congress, including the Korean War and elements of the Vietnam War.)


They may not have had a vote, but Congress, or at least the leadership or the Chairmen or members of certain key Committees were consulted or informed in one way or another.

AJ Lynch said...

Rialby asked:
"Is it just me or have Garage and Jeremy and Alpha been completely missing on these Libyan war threads? "

It must be you, I am not missing them. :)

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Blah blah blah blah blah no one cares.

What you missed was Weigel's proof of Republican incoherence: They want American presidents to declare war on random Arab tyrants in order to appear hawkish and tough, but they just resent that Obama's the one doing it.

AKA: Waaaaaah!

GOP Supporting The Strategy, Not Obama.

The Republicans shall now be officially known as The Party of the Never-Ending Tantrum. It's not enough that you do what they themselves want done; the little brats think that they deserve to do it on their own.

Waaaaaah!

Bob Ellison said...

The power to declare war, vested solely in Congress, is similar to the right to bear arms, vested solely in the people, because lefties and righties alike have troubles with these restrictions.

Look, Nixon was an opportunist who would do just about anything for power. Obama seems to be similar. There's not a lot of distance between their dedication to principles.

A.M. Daly said...

Weigel is a registered Republican and an editor for Reason Magazine, both interesting choices for a "lockstep liberal."

In addition, Ann basically ignores the fact that several of the positions she ascribes to him are in fact the positions of Lindsey Graham. There's nothing in Weigel's piece that comes off as his deeply held personal convictions - he's describing the current lack of political will to go on legislative record for or against military action in Libya. Which is one of the major reasons why nobody with the authority to do so is making a serious push for it.

Ann Althouse has had a weird, long-standing vendetta against successful young journalists (see when she completely flew off the handle after the "Journolist" "scandal").

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Ann Althouse has had a weird, long-standing vendetta against successful young journalists (see when she completely flew off the handle after the "Journolist" "scandal").

Bingo.

She has a long-standing vendetta against anyone who gets in the way of her saying stupid things, defending them to the hilt, and expecting adulation for doing so.

This blog basically has the following format:

Ann states ridiculous opinion.

She defends it vociferously and holds to it tenaciously.

Do you not love her now, big world of the internet?

This is actually a common behavioral trait on the right:

One thing they understand very well at Fox, and in the conservative movement more generally, is the political value of shamelessness. As long as you say what you're saying with conviction, it doesn't matter how absurd or hypocritical it is. You may not get the majority of the public to agree with you, but you can get a good number. ... As a result, conservatives may not win every argument, but they almost never get routed completely.

What do you expect from people who have no respect for reason? All they have is blind conviction.

paul a'barge said...

Now, possibly Weigel is thinking...

Nope. Not even close.

Quaestor said...

madawaskan wrote: Does the Congress have the code to the nuclear football? Why or why not?

Answer: No
Why: Article I, section 8, clause 11 gives congress the power to declare war, however Article II, section 2, clause 1, which designates the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Whether or not to use nukes is a question of higher strategy, i.e. a question for a military commander, which the president is by constitutional mandate. Congress has only very limited authority to influence military matters, what power it does have is mostly confined to appropriations. Congressional approval is also required for promotion of officers to general or admiral grade, so theoretically Congress can have a minor influence on who gets what command by excluding certain officers from the appropriate rank for a given field command; yet theater commanders can get around that because they can brevet anyone under their command to fill any vacancy.

Since the constitution doesn't stipulate the form of a war declaration Congress might try to limit or constrain the military by the terms of the declaration or war authorization. For example, let's suppose congress passes a resolution authorizing military action against Col. Qaddafi and his forces, but expressly forbids the use of ground forces. Obama could take that all the authorization he needs constitutionally to take whatever military action he deems appropriate, and simultaneously ignore the provisions of the resolution which unconstitutionally intrude on the president's role as C-in-C.

Mark said...

So Ritmo, are you fer it or are you agin' it?

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Who cares, Mark? There are many ways to skin a cat and many turns that history can take.

