Thursday, March 31, 2011

Imperial Presidency Watch

All administrations stake out aggressive positions on the scope of executive authority under the Constitution.  That's arguably their institutional responsibility.  Yet it’s another thing entirely for an administration to stick its thumb in Congress’s eye when circumstances permit a more conciliatory approach.

A lot of people still like to think of George Bush as the satanic spawn of the imperial presidency. That didn't keep him, however, from getting congressional authorization his lawyers told him he didn’t need to initiate the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and consulting meaningfully with the congressional leadership of both parties when he decided to test the limits of his statutory authority to conduct domestic surveillance or interrogate prisoners of war.  

If you believe this Politico story, when it comes to its present adventure in Libya, this administration is all thumbs:
“President Barack Obama’s foreign policy “A” team — led by Cabinet secretaries Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates — failed to quiet criticism of U.S. military action in Libya Wednesday during a pair of classified briefings on Capitol Hill.

“More than anything, the meetings served to underscore how little influence Congress has in shaping the war. . . . Lawmakers said they weren’t told much by Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen or Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that they couldn’t read in the newspaper or see on television.

“They said one dynamic was very clear: The administration doesn’t much care what Congress thinks about the actions it’s taken so far.

“Challenged on whether Obama overstepped his constitutional authority in attacking Libya without congressional approval, Clinton told lawmakers that White House lawyers were OK with it and that Obama has no plans to seek an endorsement from Congress, attendees told POLITICO. 

"And, as if to add insult to injury, news broke during the House briefing that Obama had already signed an order authorizing covert action in support of the rebels. When asked about it after the first briefing, House members were unaware the president had taken that action. 

“‘I have no knowledge of what he signed,’ said Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.”
Why isn't Obama even pretending not to be an imperial president? I've come up with only one answer:  even secret consultations with congressional leadership would oblige him to explain what he’s really trying to do in Libya when he doesn't yet have a presentable explanation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an outrage. Why aren't Republicans jumping up and down!! So far, I've only heard Kucinich voicing strong words against Obama's actions.

Obama keeps pretending that if he doesn't make a big deal of our involvement in Libya, no one will notice. It's not going to work. This is a hornet's nest and it's not going to resolve itself anytime soon.