Currently viewing the tag: "Presidency"

We learned today that, when it comes to the mission in Libya, the Obama Administration doesn’t much care what Congress thinks:

The White House would forge ahead with military action in Libya even if Congress passed a resolution constraining the mission, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a classified briefing to House members Wednesday afternoon.

Clinton was responding to a question from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) about the administration’s response to any effort by Congress to exercise its war powers, according to a senior Republican lawmaker who attended the briefing.

The answer surprised many in the room because Clinton plainly admitted the administration would ignore any and all attempts by Congress to shackle President Obama’s power as commander in chief to make military and wartime decisions. In doing so, he would follow a long line of Presidents who have ignored the act since its passage, deeming it an unconstitutional encroachment on executive power.

Andrew Sullivan is outraged and wonder if Congress will step up to the plate:

If the Obama administration is refusing even to abide by the War Powers Act, then the Congress really needs to vote to defund their adventurism at least or impeach them if it comes to that. Going to war outside even the War Powers Act qualifies as an impeachable offense, it seems to me.

But we are, it appears, in a particularly decadent moment in the decline of the American republic and its Congress. We are governed by an executive that goes to war in secret and at will, openly contemptuous of the democratic process and even minimal transparency. and when you realize that that executive actually campaigned against this kind of secretive, dictatorial presidency, you realize how this has become systemic, and the anti-democratic rot is deep.

Matthew Yglesias says don’t count on it:

Members of congress will complain about this, but they won’t really do anything about it, nor will next year’s defense appropriation bill (or the one after that or the one after that or …) contain any effort to constrain presidential warmaking power. That’s because members of congress want to be kept in the dark, they want to be able to complain if things go poorly without taking ownership of the situation.

Ygelsias goes on to argue that he doesn’t consider this a bad thing because “the level of uncertainty surrounding these activities is huge.” A good example of the risks that Yglesias talked about can be seen in the manner in which candidates like Hillary Clinton had their vote in favor of the Iraq War used against them in the 2008 elections. Politically, then, I suppose it is smart for a Member of Congress to avoid getting too involved in foreign policy matters because the possibility of being wrong is so much greater. However, that doesn’t make the abdication of responsibility proper. Largely though its own lack of willingness to act over the years, Congress has ceded vast discretion to the President when it comes to committing American military forces to overseas conflicts that don’t directly threaten the national interests of the United States. It’s no surprise, then, that a President like Obama would take advantage of those powers when the opportunity arises.

Congress is not without authority of course, at least on paper. The War Powers Act purports to limit the ability of the President to sent troops into coming without Congressional support. As I noted last week, though, the Act actually give the President a great deal  of discretion while simultaneously placing Congress in a near impossible situation:As summarized by Wikipedia, the Act “requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.” The advantages to the President here seem obvious. As long as he notifies Congress, the President has the legal authority to engage in virtually any military action he desires. If that action is still ongoing 90 days later, then Congress is left with the option of cutting off funding to troops in the field after they’ve already been committed — and if a President refused to withdraw troops does anyone really believe that any Court anywhere would require him to do it?

The Obama Administration, of course, is taking the position that they don’t even need to worry about the War Powers Act, which has Ed Morrissey wondering:

Isn’t he required under the War Powers Act to seek congressional authorization after 60 days of hostilities? Or is this guy so intent on waging war whether Congress likes it or not that he’d go to court to try to have the WPA ruled unconstitutional? Normally I’d dismiss that possibility as insane given that he did, after all, run in ’08 on his anti-war cred and that not even a Republican president would dare pull a move like that amid bipartisan clamoring for accountability, but I don’t know that anything can be safely ruled out at this point.

The reality, though, is that every President since Richard Nixon has taken the position that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional because is infringes on the President’s powers as Commander in Chief. Obama is merely adopting the position of his predecessors, and while it may seem odd that a President who ran against the Iraq War to be acting like this, it is not at all surprising. Once they have been asserted, Executive Branch privileges are seldom curtailed, and this is but one more example of how Barack Obama has presumed to protect Presidential prerogatives even if that goes against his previously stated principles. Truly, nobody should be surprised.

As for what will happen with regard to Libya, I think that’s pretty easy to figure out. Congress will do nothing. With American forces committed abroad, and the increasing possibility that ground troops may be necessary at some point, no Congress is going to step in and tel the President he can’t do this, no matter how much they believe that to be the case.