The point is that this is an international effort, led by the French and agreed to by the Security Council - the deviation from which is what led to such dissatisfaction with the Bush regime. So Obama's doing exactly what he campaigned on and the country wanted: regaining the legitimacy that comes from maintaining real coalitions.

In the long-run, I don't think acting against Qaddafi will accomplish much and see it as more of a folly, but a minor one.

Plus, his fashion sense is outrageously cool and he is a too nutty a world leader to force an exit from the stage. It would be a huge hit to political entertainment to see him go.

We need someone as goofy as Qaddafi on the world stage. In the end, it's not like we can't get him to do what we want anyway.

bagoh20 said...

"The point is that this is an international effort, led by the French "

Not unless John Kerry won the 2008 election?

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Right Bag. Because the 2008 election was such a vindication of W's swaggering unilateralism.

AST said...

Who will rid us of these juvenile "journalists" dispensing legal opinions without a breath of authority or qualification?

The Obama Doctrine seems to be "Follow the crowd."

I think that Obama has mentally quit being President, and is just lining up a bunch of family trips around the world. What qualifications does he have to negotiate a trade agreement. He doesn't even know how the economy works. He seems to have ceded the presidency to Hillary Clinton.

Maguro said...

Yes...if only W hadn't been such a swaggering unilateralist he would have won the 2008 election in a landslide.

AST said...

Professor Althouse,

Could you clarify this paragraph:

My point is that Congress does not have the power to give away power that was not created for the pleasure and convenience of Congress. It was created as a safeguard for the people.

That much I understood. But this part not so much:
If there is law here, it can be violated. That fact that is is violated doesn't eradicate the violation.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Maguro avoids the point by pretending that deciding how far to differentiate himself from W's policies wasn't a major issue for McCain in 2008.

bagoh20 said...

As long as Obama don't swagger, the bombs don't hurt nobody.

Quaestor said...

Maguro avoids the point by pretending that deciding how far to differentiate himself from W's policies wasn't a major issue for McCain in 2008.

This wouldn't be much of problem today, given Obama's ratification of Bush's policies, now would it?

Maguro said...

Ritmo - The war was indeed a problem for the Republicans, but not because it was too "unilateral" but simply because it didn't go as well as expected.

Having the UN's blessing wouldn't have made a bit of difference.

bagoh20 said...

If this was being led by the French, Kudauphee would already be marching into Paris.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

You go save those Lybian rebels, Bag'O. And then you can save the children everywhere else with Sally Struthers. She's a good 'ole humanitarian also who only gets distracted by pointy-headed realpolitik and the like. I realize that America's interests should take a backseat to every little humanitarian ideal, according to you. I just didn't know when you became liberal enough to think so.

The helicopter for your one-man raid to save every militant is nearly ready, CEO Bag 'O. Would you like coffee or tea on your flight and Grey Poupon, as well? We know that saving the peace is taxing work and we wouldn't want such a man of privilege as yourself to go without the creature comforts while getting your arms dirty and your white collar shirt stained.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Ritmo - The war was indeed a problem for the Republicans, but not because it was too "unilateral" but simply because it didn't go as well as expected.

Having the UN's blessing wouldn't have made a bit of difference.


Um, politically speaking, Obama isn't supposed to be fighting this skirmish or any war solely for the benefit of Republicans, dude. So yes, the multilateralism benefits him. As much as success in any mission would benefit any president.

The self-centeredness of these perspectives you propose is getting a little out of hand, no?

former law student said...

The US was at war with Tripoli for a year without Congressional authorization while Jefferson was President, though he did send them a note.

Mark said...

Ritmo: "Who cares, Mark? There are many ways to skin a cat and many turns that history can take."

Well, Ritmo, I seem to recall you had your panties in a wad about all the supposed liberties W. took with regard to Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

And now, you say, "Well, Bush did it, so all you conservatives can suck it."

So, the question is, now that your Won is in the hot seat, will you or will you not "show your quality" and rip him like you did W?

