Democrats catching impeachment fever?
posted at 2:00 pm on March 20, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
If nothing else, Dennis Kucinich is consistent. He wanted to push articles of impeachment against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney over the Iraq war, which his own party’s leadership squelched in the summer of 2008 — when Bush’s term had all but expired anyway. Kucinich and John Conyers instead had to settle for “impugnment hearings,” which one witness called “slightly demented.”
Now we have another military action from another president, this one without the cover of a Congressional authorization to use military force, and Kucinich wants to crank up the impeachment process, pun most certainly intended:
A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) “all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president’s actions” during that call, said two Democratic lawmakers who took part.
Kucinich, who wanted to bring impeachment articles against both former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq — only to be blocked by his own leadership — asked why the U.S. missile strikes aren’t impeachable offenses.
Kucinich also questioned why Democratic leaders didn’t object when President Barack Obama told them of his plan for American participation in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone during a White House Situation Room meeting on Friday, sources told POLITICO.
Technically, of course, Kucinich and other progressives are correct in that the Constitution doesn’t allow for Presidents to initiate military action without the involvement of Congress unless an immediate threat to American national security arises, the “clear and present danger” exception. One Constitutional scholar put it best in 2007:
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.
We’d get a clarification from this source to determine whether this applies to the current situation, but he’s traveling through South America at the moment and isn’t terribly engaged on this issue.
Traditionally, though, consultations with Congress have sufficed in the past. For instance, Congress didn’t specifically authorize Ronald Reagan to attack Libya in 1986 in Operation El Dorado Canyon, a retaliation for a terrorist bombing that killed American troops in Germany at a nightclub. Reagan consulted Congressional leadership before ordering the attack, an act of war by any definition. Presidents have conducted similar military actions without formal acts of Congress to authorize them, meaning it has a long precedent, even if it’s not necessarily a good idea. According to the report and Kucinich’s own objection, Obama did consult Congress before engaging in Operation Odyssey Dawn.
It’s certainly amusing in a small manner to see Obama get hoist with his own petard, but Kucinich is just as silly as ever in suggesting that impeachment proceedings should start over that action. Now, if we want to ask whether Obama should get called to Congress to account for his absence from the White House as he sent the American military into hostile action against Libya, that might be worth highlighting.