Monday, May 23, 2011

A little more bad news: so is this

In a previous post on Libya and PHC's* seizure of more and more power to use the military as he sees fit regardless of Congressional authorization (or the lack of it), I made one mistake: He did in fact cite a supposed basis for his authority to act.

Unfortunately for him and for truth, that basis was the War Powers Act. That law, adopted in 1973, does authorize the president to engage in military action without prior Congressional approval - but only in the case of, quoting the Act and with appropriate emphasis, "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." None of which, it should be easily agreed even by the most sychophantic of Obama sycophants, applied to Libya. The argument was a lie. A flat-out, power-seeking lie.

Even so, it is what he cited. Which should have meant he'd have to live with it. But the Act has another provision: That authorization is only good for 60 days, after which, again quoting the Act and with emphasis added, if Congressional approval has not been obtained, "the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces" involved. The only exception is for an additional 30-day window to allow for safe withdrawal of forces - obviously unnecessary in this case.

That 60-day limit came on went on Friday with no authorization, no request for authorization - and with barely a peep from Congress.

Indeed, as if to show just how powerless Congress has become - or, more exactly, has made itself with its craven political cowardice - in what strikes me as a deliberate slap, either late on Friday or on Saturday, it's not clear to me which, but in either event after the deadline had passed, the White House sent a letter to Congress, endorsing a resolution of support already kicking around the Senate. That is, the O-crowd, having proved they could and would ignore the deadline, allowed as how, sure, they would graciously accept an endorsement:
I wish to express my support[, PHC's letter said,] for the bipartisan resolution drafted by Senators Kerry, McCain, Levin, Feinstein, Graham, and Lieberman, which would confirm that the Congress supports the U.S. mission in Libya....

Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment ...[and]... would demonstrate a unity of purpose among the political branches....
Note and note well: In that carefully-phrased letter no doubt run past a battery of lawyers, there is no hint that such authorization is needed. Only that it would "demonstrate a unity of purpose." It's not even called "authorization," but "engagement, consultation, and support."

True to what Hillary Clinton told a briefing for members of the House back on March 30, the White House intends to simply ignore any attempts by Congress to exercise its Constitutional authority - more exactly and correctly, its Constitutional responsibility. And they are making no secret of it. On the 60th day of the mission,
Pentagon and military officials said the United States’ participation in the Libyan mission was going forward unchanged. That includes the intermittent use of armed Predator drones to fire missiles at Libyan government forces, as happened on Thursday and Friday, they said.
Nor are they making a secret of their contempt for Congressional authority, as
[a]dministration officials offered no theory for why continuing the air war in Libya in the absence of Congressional authorization and beyond the deadline would be lawful.
There is a little bit of Congressional grumbling; on Wednesday, six GOPper senators sent a letter to PHC asking if he intended to comply with the War Powers Act, and Rep. Brad Sherman charged that Obama was trying to "bring democracy to Libya while shredding the Constitution of the United States." The ever-reliable Dennis Kucinich has promised to push for a resolution calling for an end to the mission. However, Sen. Dick Lugar, senior GOPper on the Foreign Relations Committee, has said that any such resolution would die in the Senate. And with Harry Reid in no hurry to address the issue and Carl Levin saying he thinks no authorization is needed in the first place, the chances that the little grumbling will be anything more than a little grumbling are, well, "dim" is too bright a description.

And what of the leadership of the House, so brave, so bold, when it comes to spitting on the poor and defending the honor of the sainted rich?
Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), provided the more typical response from congressional leaders regarding Friday’s deadline. Asked if Boehner thinks the White House needs congressional approval to continue U.S. operations in Libya, Steel responded with one sentence.

“The House,” he said, “is not in session this week.”
And so they slink away in their contemptible capitulation, their abhorrent abdication of their duty, as we cross another line into even more centralized authority.

Footnote: The White House also gave another, totally different, rationalization for why this was all on the up-and-up: Presidents have the power, they claimed, to order forces into "limited" military engagements on their own if they decide it is in the national interest.

If anyone is aware of an "I can do it if I think it's a good idea" exception (which sounds suspiciously like "if the president does it, then it's not illegal") in either the War Powers Act or the Constitution, let's hear about it.

Footnote Again
: "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 for president Barack Obama, December 20, 2007

*PHC = President Hopey-Changey

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