I think not. In the end, there really isn't a good way to skin a skunk. (I will agree that history will show the truth. Good luck with that.)

bagoh20 said...

That was Sally Struthers? I can't tell her from Hillary anymore. I know the guy being pushed into the fight was Erkel, but I had no idea, Sally Struthers was the one with the balls.

Quaestor said...

AST wrote: Could you clarify this paragraph...

This is how I took Ann's point Ann's point, if I may be so bold: Congressional abdication of its responsibility to authorize military action not immediately defensive in nature does not bestow that authorization by default, just as the failure of the 111th Congress to pass a budget did not authorize Obama to spend money on whatever he please to any amount he cared to spend.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I think not. In the end, there really isn't a good way to skin a skunk. (I will agree that history will show the truth. Good luck with that.)

IN the end, historians don't often agree even with each other.

I bunched up no panties regarding Iraq or Afghanistan. You recall incorrectly. I agree with Maguro that Iraq went horribly for W. in a political sense because it took a hell of a lot longer than W. wanted for anything resembling success to happen, there. But that's his problem and goes to competency, not the rightness or wrongness of being there - which is really secondary anyway, no?

You guys should embrace ambiguity and competence more. Your concern for moral absolutism is touching, and I like the fact that you place America at the forefront of that mission globally. But it's a much more theological goal than anything else.

We can do the right thing, it's just not usually as easy or clear a route as you guys always assume. Better to focus on doing the smaller, productive goals more competently than some big, grand moral mission incompetently. At least insofar as general rules go. Exceptions granted but not as a matter of course.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Ritmo sez, since it's okey-doke with the Yoo-nited Nations, Obama don't need no stinkin' Congress.

Ann Althouse said...

"That much I understood. But this part not so much: 'If there is law here, it can be violated. That fact that is is violated doesn't eradicate the violation.'"

I'm saying that it's an error in reasoning to think that because the law is violated that the law doesn't exist. It's wrong to think that the violation of the law somehow rewrites the law, that the practice of how people behave tells us what the scope of the law is. But some people will argue that. For example, you could say that because everyone is driving 80 in a 60 mph zone that the speed limit has become 80. What do you think? Is the speed limit 60 or 80? Weigel's argument is like saying the speed limit becomes 80.

Now, it might be that in a complex area like presidential power, we learn what the scope of the power is by seeing how Presidents act in real situations.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I should clarify my above comment: I have and had no ethical problem with the mission insofar as it was defined in Iraq. Never did. Tactics are a different issue, of course, both in diplomacy as in internal administration (Abu Ghraib). These were political nightmares for the administration - the former in our domestic politics and the latter abroad, ironically enough.

I really don't need no Dudley Doo-right going around vindicating his dad. As I said, Bush's invasion of Iraq is fine as far as it goes. His incompetence in how he waged it and the way he allowed it to blinker him from paying attention to the economy, however, are to his shame and backfired horribly on his party - as they should have.

That's life.

Mark said...

Ritmo: But that's his problem and goes to competency, not the rightness or wrongness of being there - which is really secondary anyway, no?

Well, my recollection of the state of your panties may or may not be accurate re: W's adventures, but WTF? Are you really saying if the President, acting arbitrarily, gets the "correct" outcome, it's all good?

This is not liberalism, or progressivism. It certainly isn't conservatism. I leave it for the slow student to determine what it might be.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Who's to say what's "arbitary", Mark? A president so hell-bent on avenging his dad that he could have been described in a Shakespeare play? Nope, nothing arbitrary about that kind of a motivation in your presidency. Nothing at all.

former law student said...

It's wrong to think that the violation of the law somehow rewrites the law

Good summary. Weigel misrepresents his quoted speakers as obnoxiously as possible.

Mark said...

Ritmo, this is why you change identities. I really can't be bothered to go through a few thousand posts and your four or five avatars to show that you're bobbing and weaving like a cat on an LSD/Catnip highball.

