THE BLOG

Should a Future President Michele Bachmann Be Free to Bomb Mexico?

06/20/2011 11:02 am 11:02:07 | Updated Aug 20, 2011

No. And President Obama should not be free to bomb Libya.

American presidents care very much about being able to wage war without asking permission. And they do just that with great regularity to the dismay of much the rest of the world.

The War Powers Act was passed as a weak measure to reign in President Nixon, whose secret wars in Cambodia and Laos were conducted in parallel with the Vietnam War, itself undeclared. President Nixon so opposed the Act that he vetoed it, but his veto was overturned by more than two thirds of Congress.

Which brings us to Libya. American forces have participated in a war against the regime of Libyan dictator Gaddafi. Nearly a billion dollars has been spent. While other countries have taken the lead, U.S. naval and air forces have been very active, American drones fire massive quantities of missiles, and it is an open secret that CIA paramilitary forces are on the ground.

President Obama does not believe that these activities require any approval from Congress under the War Powers Act because they do not rise to the level of "hostilities". Tell that to Gaddafi!

We now know, based on reporting by Charles Savage at the New York Times, that President Obama overruled the advice of his Attorney General, the chief lawyer of the Defense Department, and the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department.

President Obama, in what can only be described as opinion shopping, preferred the views of the legal advisor at the State Department, the in house counsel at the White House (a specialist in election law) and his own point of view.

This serves the nation badly, regardless of what one thinks of the U.S. intervention in Libya. We quite reasonably fear a president who acts as a commander in chief above the law.

That we do so is so is not a partisan point of view, nor an isolationist point of view. One might think that Michelle Bachmann, who I think is hot-headed and crazed, if elected president, should not be able to decide that she can direct our forces to attack Mexico, for example, over a dispute over immigration or drugs.

The War Powers Act, born out of great deference to executive power, gives a president 90 days to launch, execute, and fully end a military intervention, whether it is for humanitarian reasons or any other purpose.

Yet President Obama is unwilling to concede the point. We are now past the outer limit. A bipartisan group of members of Congress has filed a lawsuit to force the issue. For the good of the nation, Mr. Obama must seek Congressional approval. If he does not, Congress should halt our participation by cutting off funding. If deference to Mr. Obama prevents even this, a court should grant an emergency hearing on the Congressional lawsuit.