Friday, September 12, 2014

Cruising the Web

A president should want a vote from Congress to give him authorization for his efforts against ISIS. That would give him a legal support and would limit opponents for criticism from all who would vote for such an authorization. The administration is claiming that they don't need anything beyond the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) from 2001 to give the president power to go after anyone who attacked us on 9/11 or aided those who attacked us. Just last year Obama asked Congress to limit the AUMF because he said that all wars end and he had ended that war. Paul Mirengoff points out, "That’s how severely — criminally, I would say — Obama misjudged the paramount issue of protecting America from terrorism." If the 2001 AUMF authorizes these efforts against ISIS then there is now a very broad authorization for whatever a president wants to do militarily regardless of the enemy. Yale Law School professor, Bruce Ackerman, is quite upset at Obama's refusal to ask congress for an authorization of force against ISIS.
Even this was a big stretch, and it is not big enough to encompass the war on ISIS. Not only was ISIS created long after 2001, but Al Qaeda publicly disavowed it earlier this year. It is Al Qaeda’s competitor, not its affiliate.

Mr. Obama may rightly be frustrated by gridlock in Washington, but his assault on the rule of law is a devastating setback for our constitutional order. His refusal even to ask the Justice Department to provide a formal legal pretext for the war on ISIS is astonishing.

Since ISIS poses a new problem for the president, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires him to seek a new mandate from Congress. The resolution, enacted over President Richard M. Nixon’s veto at the end of the Vietnam War, requires the president to obtain congressional assent within 60 days of commencing “hostilities”; if he fails, he must withdraw American forces within 30 days.

The administration gave Congress the requisite notice on Aug. 8 that it had begun bombing ISIS, and so the time for obtaining approval runs out on Oct. 7. But Mr. Obama and his lawyers haven’t even mentioned the War Powers Resolution in announcing the new offensive against ISIS — there is no indication that he intends to comply with this deadline.
Obama disregarded the War Powers Resolution for the actions he took in Libya and stayed in that conflict beyond the statutory deadline. Many in Congress are quite happy to let the President go ahead without their having to take a tough vote on the eve of tough elections.
Senators and representatives aren’t eager to step up to the plate in October when, however they decide, their votes will alienate some constituents in November’s midterm elections. They would prefer to let the president plunge ahead and blame him later if things go wrong. But this is precisely why the War Powers Resolution sets up its 60-day deadline: It rightly insists that unless Congress is willing to stand up and be counted, the war is not worth fighting in the name of the American people.

If Mr. Obama changes course, as he did last September, and submits to the commands of the War Powers Resolution, Congress can demonstrate that, despite all its dysfunction, it can still rise to the occasion. There are hawks and doves on both sides of the aisle, and leaders of both parties have signaled a willingness to engage in a serious debate.

But for now the president seems grimly determined to practice what Mr. Bush’s lawyers only preached. He is acting on the proposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war.

In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.
That's why the administration is so determined not to say that we are at war with ISIS because there are legal requirements if we are at war. And a strong leader would not let those in Congress weasel out of one of their very most important responsibilities -- to decide if we should go to war.

Obama has done as much as possible to evade any sort of vote in Congress.
Since U.S. military advisers went into Iraq in June, the administration has maneuvered repeatedly to avoid coming into conflict with the War Powers provision that imposes a 60-day time limit on unapproved military action. Seven times, before each 60-day limit has expired, Obama has sent new notification letters to Congress restarting the clock and providing new extensions without invoking congressional approval. The most recent four notifications have covered the airstrikes against the Islamic State group that began Aug. 8.

An international law expert at Temple University's Beasley School of Law, Peter J. Spiro, described the letters as workarounds that avoided the controversy over U.S. bombing in 2011 in Libya. Obama said Libya didn't require congressional permission because the fighting there was not sustained and there were no active exchanges of fire with hostile forces. The seven recent notification letters, Spiro said, amount to "killing the War Powers Act with 1,000 tiny cuts. "
Are liberals going to be any happier when a Republican president emulates Obama's evisceration of the War Powers Act? Because that is what is going to happen.