FWIW, I think Obama is simply mailing it in and letting Hillary do her thang in this one. I can think of arguments that the administration could have made about supporting allies (under treaty) in the time of war that did not require anyone to propose that the action was in our immediate defense. No one bothered because no one could be bothered.

On a totally law-free plane, I have no problem with bombing the shit out of Daffy.

But on the "reality" plane you claim to occupy, this was screwed up start-to-wherever-we-are-now.

Meanwhile, Obama's Current Excellent Vacation continues.

Quaestor said...

Ann, did you delete my reply to madawaskan?

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I guess you lost me at the part where I assumed you had a point, Mark.

But I get it. We get to bomb an Arab tyrant and that part you're really jazzed up about. Yep, what's the point of having an arbitrary sense of conviction unless you can get your rocks off on the idea of bombing forces loyal to an Arab tyrant? One must have some purpose or another for living, I suppose.

Mark said...

Ritmo, don't get literary. Bush Sr. didn't need avenging. FWIW, I don't get the impression that W has the sturm und drang that makes for good tragidrama.

Let's face it, by your standards he's just not bright enough to be complicated.

We could do the radical thing and actually examine the Bush Doctrine, as described here, following included references and those we dig up ourselves, and look for some kind of Freudian influence, or we could just argue your made-up shit.

Mark said...

"But I get it. We get to bomb an Arab tyrant and that part you're really jazzed up about."

Actually, I'm not jazzed up about it, because I'm not sure it's the right thing to do in the real world.

Thanks for elevating the conversation.

former law student said...

The leaving of the US Congress totally out of this governmental decision is no big deal unless you are a traditional American. the UN has authorize its Viceroy for World Military Matters and he has done what he was told to do.

Impeach Harry Truman!

Mark said...

BTW, I'm not sure if you meant to put a misspelling that I did not make (although I will admit to many misspellings on Gore's Intertubes, this was one I did not make) in quotes. If not, a courteous person would apologize.

Again, I'm not holding my breath.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Ok, Mark. So if W. didn't just want to avenge his daddy then it also had to do with picking the PNAC guys who ran his oval office for him. Not quite the same as having Hillary lead Obama around by the short and curlies, but similar enough.

Using the word "doctrine" to describe the time-honored gang (and imperial) tactic of taking out someone, anyone in the same bad neighborhood where you were attacked is about as literary as a neologism invented by one of Tony Soprano's crew. But I get it. The right wing takes a thought process wherever they can find one.

FWIW, that's not entirely the wrong thing to do, either. But don't kid yourself by deeming it thoughtful.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Oh Jeezus, Mark. It was a typo. Here's ur apologee.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I never said that I thought bombing Libya was a good idea either.

It's consensus for consensus' sake.

I don't think it will go horribly provided it doesn't escalate. But at this point it's a minor skirmish to placate the French, appease the Arabs and put on the appearance of a united front in the cause of something trifling. Compared to what's actually happened in Tunis, Egypt, Bahrain, etc., the political outcome in Libya is about as important as a speck of sand.

I'm not sure where we really disagree. What are you even fighting with me about anyway, at this point?

Mark said...

Quotes matter. Thank you, Ritmo.

The rest of my critique of you pseudo-psychological analysis of the origins of the Bush Doctrine stands. Especially considering that it seems to be still in effect.

Remember: Be the strong horse.

Mark said...

Ritmo, the basic problem is you can't conceive of a "conservative" having two brain cells that actually communicate with one another.

I'd say the protests in Syria are much more important than what's happening in Libya, and that the opposition movement in Iran is the most important thing we should be supporting if we believe in a truly Liberal world.

I will vote for anyone in 2012 who gets this. So far, the Won is in...

Brazil!

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I would have a lot more respect for conservatives who plead to be thought of as intelligent if they had any respect at all for expertise. Also big with me: prioritizing reason over conviction, especially when it's conviction just for conviction's sake.