There is much to complain about in the fact that President Obama has continued the tradition of the Imperial Presidency that started to take root under Woodrow Wilson, but the reality is that none of this happened for nefarious reasons, it happened because Congress and the American people let it happen. If we’re ever going to bring things back to the way they are supposed to be, we’re going to have to follow the advice that Gene Healy laid out in his excellent book n The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power:

“Perhaps, with wisdom born of experience, we can come once again to value a government that promises less, but delivers far more of what it promises. Perhaps we can learn to look elsewhere for heroes. But if we must look to the Presidency for heroism, we ought to learn once again to appreciate a quieter sort of valor. True political heroism rarely pounds its chest or pounds the pulpit, preaching rainbows and uplift, and promising to redeem the world through military force. A truly heroic president is one who appreciates the virtues of restraint — who is bold enough to act when action is necessary yet wise enough, humble enough to refuse powers he ought not have. That is the sort of presidency we need, now more than ever.

And we won’t get that kind of presidency until we demand it.”



Outside the Beltway

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“The last eight years” argument was never true

American Thinker Blog

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The Left often accused President George W. Bush of running an “imperial presidency.”  But the label fits Barack Obama much better.

When George W. Bush took US forces into Iraq,  he received congressional approval.  But Barack Obama?  He’s engaged in military operations against Libya and has not even consulted with congress.  As Bruce Ackerman points out,  its not like he didn’t have the time.  The Libyan crisis unfolded over the course of weeks.  There was not an immediate threat to the United States.  Heck,  there was no threat to the United States.  It’s just that Obama spent his time courting the Arab League rather than the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The last President to engage in this sort of broad military action without congressional approval?  That was Bill Clinton in Kosovo in 1999.

Some might argue that lobbing a few missiles is not akin to invading a country,  so you really can’t compare to two.  But what if our commitment escalates?  When will he feel the need to get congressional approval?

I generally adopt the philosophy that we need to give the Commander in Chief latitude in military affairs.  But I adopt that posture because the President needs to be in a position to act swiftly to protect the United States.  A humanitarian military operation?  In my mind that’s when it is essential to get congressional support.  You are calling on Americans to risk there lives. These Americans have committed themselves to protecting the country.  They did not enlist in the military for some vague humanitarian purpose.  If you are going to use them for that sort of purpose, congress needs to agree.

What makes the Obama move in Libya so troubling is that Obama feels justified by the morality of his cause.  Moral certainty can be a good thing.  But it can also lead you to believe that you are unaccountable. Your moral purpose justifies cutting corners and acting by yourself. Obama has never lacked in moral confidence.  That means we need to really watch him when it comes to the exercise of power.

Big Peace

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Foreign Policy

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(Eric Posner)

 In my previous two posts, I discussed the executive’s prerogatives with respect to foreign policy and military intervention—hot topics today. But until recently, the hot topic was the Obama administration’s aggressive domestic policy, which culminated in the Dodd-Frank Act and the health care law. Skeptics of the thesis of executive primacy could point to these two statutes as evidence that Congress is alive and kicking. It seems obvious that President Obama could not have reformed American financial regulation and health care law without the cooperation of Congress. So in what sense is the executive primary or “imperial”?

 The answer is that, for both statutes, (1) the Obama administration, not Congress, initiated the legislative process and set the contours of debate; (2) the Obama administration, not Congress, is the face of the laws and will be held responsible for their success or failure; and, most important, (3) the statutes delegated massive authority to the executive—hundreds of rule-making mandates—so that the vast majority of policymaking decisions will be made by executive branch officials over the coming years and decades.

 Add to this the Obama administration’s use of regulatory agencies to implement climate regulation, having failed to secure congressional support for a climate bill. Presidents always prefer congressional support if only for the political boost, but when they fail to obtain it, they can fall back on the immense regulatory powers they already enjoy. In this case, Obama can fall back on existing environmental statutes and his control of the EPA and other agencies that regulate industries that affect climate change—and obtain much but not all of what he wanted from Congress. Yet another example is Obama’s (and before him, Bush’s) reliance on existing regulatory authorities to resolve the financial crisis. The government poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the credit markets even before Congress signed a blank check for hundreds of billions of dollars more. The Dodd-Frank law shuffles around these authorities, and expands them at the margins, but does not fundamentally change them.

 The two statutes follow a pattern of congressional delegation reaching back more than a century, and which created the modern administrative state at the apex of which is the executive. What is most notable about them is not that they reflect a congressional resurgence (they don’t); it is that they decisively mark the recovery of the regulatory state after a three decade long ideological quasi-retreat. The debate about the size of the federal government will continue. But the debate about limited government is over. Both sides of the political spectrum have acquiesced in a powerful executive weakly constrained by Congress and the courts; the only live political question is what the executive should do with all that power. For more, see The Executive Unbound.

