Mark Levin, so kind to share his constitutional misinterpretation on Facebook is another one of those so-called ‘Conservatives’ who has a self-proclaimed mission to ‘defend the Constitution’. Of course, the version of the Constitution he champions needs to conform to certain Neo-Conservative tenets, one of which is ‘never waste a chance to drop bombs on a predominantly Islamic middle-eastern nation even without a required Congressional declaration of war’.
To argue his case, Levin attempts to deflect attention from his mutated interpretation of the Constitution by blaming the Founders for not being explicit enough for him:
“Why didn’t the Framers explicitly require the president to seek approval from Congress before engaging in all acts of war, and enumerate such power in Congress? If they granted the president, as commander-in-chief, the power to only repel military acts against the nation without congressional authority, why did they not enumerate that? What of offensive military actions taken to prevent imminent threats? What of covert operations for that matter, or extended wars fought over decades but mostly through surrogates (such as the Cold War)? What must be declared and when?”
Mr. Levin, which part of what James Madison says here is difficult for you to understand ?
The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the power of declaring a state of war . . . the power of raising armies . . . the power of creating offices. . . .
A delegation of such powers [to the President] would have struck, not only at the fabric of our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments.
The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it, is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted.
The separation of the power of raising armies from the power of commanding them, is intended to prevent the raising of armies for the sake of commanding them. – James Madison
“The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature.” – James Madison
“The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.” – James Madison
In fact, it’s difficult to see how the Constitution could be anymore unambigious. Article I, Section 8 of the document clearly states that it is solely a Congressional function ‘To declare War’. Article II, Section I defines the President as ‘Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States’….when called into the actual Service of the United States.
Well, maybe James Madison was simply an impractical idealist, are there any other framers with opinions on the subject? Why yes, glad you asked, it appears that the specific assignment of the declaration of war power to Congress is not incidental, and was specifically contemplated by the Founders:
The Constitution and Libya – Michael Ramsey
As President, Washington on several occasions said that he could not undertake offensive military actions without Congress’ approval.
Hamilton is especially significant, because his views on the need for a strong executive went far beyond those of his contemporaries. Yet Hamilton made it very clear that he read the Constitution not to allow the President to begin a war – as he put it at one point, “it belongs to Congress only, to go to war.”
James Wilson told the Pennsylvania ratifying convention that ‘‘this system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power in declaring war is vested in the legislature at large.’’
Levin then goes on to further obfuscate the declaration of war question:
‘When members of Congress vote to fund these activities, they are giving their formal, official consent to the operations. More than voting to declare war, they are actually voting to fund war — all kinds of war…..What of military operations launched by a president where the president uses funds already appropriated by Congress before the operations began, but which were approved for general national security purposes — that is, where Congress has not actually voted on funding a particular operation…’
ZZZZZZZZZZ……Yes Mr. Levin, if your hypothetical war is for the purpose of EXPEDIENTLY DEFENDING THE UNITED STATES, then the historical precedent suggests that the President has the latitude to initiate military action. THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE ARBITRAY ACTIONS OF AN OFFENSIVE NATURE, OR IN SITUATIONS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DIRECT DEFENSE OF NATIONAL INTERESTS.
For example, in 1801, Thomas Jefferson used his executive authority to defend American ships against Barbary Pirates in the Bey of Tripoli without express Congressional approval. In this case, we had an emergency situation, where a foreign force had initiated hostility against American interests. The action was purely defensive in nature, and Jefferson acknowledged that he was “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.”
So, it’s a very simple formula…..let’s try a quiz !
- In which case may the President mobilize a military operation without the consent of Congress ?
1) An emergency situation which demands the immediate defense of U.S. citizens and/or preservation of the union ?
2) Bombing a third world nation that appears to be embroiled in a civil war, where the outcome is completely unrelated to the defense of the United States ?
DING DING, the correct answer is of course #1, See how easy that is you blustering, blabbering Neo-Con-artist?