Thursday, March 19, 2015

Democrats' shameful double standard on abuse of power

Democrats' shameful double standard on abuse of power

Why is President Obama even bothering to ask Congress for a legally tardy Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS? It’s a war he’s already fighting — and which he clearly intends to keep fighting, regardless of whether the authorization goes through.

If passed, the AUMF is at most “a thumbs-up from Congress for things that the military has already been doing in the Middle East,” as New York’s Jaime Fuller puts it. Far from limiting executive power, it gives Obama a blank check for war. But here’s the thing: To all appearances, he’s perfectly willing to write that check himself if he feels the need, yet doesn’t trust others to have that same power.

Consider this little-noted incident from the 2012 campaign season: Faced with the possibility of a Mitt Romney presidency, the Obama White House began to press for an explicit set of rules for drone warfare. “There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,” an anonymous administration official explained to The New York Times, which noted tellingly that “[t]he effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, [would instead] be finished at a more leisurely pace.”

Obama trusts himself to wage war without clear legal boundaries. He feels a little squeamish about entrusting that same power to a Republican. And as a result, his decision-making process about whether a particular power should be granted to his office is not so much about ethical and constitutional issues as about who will wield that power.

The drone guidelines have turned out to be nearly as toothless of a limiting factor as the AUMF. But in each case, Obama seems interested in establishing at least some legal framework… in case of Republicans.