09.09.2013 0

Will Obama act in Syria without Congress?

Cartoon - Leadership Flat Line - 600By Robert Romano

“As Commander-in-Chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America’s national security.  I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress.”

That was Barack Obama in Stockholm, Sweden on Sept. 4, claiming blanket, unilateral authority to take America to war in Syria on a whim. Wasn’t he a constitutional law professor once?

Surely he might have troubled himself to read that the Constitution grants to Congress, not the President, the power to declare war in Article 1, Section 8: “The Congress shall have power … to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.”

If this is not an imperial president, then what is?

The Commander-in-Chief power permits the President to order troops into battle, but only in a war that has been authorized under law by Congress. No such authorization has been given on Syria. So what’s Obama talking about?

Moreover, if he thinks he already has the authority, why is he even going to Congress? Why not just act?

Obama answered: “I did not take this to Congress just because it’s an empty exercise; I think it’s important to have Congress’s support on it.” On what, a non-binding resolution of support? Or an authorization to use military force?

And why exactly is it so “important” for Congress to act?

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Sept. 5 offered this explanation: “the President and the Secretary strongly agreed that when the administration and the people’s representatives stand together that that strengthens our case and makes our case even stronger internationally.”

Of course, at the same time, she repeated, “Obviously the President has the authority to act without the cooperation of Congress.”

Simply remarkable. Apparently under the Obama Administration, Congress’ war-making power has been downgraded to little more than a pep rally.

Yet, as meaningless as the administration apparently views Congress’ constitutional authority, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken told NPR on Sept. 6 that Obama did not intend act without it: “[I]t is neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.”

In the same breath, though, Blinken said, “The President, of course, has the authority to act.”

Curiouser and curiouser. It all implies that the President is preparing to attack Syria with or without congressional authorization. Else, why the major show that he retains the authority to act if he is not keeping all of his options on the table?

On Tuesday, Obama will be making a national address to persuade members of Congress to authorize him to use military force in Syria. What will his argument be? Expect some verbal gymnastics on this count.

Perhaps he’ll just borrow this line from one of his 2011 speeches: “If Congress won’t act, I will.” Then he can again confirm to the American people, and the world, that the Constitution is dead and is no longer our governing document.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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