Hilary: The Multilateral Exception to Congressional War Powers


With the spirited debate among Richoterians, including professors Yoo and Epstein, about the proper locus of war-making power under the Constitution (I’ll add my comments to John’s latest post), many are wondering how Team Obama justifies its failure to consult Congress before taking action in Libya.  After all, during the ’08 campaign, Obama, Biden, and Hilary all relentlessly attacked Bush for his assertion of executive war powers.

On today’s Face the Nation, Hilary Clinton gave the answer, and it’s a whopper.  According to Clinton, the Constitutional requirement of congressional authorization does not apply to “this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries.”   Clinton dug herself in deeper by contrasting the Libyan project with the “unilateral” actions taken by President Bush.  Although, as Ed Morrisey points out, the Libyan coalition is maybe half the size of the Iraqi coalition.

Clinton’s answer is surely the worst of all worlds.  Wherever one draws the line between Executive and Legislative powers, the power to put American troops in harm’s way should lie with somebody accountable to the American electorate.  The idea that internationally “authorized” military action is outside the Constitutional framework dramatically illustrates this administration’s determination to cede US sovereignty to the ill-defined “international community.”

There are 13 comments.

  1. Member

    Yes, let’s all wonder about how the Obama administration is going to justify its actions in Libya.

    Let’s discuss the Constitution and the War Powers Act. Let’s weigh current actions of Democrat politicians against the statements that they made during recent electoral campaigns.

    Let’s all go hit ourselves in the head with ballpeen hammers for 15 minutes. It’s just as useful.

    Do you really think that Clinton, Obama, Biden or any other Democrat cares a fig about intellectual honesty, consistency or principle? That they will take seriously a charge of “hypocrisy” from you or any one else?

    Democrats are right, they are smarter than you and they make the rules. What part of that trio don’t you understand yet?

    It’s time to leave civics class and debate club. Pay no attention to Democrat arguments. After all, they don’t believe them, so why should you? For them it’s all just lawyer logic-chopping, aimed at one thing:

    Keeping Democrats in charge.

    • #1
    • March 27, 2011 at 10:50 am
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  2. Inactive

    Too bad Hillary isn’t a constitutional law professor, surely she’d have been able to come up with a better rationale.

    I can’t wait for the Professor’s Monday night speech.

    • #2
    • March 27, 2011 at 11:05 am
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  3. Inactive

    Hillary, most people in your situation get just half their foot in their mouths. How’d you manage to get it in as far as your knee?

    • #3
    • March 27, 2011 at 11:46 am
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  4. Member

    “People” talk about Hillary being competent because they have bought into the elite, meritocratic consensus.

    She must be competent. After all, she attends all the required meetings and issues all the correct statements. What more do you want?

    Plus, her SAT scores were real high, so she must be smart.

    And isn’t that the most important thing?

    • #4
    • March 28, 2011 at 1:26 am
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  5. Inactive

    Yabbut they talk about her being competent in relation to Obama. Not judging from these statements, she isn’t. Pretty much the same level.

    • #5
    • March 28, 2011 at 1:36 am
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  6. Member


    Substitute Obama for Hillary in my comment, and change “his SAT scores were real high” to “he went to Harvard.”

    No difference.

    How many here caught the significance of Donald Trump’s preamble to his recent so-called “birther” statement?

    “I’m a really smart guy and I went to the best school in the country.”

    Forget “I’ve made billions and built businesses.” Even Trump knows the only bona fides that count to the media-bureaucratic-political set.

    • #6
    • March 28, 2011 at 2:09 am
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  7. Inactive

    Hillary does have top-notch skills for diplomatic double-speak and the obfuscation of tangible reality.

    Thanks for the update. I only watch Fox News Sunday. Why weren’t Hillary and Gates on that show, as well (while they did attend the morning shows of ABC, CBS, and NBC)?


