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Candidate Obama vs. President Obama on presidential power

After listening to President Obama’s speech this afternoon regarding Syria, I read an article in the newspaper. I imagine the national pundits have already made note of the contradiction I discovered, but I don’t listen to a lot of talk radio, so it struck me as a profound about-face.

Here’s what Candidate Obama told the Boston Globe in December 2007 (which was quoted in an AP story I read in the Journal Star this morning):

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

But today, President Obama had something different to say (emphasis mine):

Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. […] Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.

So Candidate Obama believed the President does not have the power to authorize military action unilaterally, but President Obama does believe the President has the authority to take military action unilaterally. What has changed since 2007? Well, obviously, Obama is now President! It appears that the power of the Presidency has changed Obama’s mind.

58 comments to Candidate Obama vs. President Obama on presidential power

  • cotswold9

    If every non ‘Rich” person had their pay check doubled and Bill Gates had his tripled – the net effect is most people would be better of with twice as much money as they had yesterday. It does not matter what “rich” people get, it matter what you get in your own situation — I would glady trade increasing rich guys salary for doubling mine any day.

  • Dave

    Can a president attack another country without prior congressional approval? Only if that president’s party does not control the House. See Operation Urgent Fury.

  • David P. Jordan

    Can a president attack another country without prior congressional approval? Only if that president’s party does not control the House. See Operation Urgent Fury.

    Yada. Yada. Yada.

    Keep in mind that the War Powers Resolution (WPR) was passed by Congress in 1973 over President Nixon’s veto. It requires presidents to consult Congress within 48 hours of committing U. S. Armed forces into combat. This triggers a 60-day period after which Congress has to approve military action or forces must be withdrawn (for which an additional 30 days is provided).

    Reagan signed a directive at 6:00pm on October 24, 1983 ordering the invasion of Grenada. He met with and informed congressional leaders two hours later. The invasion began at 5:30am the next day. Thus, he complied with the WPR. US forces were withdrawn before the 60-day period.

    It is my belief that President Obama has the authority to retaliate against Syria for its use of chemical weapons, but he needed to act quickly. Unfortunately, controversy over who actually used them stalled the issue and Obama “led from behind,” allowing the Russians the upper hand.

    Obama’s adventure in Libya and Clinton’s in Kosovo were likely in violation of the WPR. In fact, Clinton said the WPR was “constitutionally defective.” Significantly, both are Democrats.

  • Dave

    So the answer is “Yes, a president (Republican or Democrat) can unilaterally initiate military action so long as he “consults” congress within 48 hours after he/she initiates hostilities. So Obama could attack Syria without prior congressional approval. I thought that was the question. Question answered.

  • David P. Jordan

    Actually, Dave, if you read CJ’s post, you’ll find Obama’s hypocrisy is the issue, not the legality of taking military action without prior congressional approval.

    But I think you already knew that.

  • Dave

    Oh that is an easy one. By definition, candidates do not know what they are talking about.

  • Randall

    Jordon, you can’t know what I am thinking. You can’t freely think without Faux News and Limbaugh. Nobody is saying tax the rich and take their money. What people want is for the rich to pay their share and not hide their money in the Cayman’s.

    BTW, I mis-spelled your name on purpose. Should be J E R K Cheers!

  • anonymous

    The genteel Emtronics, keeping it classy.