The Volokh Conspiracy

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My new column for The Week focuses on the, er, unique handling of the launch of a new war by Barack Obama.  Before we get to my take on Obama’s absence on a South American tour during the start of hostilities against Libya, though, let’s first get Dana Milbank’s take on what he casts as [...]

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Hot Air » Top Picks

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(Eric Posner)

In my last post, I quoted Andrew Sullivan’s provocative claim that “Obama has now taken [the imperial presidency] to a greater height than even Bush.” Could that claim be right? I assume that Sullivan means that not even Bush went to war without congressional authorization, whereas Obama has shown himself willing to do so, but what of signing statements, wiretapping, torture, secrecy, and the many other items in the long bill of particulars against Bush?

The answer is that from the standpoint of executive power Obama and Bush are not much different in the main, and it is hard to compare the details. Bush acted inconsistently with some statutes, and his underlings propounded aggressive theories of presidential power which the Obama administration has abandoned, but the practical significance of these differences is limited. Bush got the authorities he needed by demanding them from Congress, and Congress accommodated him with the Patriot Act, the Protect America Act, the Detainee Treatment Act, the Military Commissions Act, and two AUMFs. Thanks to Bush, Obama enjoys the legal authorities he needs to conduct the conflict with Al Qaida—and so, until our next crisis, we don’t know how Obama would have acted under similar circumstances. The Obama lawyers are certainly less inclined to bloviate than the Bush lawyers were but again where it counts—have Obama’s lawyers ever stopped him from going beyond the edge of legality?—we have little information and some reason for skepticism. Obama has vigorously expanded the drone program, taken the war into Pakistan, robustly defended his right to kill American citizens abroad, and opposed litigation that could expose secrets about the treatment of detainees. What is most interesting is that there is currently little comment on the left about Obama’s extensive uses of executive power. There are some outliers who were celebrated during the Bush administration for their attacks on the presidency and who have persisted in their views now that Obama is in office, but who today are ignored. The only public apology from the left for the Obama administration’s executive branch jurisprudence that I am familiar with is this one by David Cole, who starts off vigorously enough but ultimately falls back on legalisms and ends up undercutting his defense in the second half of the article, where he laments Obama’s dependence on secrecy, which raises the question how we know what to make of Obama’s actions as an executive if we don’t know what they are. And that was before the Libya intervention.

Sullivan exaggerates but gets at the essential truth, which is that the imperial presidency has been institutionalized, as Adrian Vermeule and I argue in The Executive Unbound. On Congress’ tomb should be inscribed this epitaph, courtesy of a democratic congressman: “They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress.” As for the Republicans, with some trivial exceptions, they range from complaining that Obama did not communicate with them (nothing about consultation let alone a vote of some sort) to complaining that he did not act aggressively enough!

The Volokh Conspiracy

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As it all begins to circle the drain…


Via Sad Hill News.


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Here is a wide-ranging interview of my colleague Pamela Geller on Quebec TV, who remains focused and informative in the face of openly hostile questioning, hectoring, and frequent interruptions from Richard Martineau, the journalist/propagandist who is conducting the interview. The principal topic is her book The Post-American Presidency, which I co-wrote. Pamela Geller has more on this here.

Jihad Watch

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He can’t see your house from here.

Over the last two years, and perhaps especially over the last few weeks, we’ve discussed the lack of leadership demonstrated by Barack Obama in his presidency.  He declined to lead on Porkulus and ObamaCare, pushing off the actual writing and selling mainly to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid on both bills.  Obama didn’t bother to [...]

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Hot Air » Top Picks

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Excerpts from a new book have revealed that President Obama once laid claim to building ‘a race-neutral administration’.  When asked whether race drives decision-making in the White House, the President responded, “You just don’t think about it, you really don’t.”  Shortly thereafter, he thought about it, telling guests at a private White House function that race was likely a key component of rising opposition from conservatives – particularly the Tea Party movement – calling it a ‘subterranean agenda’.

Far from being race-neutral, the Obama administration has been race-driven, ushering in an era of unprecedented prejudiced rhetoric and actions.  The most recent example of this being Attorney General Eric Holder, a man assigned with representing the people, defending the Justice Department’s weak efforts in the voting rights case against members of the New Black Panther Party, claiming that the pursuit of justice would be “a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line… for my people.”

Equal Opportunity statements prohibit organizations from discriminating based on such factors as race, religion, and national origin, among other things.  But one could submit that Barack Obama and his administration have made a career of governing with those factors specifically driving the decision making process.  Could anything less have been expected from a man who spent over two decades listening to the sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, a man who once decried a world ‘where white folk’s greed runs a world in need’?