That said, what makes you think that what happens in Syria is so important, other than the fact that "you'd say" that it is? (Why even bring it up in relation to Libya, whose insignificance we are already discussing anyway? Why distract from its insignificance in relation to real revolutions in three countries as opposed to a hypothetical one in the backwater of Syria?) And another challenge: What makes you think the opposition movement in Iran will go anywhere, let alone how our kind words in themselves will help it go anywhere?

Or were you thinking of opening up a third front for actual hostilities and ground troops in the Bush Doctrine's stealth democracy agenda?

Revenant said...

What is the difference between being "indecisive" and simply deciding not to help?

dave in boca said...

Weigel is the most preposterous fraud among the many bogus phonies on SLATE. And with Jake Weisberg in charge, that's saying a lot.

kent said...

Every time Ritmo starts lisping with his trademarked teddy bear grandiloquence, re: his uniquely bucktoothed notions on the subject of comparative intelligence: even the very youngest of children unfailingly collapse in helpless cases of the giggles.

Rather akin to watching a clubfoot tromping and lurching about the stage, in a doomed, desperate attempt to bumble her way through Swan Lake.

Steve Koch said...

"My point is that Congress does not have the power to give away power that was not created for the pleasure and convenience of Congress. It was created as a safeguard for the people. If there is law here, it can be violated. That fact that is is violated doesn't eradicate the violation."

OK, but in the real world congress has given this power (as opposed to right or duty) to wage war unilaterally to the presidency by abdicating their responsibility. That part of the constitution still exists but has no real world impact unless somebody invokes it and forces the president to get congressional approval before he goes to war.

The constitution has to be defended in the real world to have a real world effect (rather than just a theoretical effect). Without defense, it will gradually become a dead letter (interesting intellectually but without much impact in the real world).

The question is how do you force those who are supposed to defend the constitution to actually do so when it is inconvenient. Does the constitution answer that question?

The Republicans should be defending the constitution but have a done a terrible job for many years. It is amusing (and discouraging) that the Dems are the ones actually defending the constitution WRT the Libyan war, rather than the Republicans.

Revenant said...

If Congress wants the President to get away with it, then in a sense the intent of the declaration of war power is being met; Congress is authorizing war, albeit implicitly instead of explicitly.

It is still bad precedent, but hardly the first such.

shana said...

Conservatives for Better Mental Health said:
We need someone as goofy as Qaddafi on the world stage.
I bet those women and children his goons are brutally murdering might disagree.
You have no heart, no compassion, no morality.

Revenant said...

The US was at war with Tripoli for a year without Congressional authorization while Jefferson was President, though he did send them a note.

Congress authorized the use of military force by Jefferson. They just didn't issue a formal declaration of war.

rhhardin said...

I wish somebody would take another look at the commerce clause, if structural safeguards are suddenly so important.

Freder Frederson said...

The abuse of power remains an abuse of power whether anyone cares or not. That's my point.

My God, you truly are a hack and a shill. Where was all this concern during the eight years of the Bush administration where he regularly subverted the constitution, including illegally torturing people? Why none of this nail-biting when we went to war with two countries without a declaration of war as required by the Constitution (and the administration never claimed that the authorization to use force was a declaration of war)? And one of those wars was of dubious legality and certainly not connected to the war against Al Qaeda in any way. No, then, protecting us was of paramount concern, damn the constitution.

Bush was a good man trying to do what was best for the country and all was forgiven.

eve said...

Feeder. We are done talking about gwb we are on to Obama, the lying bloodthirsty corporate puppet needlessly bombing brown people. Where is your outrage at this gross display of hubris?

Paco Wové said...

<slap> FREDER! <slap> WAKE UP! <slap> <slap>SNAP OUT OF IT! BOOOOSSSHHHH ISN'T PRESIDENT ANYMORE!

Erik said...

I'd be more willing to accept this view of the Constitution if the rules hadn't been bent from the very beginning, before 1800. Which they were. The fact is, the historical evidence for the acceptance of the status quo is overwhelming. It might be unwise and foolish (I tend to think that it is), but it's hard to call something unconstitutional when it's been being done since a time when the people who actually signed the Constitution were ruling. I'd favor a change to require congressional assent prior to action (except in circumstances where there is an immediate threat), but the truth is that this is not how things have been from the beginning.