    • #7
    • March 28, 2011 at 2:24 am
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  8. Contributor
    Adam Freedman Post author
    Freesmith: Yes, let’s all wonder about how the Obama administration is going to justify its actions in Libya.

    Let’s discuss the Constitution and the War Powers Act. Let’s weigh current actions of Democrat politicians against the statements that they made during recent electoral campaigns.

    Let’s all go hit ourselves in the head with ballpeen hammers for 15 minutes. It’s just as useful.

    Freesmith, I realize that you’re being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I assume you’re trying to make the serious point that we can never expect consistency from the likes of Hilary, et al. I agree, but nonetheless I consider Hilary’s statement to be significant. She was not caught off-guard; she was making the rounds of the chat shows and presenting the official administration position. These positions become hardened as “doctrines” and it becomes that much easier for a future administration to go down the same path, now invoking the “Obama Doctrine” of multilateral followship.

    • #8
    • March 28, 2011 at 3:22 am
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  9. Inactive

    I’d say this was the classic Freudian slip on Hillary’s part. It reveals her tacit approval of some form of supranational governance (presumably derived from the cadre of international intellectual elites), some quasi legitimate coalition of NATO allies and UN functionaries that she equates with “US interests”. Forget the idea of national sovereignty; we have evolved beyond the living Constitution and are moving on to The New World Order. God help us!

    • #9
    • March 28, 2011 at 4:00 am
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  10. Inactive
    Adam Freedman

    […] “Obama Doctrine”

    See George Weigel’s list, How Democrats View the World (NRO), of eight variations on the same theme.

    It’s easy to explain how our historic first Islamic apostate president’s team of queens—Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power—are making decisions for him in the Middle East.

    The leftist worldview sees only through the lens of power. From their ideologies, bearing many fictions and few facts, they filter the haves and the have-nots.

    The power have-nots need no virtue, or assume any responsibility, nor even account for decency, they simply remonstrate.

    Their only excuse—the same for all power have-nots under all circumstances and conditions—consists of their exclusion from the ranks of the avaricious powerful whose luxuria, gula, acedia, and superbia have built barriers too high for the equal spreading of power to everyone.

    The leftists’ forceful usurpation and reapportionment of it, presumably, yet paradoxically, would propel all of these fallen powerful from disgrace to equality.

    Leftists bully their designated bullies because it makes them feel strong, satisfies their own need for power, and provides clarity in their confusion about their own moral weaknesses and desire for material strength.

    • #10
    • March 28, 2011 at 4:31 am
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  11. Member


    I was facetious only as a rhetorical device. I meant every word I wrote, especially the second half of my comment, the one that states that neither Hillary nor anyone else on the Democrat side of the political spectrum believes anything, except that they should be able to boss you and me around.

    Mrs. Clinton’s statement is completely insignificant. What she says this second is utterly separate from what she may need to say the next second. That was then; this is now. They’re not hypocrites. Circumstances have changed – don’t you see, Adam? The only reason a doctrine would ever be cited by these folks is to cow those who are impressed with things like “doctrines” into silence.

    This is the morality of the ruling class, Adam Freedman. It’s as old as the hills. And like the ruling classes of old, this one too has its droit de seigneur. Only this time it’s not your bride who gets taken.

    It’s you and your whole family.

    • #11
    • March 28, 2011 at 4:47 am
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  12. Member

    All this means is that the administration believes we’ve passed John Kerry’s “global test.” And a fitting example illustrating why the “global test” is bad policy when it comes to committing American forces abroad.

    • #12
    • March 28, 2011 at 4:47 am
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  13. Inactive

    Moving from strength to strength, Hillary then went on CBS to describe Assad as “a reformer”. I suppose shooting 100 of your people a day until morale improves is an attempt at reform, in a sense.

    People have been talking about Hillary like she’s the competent one on the team. I think now we see why the 2008 primary dragged on so long. Neither one is inspires confidence.

    • #13
    • March 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm
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