The list begins but is not limited to…

  • In 2009, Obama’s newly minted Attorney General claimed that America remained “voluntarily socially segregated” and is “a nation of cowards” when it comes to race relations.

  • Obama began his first public comments on the Fort Hood shooting by offering an insensitive ‘shout out’ to audience members at a Tribal Nations Conference, then subsequently urged Americans not to jump to conclusions regarding Nidal Hasan’s motives.  Hasan is a Muslim who had been reported to have shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’ prior to his rampage.  Unwilling to deviate from this reluctance to link religious extremism to a terrorist attack, the Pentagon released a report on the shooting that failed to mention the word ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslim’ once.

  • When asked for comment regarding the arrest of Harvard University professor, Henry Louis Gates, a racially charged incident, the President first confessed to not having the facts at hand, but then served as judge and jury when he proclaimed that “the Cambridge police acted stupidly,” citing as a factor the ‘long history … of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.

  • Struggled to referee a race debate involving Shirley Sherrod, a black Agriculture Department employee who had been accused of making racist comments.  The administration seemingly played to both sides on this incident, hastily forcing her resignation only to apologize and backtrack a day later.  Had this been handled based on a proper investigation, as opposed to viewing it solely as a black/white issue, the President may not have ended up looking quite as inept.

  • Introduced provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would specifically provide monetary rewards that operate on the basis of racial preferences.  One such provision stated that, "In awarding grants or contracts under this section, the Secretary shall give preference to entities that have a demonstrated record of the following: . . . Training individuals who are from underrepresented minority groups or disadvantaged backgrounds."

  • The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights confirmed that the Obamacare plan gives preferential treatment to minority students for scholarships.

  • Transformed Arizona’s attempts at curbing illegal immigration and securing their border, into a race issue, stating that racial profiling could result in someone without papers being harassed while having ice cream with their family.  Newt Gingrich stated that Obama was engaging in “a racist dialogue to try to frighten Latinos away from the Republican Party.”

  • Suggested that Al-Qaeda operated as a racist organization, rather than one guided by blind, radical ideology.

  • Pushed DREAM Act legislation in an attempt to provide amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants for the sake of garnering additional votes in 2012.  A former member of the President’s National Latino Advisory Council, Eliseo Medina, pined for such immigration reform, saying they could add eight million voters and creates “a governing coalition for the long term.” 

If anything has been proven true, it’s that President Obama most clearly has race weighing on his mind.  He does think about it.  From candidate to President, his election has gradually morphed from the hope of a post-racial presidency, into the reality of a most-racial presidency.

Rusty can be contacted at The Mental Recession blogs

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I wonder sometimes about Lincoln’s other presidency. You know, what he hoped to accomplish during his presidency, before the South seceded.

American Thinker Blog

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Written by Veronica Khokhlova

Via Kosmopolito, a link to Kovács and Kováts - a new blog that's “supposed to denote [the two authors'] weekly adventures while working for the Hungarian [EU Council] Presidency.”

Global Voices in English

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Your “heh” of the day comes from the website of the office of the Egyptian Presidency:

H/T: The Enterprise Blog

Outside the Beltway

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Being in the minority is much less fun than being in the majority, Exhibit MXLV:

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) is likely to resign from Congress to succeed Lee H. Hamilton as president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a close friend of Harman’s told POLITICO. The nine-term intelligence expert notified House officials of the negotiations in writing on Monday.

The final decision is to be made by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s board on Tuesday. The center, established by Congress, is part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Harman has represented her Los Angeles County district in the House beginning in 1993.

She telephoned a series of colleagues on Monday morning to let them know, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Harman was preparing to send a letter to her constituents explaining her negotiations to join the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Harman’s decision could represent, in part, the frustrations of an ambitious, accomplished Democrat who is suddenly back in the minority.

The friend said: “It’s not that she wants to leave Congress. It’s more about seeing the Woodrow Wilson Center as the preeminent place for seeking bipartisan solutions. It’s a classy, well-funded operation. She just sees is as a great challenge and a great opportunity. She kept getting more and more excited about it.”

Harman’s negotiations for the post were handled by Washington lawyer Robert Barnett.

Harman is the ranking member on the Homeland Security’s intelligence subcommittee. When Democrats held the House majority, she was in line to be chairman of the House intelligence committee but was denied the post by her fellow Californian, then-Speaker Pelosi.

The Wilson Center is a quite influential think tank and Harman’s centrist worldview is a perfect fit.

Outside the Beltway

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