Posted on March 16, 2015
Warped Powers Act
Does Obama need Congress or not?
Members of the “how dare you question our patriotism” party are calling Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and his 46 Republican colleagues traitors for their open letter to Iran, in which they explain that any treaty signed by the president must be ratified by Congress. At the very least, the Democrats charge that the letter violates the Logan Act of 1799, which reads in part, “Any citizen of the United States … who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
These “living Constitution” theorists now tout the 216-year-old law, without allowing that it might have “evolved” over the years. They never think it literally applies to genuinely treasonous acts by Democrats, however. Not the “Dear Comandante” letter that congressional Dems wrote to Daniel Ortega, in an effort to undercut President Reagan’s support for the Contras. Not Ted Kennedy’s secret offer to tutor Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov in waging a P.R. campaign against Reagan’s foreign policy. Not Jimmy Carter’s letter to the UN Security Council, trying to dissuade that body from supporting Operation Desert Shield. Not the 2002 visit to prewar Iraq by Reps. David Bonior, Jim McDermott and Mike Thompson, a trip that was financed by Saddam Hussein, who knew he could trust them to propagandize on his behalf.
No, they’ve only discovered the statute now that its relevance is far more questionable. All the Democrats cited above acted “without authority of the United States.” Conversely, the whole point of the letter from those 47 GOP senators is to explain what their constitutional authority is in relation to President Obama’s negotiations with Iran. Critics may dispute the propriety of this action, but there’s no convincing basis to doubt its legality.
The Iranians say they don’t believe the Republicans, which begs the question, what has Obama been telling them instead? One would think an American president – especially one who claims to have been a constitutional law professor – would want other heads of state to understand the limitations of his office while he’s negotiating with them. Evidently, he doesn’t.
The “flexibility” that Obama promised the Russians he’d have after his reelection must include the presumption that he can create a treaty without legislative approval. Who needs Congress when he’s got his trusted Iranian-born advisor, Valerie Jarrett? Who needs to debate an agreement that’s been negotiated with the help of Secretary of State John Kerry, who betrayed his fellow soldiers in Vietnam, and secretly met with the Vietcong in Paris while the war was still going on? Who does a mere freshman senator think he is to challenge “the ones we’ve been waiting for”?
It’s not unheard of for a president to sign an agreement with other world leaders that is not meant to be ratified as a treaty, but Sen. Cotton is correct that nobody is obligated to uphold such an agreement. For example, President Clinton agreed in the Budapest Memorandum that the U.S. would defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Do you see President Obama defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine? Well, then.
Whereas Obama spurns Congress regarding Iran, he demands unnecessary congressional action where ISIS is concerned. The president already has all the authority he needs to fight ISIS, as granted by the broadly written declaration of war that was passed prior to the invasion of Afghanistan. The new declaration Obama wants would actually place restrictions on his power, by ruling out the use of ground forces, and putting a three-year limit on the offensive.
Such an authorization would be grossly unconstitutional. Article I Section 8 empowers Congress “to declare War.” It does not allow Congress to usurp the powers of the Commander-in-Chief by drawing arbitrary parameters within which he must prosecute the war. If Obama wants to restrain his use of military force, he is already within his authority to do so. Instead, he wants his political adversaries to relieve him of that responsibility.
Obama denies Congress its rightful role in one international action, but yields to it powers it shouldn’t have in another. On the surface, this is a contradiction, but instead of looking at the differences between the two policies, let’s look at what’s the same. In each case, he is curtailing America’s ability to protect itself and the rest of the Free World from Islamist aggressors. Meanwhile, all who oppose him can expect to be accused of treason.
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