Impeaching Obama? Impeach Congress
If you live inside the beltway, you may have heard that Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) has put forward a bill that would make any instance of the executive using the military without going through Congress an impeachable offense:
In a House Resolution introduced last week, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) put forward use of the military by the executive branch without explicit authorization from Congress as an impeachable offense: one which some conservatives believe President Barack Obama has already committed.
The bill’s author, Rep. Jones, was once a Democrat who switched parties before seeking congressional office in the 90s. He endorsed former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) for president in 2008, and has been one of the Republican Party’s loudest critics of the presidency’s warmaking powers.
“When you talk about war, political parties don’t matter,” he told The New York Times last year.
While not directly calling for impeachment, the bill would declare “that it is the sense of Congress that, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the use of offensive military force by a president without prior and clear authorization of an act of Congress violates Congress’s exclusive power to declare war… and therefore constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution.”
In other words, the bill would, in effect, serve as a trigger mechanism for impeachment proceedings.
The reason this is becoming an issue is because the Administration—as expressed through its mouthpiece, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta—is considering allowing the UN to demand US forces to intervene in Syria, and bypass Congress entirely. It’s a dangerous thing, and also completely unconstitutional: Congress must authorize all military actions, except in case of attack, before the president can deploy them. It’s a simple as that—and yet we’ve seen, over the decades, that nobody really understands or cares about it.
As much as I like the idea of impeachment, I think it’s positively weak sauce and ultimately symbolic. Obama has already performed at least two impeachable acts—his “kinetic military action” against Libya and his “non-recess recess appointment” of Cordray—yet in neither case did the House press for impeachment, as it should. And even if the House did impeach, the Senate would not convict. They can’t even pass a budget within a three year timespan, do you think they will convict a sitting president of the majority party in any time whatsoever? Please.
The problem, I feel, lies equally with Congress as it does with the president. As I’ve written previously, Congress has abrogated its duties and obligations multiple times over the past two decades. We’ve seen an unprecedented (well, since FDR, at least) concentration of power in the Oval Office, an imperial presidency, and largely that is because we have a spineless and lazy Congress that refuses to actually perform its job. Perhaps if Congress was not so timid and weak—perhaps if they the Republican-controlled House actually bothered to file articles of impeachment against President Obama when he sent military forces to Libya without Congressional permission—we wouldn’t be sitting here wondering if it would be okay for the president to send off troops on the basis of the UN demands.
Maybe if Congress actually bothered to stand up for civil liberties when the 2012 NDAA was being passed, we could believe them. Maybe if Congress pushed back against the Obama Administration when it decided to kill people with drones without a trial, or against the Bush Administration which set up entire judiciary systems under the military, we could think they are sincere. Perhaps if they hadn’t spent decades giving executive agencies the ability to craft “administrative law,”—something prohibited by Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States of America—we could agree wholeheartedly.
But we can’t—or, at the very least, I cannot. While I applaud Rep. Jones—and all Representatives and Senators who have opposed these wars and the concentration of power in the White House—I recognize that a great deal of this is because Congress has fallen down on the job. Congresscritters, both Representatives and Senators, have become far more concerned with their job security and building networks of wealthy donors than actually concerned with their job requirements or, you know, governing. This is a plague that affects both parties equally, though it seems to always affect the one in power more than the one in opposition. Until Congress as a whole puts its butt back in the hot seat and actually does its job—and that includes a cessation of all delegation of said jobs to other agencies and organs of the federal government—I cannot take these impeachment warnings seriously.
Impeach Obama? Hell, at this point, you should probably impeach Congress first.