The Obama administration believes it is above the law. It now openly claims that President Obama can go to war without congressional authorization. This is a flagrant - and dangerous - violation of the Constitution. It is a naked abuse of power. It begs the question: Is this an impeachable offense? A congressional resolution has been introduced to warn that such high crimes and misdemeanors will trigger impeachment proceedings. It’s about time.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta recently gave congressional testimony saying that the United States no longer needs the approval or consent of Congress before launching a major military offensive. In particular, Mr. Panetta - to the amazement of Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican - argued that the administration needs only “international permission” to engage in war. In other words, Mr. Panetta stressed that international approval from the United Nations or NATO trumps the sovereign authority of Congress. The administration is now contemplating whether to topple the brutal regime in Syria or wage devastating airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mr. Obama seems to view Congress and our system of checks and balances as a nuisance. He is engaged in a massive power grab, behaving more like a Roman emperor unfettered by the will of the people and its duly elected representatives. His worldview is clear - and ominous: America is no longer a self-governing republic, but a supranational state.
This brazen assault upon congressional constitutional prerogatives has inspired remarkably little resistance. Like ancient Rome, republican institutions are slowly being drained of authority, power flowing to an arrogant, ever-growing leviathan. One congressman, however, finally has drawn a line in the sand. Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, has issued a resolution stating that should Mr. Obama - or any other president - use offensive military force without prior and clear authorization by Congress, this would constitute an impeachable offense.
“The issue of presidents taking this country to war without congressional approval is one that I have long been concerned about,” Mr. Jones said. “Just last week, President Obama’s Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the United States Senate that he only needed to seek ‘international’ approval prior to initiating yet another war, this time in Syria. Congress would merely need to be ‘informed.’ This action would clearly be a violation of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.”
He added: “Enough is enough. It is time this country upholds the Constitution and the principles upon which this country was founded.”
Mr. Jones is a patriot. He is a rare breed in Congress: a conservative constitutionalist who believes in putting America first. He rightly seeks to reimpose constitutional and legal limits upon the president’s ability to make war. Mr. Jones has implemented a trigger mechanism to potentially rein in the lawless, scandal-ridden administration. His resolution enshrines one absolute principle: The Constitution applies to Mr. Obama - as it should to every president.
Mr. Obama has already pushed the constitutional limits. Take his war in Libya. The decision to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was done without congressional authorization - something President Bush received for his military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hence, the Libya adventure was arguably unconstitutional. It was a war undertaken without even the legal fig leaf of congressional consent. It violated the War Powers Act, which insists that any military action past 60 days must receive congressional approval. Mr. Obama simply circumvented Congress. His behavior was that of a creeping dictator.
Moreover, he insisted that the Libya operation was legitimate because it had U.N. approval. Unaccountable international bureaucrats are to have more authority over U.S. armed forces than Congress. Mr. Obama also encoded the pernicious principle of “leading from behind.” In other words, the world’s superpower must engage in national self-abnegation for fear of upsetting Washington’s coalition partners. Instead of leading NATO, Mr. Obama wants America to be subsumed by it. The results of the Libya war were disastrous. Gadhafi’s murderous regime has been replaced by an Islamist Libya. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have infiltrated the country’s military, its large stockpiles of weapons plundered. Shariah law is being imposed. Libya is becoming a hotbed of jihadist radicalism. In other words, Mr. Obama waged an illegal war that ended up empowering America’s mortal enemies. If that is not a “high crime and misdemeanor,” then what is?
The administration is hoping to entrench the Libya model. This was the purpose of Mr. Panetta’s comments. From now on, Mr. Obama will launch military interventions based on a new doctrine: globalism. He hopes to erect a new world order where international bodies supersede American national sovereignty. U.S. military power is to become a tool of transnational socialists. George Soros is in, George Washington is out.
It is not just foreign policy. Mr. Obama has repeatedly behaved in an authoritarian, lawless fashion. He abused congressional procedures to ram through Obamacare. He has named numerous policy “czars” with Cabinet-like powers without the Senate’s advice and consent. He has made recess appointments while Congress was not in recess - a blatant transgression of constitutional authority. He has sued states, such as Arizona and Alabama, simply for trying to enforce federal immigration laws, which the president is legally obligated to uphold.
This is why voters must conduct the ultimate impeachment: Remove him from office in the November election. Until then, should Mr. Obama attempt an October surprise by bombing Syria or Iran in order to cynically win re-election, Mr. Jones has given Republicans the firewall to stop him. We don’t serve the president. He must serve us.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.