He Who Lives by Legislation….

by Don Boudreaux on June 16, 2011

in Current Affairs, War

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Months after ordering the U.S. military to commence the still-ongoing air strikes in Libya – and, hence, after disproving his initial claim that these strikes would last “days, not weeks” – Pres. Obama, as you report, informed Congress yesterday of “the administration’s view that the Libyan conflict is too limited to require authorization by Congress under the War Powers Act” (“Obama Defends Libya Intervention,” June 16).

Can I cite Pres. Obama as an exemplar if I refuse to pay taxes this year because my view is that my income is too limited to require such payment under the Internal Revenue Code?

Donald J. Boudreaux

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Oliver June 16, 2011 at 9:20 am

The last time the U.S. formally declared war was in 1942: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_war_by_the_United_States . It’s absurd and hypocritical, but that’s how this geopolitical game has been played since the end of WWII.

Methinks1776 June 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

I believe Bush got congressional approval for both the Iraq invasion and Afghanistan. Whatever you call those, Bush got authorization from congress.

The One got his “authorization” from the United Nations.

Mikenshmirtz June 16, 2011 at 9:32 am

Oh Olivier, Oliver… While we’re busy promoting Wikipedia, perhaps you’d like to read their bit on the War Powers Act of 1973 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Powers_Resolution) which is actually the topic of the current dispute. I think you’ll find it more insightful than the less relevant history of war declarations.

BZ June 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Can an act of Congress amend or alter the U.S. Constitution? For that matter, can a judges opinion?

Oliver June 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm

How quick you all are in reading a pro-obama standpoint in my post… Anyway, further down that same wikipedia page I linked to, you can see the current administration classified this action under ‘Military engagements authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolutions and funded by Congress’, apparently the same heading the North-Korean, Bosnian and now Libyan war -sorry- ‘missions’ (or whatever euphemism they employ for the initiative at hand) were classified under.

Dan J June 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm

No bones about it. After all of the things Obama has done, negatively, to the American economy and to subvert constitutional law, I am going to be biased against him on his actions. This bias is also a direct response to how the sycophant left steam media would have been approaching the situation should a non-democrat been in office.

Dan June 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Boy for sale……….. Boy for sale…
Please sir, may I have more?

brotio June 17, 2011 at 12:31 am

Diplomats hate to use the term, “war”, but the Joint Resolution for Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq reads very much like a declaration of war to me, including this passage: (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION. — Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

vidyohs June 16, 2011 at 9:49 am

“Can I cite Pres. Obama as an exemplar if I refuse to pay taxes this year because my view is that my income is too limited to require such payment under the Internal Revenue Code?”

Why not ask, you might get lucky. Though I seriously doubt he knows the answer either.

Gordon Richens June 16, 2011 at 10:08 am

I doubt the IRS can afford to widely administer according to examples that have been set by the tax cheats in the WH.

vidyohs June 16, 2011 at 11:00 am

No, of course the IRS has to administer as if the lie were truth, the occupant of the WH is irrelevant except that he not give the game away.

Krishnan June 16, 2011 at 10:40 am

This is but one in a long line of decisions by Obama that shows his contempt for Congress and the Legislative process … Obama has always believed that he is above any law – that the Law is what HE SAYS IT IS and so there. Just ask any of the legal experts who appear on most lamestream media about anything Obama has done – They all bow down and say “Obama is King. Whatever he says is the Law. Who are we, mortals, to question his infinite wisdom”

And oh, about the IRS – Have you donated to his campaign for 2012? If not, fuggateaboutit – No way in hell you will be given a pass on your taxes – If you write a nice column praising Obama, then you surely will get anything you want (see the unions and others that have gotten waivers from ObamaCare – others who want such – but are NOT Obama supporters – they are out of luck …)

WhiskeyJim June 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

The EPA, czars, war non-declaration, and the GM deal which ignored bond holders all make history in exactly the same way: they significantly move the bar left for subsequent administrations while diminishing Congress.

It is the history setting trend that is important, even more than any one occurrence. I am surprised not to see this trend highlighted in the news.

It is the story of the current Presidency.

Dan June 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm

MSM reports from the West Wing of White House.

Sam Grove June 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I am surprised not to see this trend highlighted in the news.

They do…approvingly.

nailheadtom June 16, 2011 at 10:48 am

“The War Powers Act has been controversial since its passage at the end of U.S. intervention in Vietnam. “There’s a growing consensus that the War Powers Resolution is and was unconstitutional,” said Robert Turner, co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia Law School.

“Congress is taking the power to ‘declare war’ and translating that into the power to regulate any and every use of force” by the commander-in-chief, he said.”
Since Mr. Turner isn’t in a black robe seated next to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, his opinion isn’t a great deal more important than that of anyone else that’s read the Constitution. This administration has made a habit of ignoring the law for its own convenience in many areas. Congress has remedies for this and should use them.

Steve C. June 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

That’s why I was disappointed to see a bunch of Congressmen filing a law suit against the administration. Putting aside the fact that a law suit didn’t work against Clinton in the 90s, ust like Dorothy always had the power to send herself home, Congress has the power to enforce the War Powers Act by cutting off funding.

But they won’t do that, because that would be “extreme”. Which begs the question, why doesn’t Congress have the institutional courage to stand up for their power? The converse is why doesn’t the President state the obvious, the War Powers Act is an unconstitutional restraint of executive power. That would require of someone whose career consists largely of running for office and voting “present” to actually make a positive argument about the power of their office.
Not that the comparison is particularly apt, but look at the history of the last years of the Weimar Republic and you will see that “politics” largely consisted of maneuvering to escape responsibility for unpopular decisions. Quite often, the only thing the parties could agree on was delegating legislative power to President Hindenburg.

Dan June 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Why not set up bureaucracies that have legislative powers in their field to make rules and regulations without congressional approval so that the elected officials can escape responsibility?

Oh wait……. They did, didn’t they? Health Human Services can now make their own legislation. EPA can make their own legislation.

WhiskeyJim June 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm

While it may be disappointing that Congress is filing suit, you may have answered your own question.

It is long past time to clear up the ambiguity of the War Powers Act. Since it is no longer possible to do so in Congress, one place to begin is in the Supreme Court, where at the moment the Conservatives generally hold the majority.

Observer Guy1 June 16, 2011 at 11:00 am

I believe that was Tim Geithner’s excuse as well, no? Worked for him.

Mao_Dung June 17, 2011 at 10:45 am


Mao_Dung June 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Peanut butter. My dog. Anyone else want in? Hhhmmmmmm……

Dan June 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I am concerned……… Thoams Sowell has not published a new column this week………. I hope he is well and just on vacation.

Dan June 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Found it

Scott G June 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Don I appreciate you chipping away at Mr. Obama’s reputation. I should consider ways of doing the same. Here are some ideas that might help get your creative juices flowing.

I would suggest painting an image of what Mr. Obama is actually doing in Libya (the sinister and efficient way of killing people using CIA and special forces technology). Another suggestion is to compare his motives in Libya to those of Mr. Bush’s in Iraq. Equate Obama and Bush.

Another route would be to present a market alternative to Mr. Obama’s actions in Libya as I’ve done here.


geoih June 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm

How many dead bodies are in a “limited”? Maybe we could ask Pakistan?

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