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March 22, 2011

Obama Never Went To Congress on Libya Because He Never Expected To Have To;
Oh, and Impeach Him

People are overthinking the whole question of whether the President should have gone to Congress to authorize the Libya war. They're especially overthinking why he chose not to.

It's quite simple. The President didn't go to Congress because he never thought he'd need to go to Congress. Obama spent three weeks dithering and then almost a full week telegraphing his intent not to intervene. But when the time came to announce his decision, he flinched and made a last-second gut decision to go to war.

The decision to commit the United States to war wasn't out of any sudden change of heart about the value of Libyan lives. Nor did the President suddenly discover U.S. national interests in North Africa. He did it because he was getting internationally embarrassed by the French and by Secretary Clinton. He did it because he was looking bad and after three and a half weeks of polling his numbers were looking worse.

So, having failed to make any effort at all to reach out to Congress on the issue because he never expected that he would have to and with his Brazil vacation imminent, there simply wasn't any time left to get Congressional authorization. Yes, he could have gotten it, in the sense that I'm absolutely sure the votes are there. But it would have taken a few more days and not even the MBM could pretend that he was "leading" on the Libya issue at that point.

As for the Constitutional issue -- should he have to go to Congress to commit the United States to war? -- well, yes.

As any constitutional conservative knows, Congress has the authority to declare war. And while this doesn't require that Congress use any particular magic words ("this is a declaration of war"), it does require that they authorize the President to order military action against another country. With a single exception during President Clinton's second term, Presidents have for the past 40 years or so always gotten Congressional authorization for war action prior to or at least contemporaneously with military action. It seems Obama isn't even planning to get retroactive authorization and that's a problem.

The possible exception to this clear constitutional rule is under the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Setting aside whether the resolution is even constitutional, it at least would provide cover for a President committing the United States to war without going to Congress for a while. But according to its text the President can only invoke the War Powers Resolution to go to war if the United States is under attack or serious threat. Obama cannot possibly claim that was the case before he went to war against Libya.

So this is yet another end run around Congress, which is what he's been doing since well before the GOP took back the House. Only this is far worse than merely avoiding Congress on Yucca Mountain, offshore drilling, net neutrality, card check, and cap and trade. The President has committed the United States to war and placed Service Members in danger without constitutionally-required authority to do so.

Waging war in violation of the U.S. Constitution sounds like a High Crime to me. So I'd like someone to explain to me why we shouldn't be talking about impeachment right now.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:43 AM

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