Roger J. said...

As others have pointed out US presidents have waged military action without congressional "approval" eg; without declarations of war since John Adams fought a naval war with france. Nothing new

And I agree with those who identify the problem with a feckless congress who are willing to let the president take the fall--rather like voting "present"

And as a matter of interest events in Syria are much more significant in the mid east IMO--and we are nowhere to be seen. Syria has the potential to become a proxy war with Iran.

George said...

The simple reason why Obama didn't ask Congress for authorization on this before doing it is:

Obama and Hillary did not plan ahead.

That's the entire reason.

AllenS said...

If obama wants to waterboard the fuck out of Freder, he's got my backing.

AllenS said...

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt said...
I don't see this as being any different from Reagan's invasion of Grenada,.

There were a lot of American students at a medical school in Grenada. That was our mission. To get those students out of harms way. There aren't any American students in Libya that need saving.

AllenS said...

Today should be the third day of Americans bombing Libya. I wonder what the bill is. $100 million? $200 million? More?

AllenS said...

David Weigel, Journolist member. Liar, obama apologist.

Comrade X said...

Ann Althouse has had a weird, long-standing vendetta against successful young journalists (see when she completely flew off the handle after the "Journolist" "scandal").

Dave Weigel thought it was ethical for journalists to belong to a secret news shaping organization.

It's simple: Most of Washington doesn't want him to. To coin a phrase: If they want the president to do it, that means it's legal

It's simpler: If the president is left wing, the left wing media will never call him on it.

laddy said...

I don't think the President was going to get involved until Hillary, Rice, the French, and the British shamed him into it. The Colonel was about to wipe out his rebels. The UN finally saw that and acted. At that point it was too late to get approval in advance from Congress. It's part of the President's unfortunate method of operation involving dithering and leaving the heavy lifting to others. Had he gone to Congress for war authority when all this began weeks ago and the rebels controlled most of Libya, he might have scared The Colonel into leaving the country with his stolen wealth. I know, he hardly scares anyone, but it might have worked and saved some lives and treasure. Heck, W scared the Crazy Colonel enough to give up his WMD. That said why the heck is he out of country hodgepodging when he should be explaining himself. What a putz.

Maguro said...

So Freder...are you for this illegal war or against it?

highnumber said...

Sorry. I knew there were blockquotes. I think Weigel adopts them as his own theory. I've tweaked the post to make that clear.

Even a casual read of Weigel makes it clear that he is not offering his opinion but rather his insight as to how the politicians operate. If anything, one might infer from his commenting on this that he does not approve of the politicians operating this way.

AllenS said...

Telephaph.co.uk
The two crew members on the F-15E fighter jet both ejected, suffering minor injuries.

One was quickly picked up by a US military helicopter. The other is said to be "safe" after being rescued by Libyan rebels.

The US miltary said their forces were in the process of having him recovered.


We might be a little closer to having boots on the ground.

damikesc said...

Graham is a lucky beneficiary of Sanford's meltdown because Mark could've taken him in an election fairly easily.

kent said...

FREDER! WAKE UP! SNAP OUT OF IT! BOOOOSSSHHHH ISN'T PRESIDENT ANYMORE!

Frederson gets weepy and hysterical whenever the notion of actually having to defend the Jug-Eared Jesus' massive bombing and killing of innocent brown people is concerned.

kent said...

Today should be the third day of Americans bombing Libya. I wonder what the bill is. $100 million? $200 million? More?

"... ummmmmmmm... errrrrrr... ahhhhhhhh... EVERYBODY SAMBAAAAAA -- !!!"

/leftard

Jum said...

I notice that Weigel doesn't say that CINC acts are okay if "the people" want him to do it. No, it's only if "Washington" wants him to. By which I'm sure he also means those oh-so-bright journalists who cover the town.

The lefters don't even bother pretending they're small "d" democrats anymore, do they?

