Earlier this week, I noted that Mitt Romney had taken a view of presidential war powers that was even more troubling than that of President Barack Obama, who had taken part in a bombing campaign of Libya without congressional approval. Romney told Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation, that he didn’t need authorization from Congress to go to war with Iran.
For all the recent talk from our conservative friends about executive overreach by President Obama, Romney comments are perhaps even more startling given the potential consquences of unilaterally going to war with Iran, both from constitutional and foreign policy perspectives. And even though he has endorsed him, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) isn’t happy with Romney’s recent declaration:
I do not yet know if I will find a Romney presidency more acceptable on foreign policy. But I do know that I must oppose the most recent statements made by Mitt Romney in which he says he, as president, could take us to war unilaterally with Iran, without any approval from Congress. His exact words were:
I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.
This is a misreading of the role of the president and Congress in declaring war.
The Constitution clearly states that it is Congress that has the power to declare war, not the president. The War Powers Act also clearly states that U.S. forces are to engage in hostilities only if the circumstances are “pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
Absent these criteria, the president has no authority to declare war.
Even if the president believes he has such authority, the War Powers Act goes on to require the president to seek congressional approval within 60 days of conflict.
No president is above the law or above the Constitution.
I know many Ron Paul supporters are using this as they chance to say “I told you so” to Sen. Paul. But again, he is a Republican, he always said that he was going to back the GOP nominee. It doesn’t mean he agrees with them on everything and he, of course, reserves the right to speak out when he does disagree; though that won’t earn him any points with Romney.
Sen. Paul needs to keep in mind that the Republican primary is over. So Romney isn’t trying to appeal to defense-hawks that are skeptical of his view on foreign policy. If anything he should be saying the opposite given polls showing that Americans are war weary. So it’s probably safe to say that this is what Romney really believes. And if that’s the case, then there is no question about it — Romney is demonstrability worse than Obama on foreign policy and executive power.