Skip to comments.THE PRESIDENTíS CONSTITUTIONAL INCOHERENCE ON SYRIA
Posted on 09/03/2013 5:58:14 PM PDT by NYer
On Saturday, President Obama laid out his case for a proper American response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The president’s case, however, is shot through with inconsistencies. The most glaring of these, as Matthew Frank points out in a very informative post at National Review Online, is legal or constitutional.
As Franck observes, Obama bizarrely claims to be seeking congressional authorization for military action in Syria while at the same time claiming that he, as president, already possesses the authority to order it. But a president does not need to seek authorization for something he has the authority to do. Conversely, to concede that Congress has a right to authorize the use of force is to admit that it has the right not to authorize it, in which case the use of force will not be authorized. What then becomes of the presidents supposed authority here?
Admittedly, the presidents call for congressional authorization is welcome from the standpoint of the person who believes in a limited executive war-making power. If you think the president cannot use military force except pursuant to a declaration of war or when necessary to defend the United States against an imminent attack, then Obamas apparent unwillingness to move forward without Congresss support is a good thing. This, however, does not change the fact that Obamas call for congressional input is absolutely unintelligible on the principles he has put forward, and that according to those principles nothing good can come from such congressional input.
Congress will either vote to authorize military action in Syria or it will decline to do so. If it does vote for such action, then, by Obamas own lights, it will have set a precedent undermining presidential authority. Congress will have presumed to tell the president that he needed its support to do something that he actually already had authority to do. Thus Obama will hand down a diminished presidency to his successor.
On the other hand, Congress might not vote to authorize the use of force: the force resolution might fail to pass. The president will then confront a choice whether to comply with Congresss wishes or to order military action in defiance of Congresss expressed will on the matter. Either choice is harmful according to the arguments the president laid out on Saturday. On the one hand, the president said that he agreed with members of Congress who thought their voices should be heard on this question. If he goes ahead with military action after a force resolution fails to pass Congress, he creates the impression that Congress has a right to withhold an authorization, and that the president has a right to ignore them and go ahead anyway.
On the other hand, he also said that military action in Syria is necessary to American security and that he already has authority to order such action. Accordingly, if Congress declines to authorize such force, and he complies with its position, he will be setting the precedent that an American president should expose the country to security risks even when he has authority to protect against them, for the sake of respecting the opinion of Congress.
Whatever you think about the question of the Syria intervention (count me as skeptical), the fact remains that the way the president is approaching this debate is actually creating public confusion about what makes the use of force constitutionally legitimate. To that extent he is making our constitutional democracy weaker, contrary to his expressed intent in his Saturday speech.
Please post the Speaker’s phone number to this thread.
May God bless Pope Francis.
All of this would be true if the president or congress were able to exercise constitutional authority, but they are not. It is the Saudi prince who exercises authority over our military and politics.
Speaker of the House number - for comments regarding his support for Syrian intervention
The author doesn’t get it. Congressional authority is only required of republican presidents.