David Weigel said...

Highnumber is one of the few people who gets this immediately. I am explaining why Congress is giving Obama a pass on the war declaration. That's all. Not agreeing. Explaining.

I am darkly amused by the journalism lectures from anonymous commenters who can apparently read minds. Wouldn't your skills be more profitably applied to the poker tables?

Roger J. said...

Mr W

exactly--as congresses have done since John Adams fought a naval war with france in 1798--Congresses are pussies and wimps and will not go up on the skyline

the problem, dear brutus is not in our stars but in our congress

As Mr Obama has done repeatedly--vote present--dont have to take a position--too bad he now has to

And if your a journalist member--fuck you

kent said...

@Weigel: Just another couple of tongue flicks, there. I think The Won is almost ready to cum.

Duncan said...

"in war time, a president does have certain extraordinary powers which would make acts that would otherwise be unlawful, lawful"

Just as any government, itself, by existing has "does have certain extraordinary powers which would make acts that would otherwise be unlawful, lawful".

Such as kidnapping, extortion, assault & battery, and murder.

The above being a few of the crimes I would be guilty of if I behaved as governments behave.

So what's a little bombing Libya between friends?

Wikitorix said...

As others have pointed out US presidents have waged military action without congressional "approval" eg; without declarations of war since John Adams fought a naval war with france. Nothing new


Congress approved the Quasi War. Besides, France shot first. Are you going to seriously sit there and say that it's illegal for the US military to shoot back at somebody who is shooting at them simply because Congress hasn't talked about it first?

Erik said...

My understanding is that Congress approved the Quasi-war *after* the ships had already been sent, with the requisite orders. If it is the order of things that seems to matter in these cases, then an after-the-fact approval of Obama's decision by Congress would be roughly equivalent. Adams did not wait for Congressional approval to act, and I doubt many at the time thought it was inappropriate for him to do so.

Over our nation's 230-odd year history, there have been a few hundred military actions by our armed forces, and yet only a handful of war declarations. That's a fairly solid historical precedent.

Either the first generation of Constitutional leadership of this nation thought that such actions were within the President's field of power, or Congress has always been a bunch of pussies. I tend to think the former more likely correct.

former law student said...

The US was at war with Tripoli for a year without Congressional authorization while Jefferson was President, though he did send them a note.

Congress authorized the use of military force by Jefferson. They just didn't issue a formal declaration of war.


Yes, one year later.

former law student said...

Are you going to seriously sit there and say that it's illegal for the US military to shoot back at somebody who is shooting at them simply because Congress hasn't talked about it first?

FDR did ask Congress to declare war on Japan, right, even though they had attacked us.

I am explaining why Congress is giving Obama a pass on the war declaration. That's all. Not agreeing. Explaining.

Not summarizing or sympathizing what they said; rather, pulling an explanation out of his ass. Fine. But don't call it journalism.

Wikitorix said...

FDR did ask Congress to declare war on Japan, right, even though they had attacked us.

Was it illegal for sailors at Pearl Harbor to have fired on the Japanese planes? There wasn't a declaration of war in effect.

M. Report said...

It was President T. Roosevelt
who ordered The Great White Fleet
to circumnavigate the globe, and
Congress which appropriated the
extra fuel funding for the 2nd
half of the trip;Leaving the USN
stranded off Japan would have been
very unpopular. :)

And, as Kipling said in 'Kim':
'It is not War,
it is Chastisement.'
A minor action which does not
require a declaration of war
because it is _not_ a response
to a threat to the national security.

Roger J. said...

Wiki--I am not saying anything other than american presidents have committed US forces without first getting approval--and I approve of their actions

that wasnt hard was it--did I make any value judgments? what precisely is it your problem with what I said?

anyway--thread over

murgatroyd666 said...

The left is motivated entirely by principle.

And that principle is: "We deserve power, and we intend to use it for whatever purposes we damn well please."

docweasel said...

So now liberals are admitting, at this late date, that Iran-Contra was perfectly ok?