Andrew Prokop writes on Vox, a liberal site, why Democrats are going to regret allowing President Obama get away with his expansion of presidential powers. As he points out, presidents build up their executive authority and ever expansion is then used by later presidents as a reason why they can do something else.
Howell, the University of Chicago professor, cited one example of how presidents can stretch their powers over time. "The president's commander in chief powers started off as a limited authority. What we've seen over the last 50 or 60 years is presidents interpreting that authority broadly, and getting away with it. As a result, we now say, ‘Of course, the president can do all of these things as commander in chief!' It may be 50 years hence that we say, ‘Of course, the president can issue waivers as he sees fit."

The problem for liberals is that there are many laws out there that conservative presidents dearly wish weren't enforced. Indeed, the precedents Obama is setting "probably benefit conservative presidents who want to stop regulations and have a smaller agenda, to the extent it helps them gain control of the wider executive branch," says Rudalevige, the Bowdoin professor.

So future Republican presidents will inevitably cite the new precedents Obama is setting to justify actions of their own. "I think Democrats are going to rue the day they did not push back against Obama on these things," says Sollenberger, the University of Michigan professor. "Just as Republicans regretted the same thing when they didn't push back against Bush."

Charles Krauthammer writes about the dangers of going to war under the leadership of such a reluctant leader. Obama seems most concerned on what he insists we will not do against ISIS rather than the potential success of his plan, whatever success might mean.
Even the best war plans run into trouble. This one already suffers from a glaring mismatch of ends and means — and a grand coalition that is largely fictional. Difficulties are sure to come. How will the commander-in-chief, already reluctant and ambivalent, react to setbacks — the downing of the first American pilot or perhaps a mini-Tet Offensive in Baghdad’s Green Zone engulfing the U.S. Embassy?

On that day, we will need a steady, determined President committed to the mission. Do we have one even now?
When Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany in 1917, he said "It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war." Obama seems more fearful than ready to lead. That does not augur well.

And there is a lot that could go wrong with our efforts against ISIS. Byron York describes five things that could go horribly wrong with Obama. All the more reason why the President should want a vote in Congress.

And with people in the White House who are ignorant of the basic geography of the Middle East, there is even a greater chance that things can go well. Yeesh.

Ramesh Ponnuru explains how President Obama has destroyed his own argument for issuing an executive order on immigration.
If this extraordinary action were justified at all, it would have to be by reference to an emergency. Perhaps that’s why Obama, in June 30 remarks devoted to justifying unilateral action, said that Congress’s refusal to pass the legislation he sought had created a “humanitarian crisis” at the border. But the argument that legalization is a response to that crisis can’t really be made with a straight face. Nor is the presence of illegal immigrants in the U.S. an emergency that demands action this instant, as it has been going on for years.

No, the administration was considering this step purely to advance its policy and political goals, and now it’s delaying it for the same reasons. What the administration is suggesting is that we can’t wait for Congress to act -- but we can wait through the elections. That doesn’t make sense. Delaying the executive order undercuts the case for issuing it at all.

The VA scandal keeps on going. It just keeps metastasizing.

Senator Rob Portman lists four things that Republicans could do right away if they gained control of the Senate.
1. The Keystone XL pipeline. Support for the pipeline has been growing among red-state Democrats and when a nonbinding measure endorsing the project came to a vote in March 2013, the vote was 62-37 with 27 Democrats voting with all Republicans.

2. Trade promotion authority. A measure backed by President Barack Obama to give him more power negotiate international trade agreements is believed to enjoy bipartisan support. But the bill is politically difficult for some Democrats because it splits business and labor constituencies, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.Nev.) has said it will not come to a vote before the election.

3. Easing regulation. Mr. Portman mentioned as an example legislation to require more stringent cost-benefit analysis before federal regulations are issued.

4. Tax reform. Members of both parties as well as the White House have long talked a good game about rewriting the complex tax code to make it simpler and fairer. Despite bipartisan interest, it is so complex that it is hard to imagine it passing the Senate quickly.
Sounds like a good start.

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