Congresswoman Michele Bachmann vocally vowed to embrace the Constitution. She accredited herself a "constitutional conservative," and inaugurated constitutional tutorials for the Tea Party Caucus in the manner of a schoolmarm. But she soon divorced the Constitution over irreconcilable differences.
She earnestly argued that the Founding Fathers emancipated slaves. The Constitution retorted that slavery did not end until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865 as a codicil to the Civil War.
Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution endows Congress exclusively with authority to commence war. Delegates to the constitutional convention worried about fighting too many wars, not too few. Wars impoverish with taxes and non-productive spending. They tarnish due process with military commissions and detentions without trial. They destroy the right to be left alone from government snooping. They fuel foreign resentments. They expose brave American soldiers to death.
The Executive, the Founding Fathers understood, was inclined to concoct excuses for war from trifles light as air to aggrandize power. During wartime, the president enjoys secrecy, spending, appointments, and the thrill of global transformation. James Madison, father of the Constitution, wrote to Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence: "The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature."
But Congresswoman Bachmann stubbornly refuses to condemn President Obama's unilateral war against Libya as unconstitutional, and insinuates the president should unilaterally invade Iran in hopes of destroying its weapons of mass destruction. Her constitutional betrayal is stunning because Obama himself, Vice President Joseph Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can be summoned to denounce presidential wars as illegal.
On December 20, 2007, Hillary Clinton sermonized as a Senator: "[T]he Constitution requires Congress to authorize war. I do not believe that the President can take military action -- including any kind of strategic bombing -- against Iran without congressional authorization."
Vice President Joseph Biden, speaking as a Senator at the Iowa City Public Library in 2007, maintained that presidential wars were impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution:
It is precisely because the consequences of war -- intended or otherwise - can be so profound and complicated that our Founding Fathers vested in Congress, not the President, the power to initiate war, except to repel an imminent attack on the United States or its citizens.
On December 20, 2007, then Senator Barack Obama insisted to the Boston Globe: "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."
Bachmann rejects impeachment for presidential usurpation of the war power, although the remedy was specifically fashioned to answer attempts to subvert the Constitution.
Congresswoman Bachmann's ill-informed divorce from the Constitution disqualifies her as a presidential candidate. Nothing is as dangerous as constitutional ignorance in action.
*This is the first in a series of "Constitutional Report Cards" for 2012 Presidential Candidates.
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