Ben Johnson, The White House Watch
When Barack Obama and John Boehner played golf this weekend, they played on the same team. How appropriate.
Barack Obama has violated the Constitution’s war-making power – reserved by Article I, Section 8, to Congress – from the moment he sent American troops into harm’s way without Congressional approval. He has been violating the War Powers Resolution since at least the 60th day of that campaign. And he has violated the most liberal reading of that act – the one Boehner has adopted as his own – since this weekend. Yet despite the letter Boehner authored last week, which the media presented as an “ultimatum,” Obama has neither obtained Congressional authorization nor removed our troops. Boehner’s letter weakly supplicated “I sincerely hope the Administration will faithfully comply with the War Powers Resolution,” but at least it seemed to set this weekend as a definitive cut-off point.
The “deadline” has come and gone, and Obama has not answered the most burning questions of the mission’s legality to anyone’s satisfaction. Instead, the president has thumbed his nose at Congress in general, Boehner in particular, and the American people at large, and the Speaker-cum-caddy has made no meaningful response whatsoever.
Obama insists the American role in Libya is too diminutive to constitute “hostilities,” so his action is perfectly legal. White House spokesman Jay Carney repeated his boss’s party line at Monday’s press conference, stating, “the War Powers Resolution does not need to be involved because the ‘hostilities’ clause of that resolution is not met.” However, soldiers in Libya are receiving an additional $25 a month in “imminent danger pay.” American drones still rain missiles down upon military targets. NATO is alternately bombing Muammar Qaddafi’s home and killing the innocent Libyan civilians they are purportedly protecting. (We had to kill the civilians in order to save them?) NATO admitted (at least) one of its bombs went off target on Sunday, killing nine civilians in Tripoli, while allied bombs allegedly killed 15 civilians in Sorman on Monday.
Not to worry, though; Defense Secretary Robert Gates said over the weekend, in a confidence-builder worthy of Churchill, “I think this is going to end OK.” Gates, who once opposed the Libyan adventure, has pulled a 180 on the matter.
Even Obama’s short-term fellow Illinois Senator, Dick Durbin, agrees Libya more than rises to the level of hostilities.
So, too, we have learned, do the best legal minds of Obama’s administration (not a coveted nor much-contested title, I assure you). In overruling his own lawyers, Obama rejected the considered conclusions of Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon’s general counsel, and Caroline Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The New York Times reported it is “extraordinarily rare” for any president to overrule the OLC. “Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.”
But then, nothing in the Obama administration transpires under “normal circumstances.”
Two former OLC lawyers outlined precisely how unusual the dismissal was….