Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Where Does It Say That?

Via Dan Froomkin, Washington Post:
Michael B. Mukasey, President Bush's nominee for attorney general, was asked whether the president is required to obey federal statutes. Judge Mukasey replied, 'That would have to depend on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country.'

Back up the Unitary Executive Bus! Where in the United States Constitution does it say that the President has the authority to "defend the country." The Constitution provides the following role for the President vis-a-vis National Defense:
Article II, Section 2 The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;...
That's it - Nothing more.

The Congress, on the otherhand, is given responsibility to "provide for the common Defence... declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;... To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces ... " (Article I, Section 8).

Seems pretty clear that the Founders intended Congress to have an active, if not dominant role in defending the country. The President's role as Commander-in-Chief is a command role. Period. He is the top, albeit civilian, General Officer with all the boundaries on authority that any commander faces. There is absolutely nothing in the President's warrant that provides him the arch responsibility for "defending the country." In fact, the text can be "strictly constructed" to provide no strategic or decision making role whatsoever.

This power grab by the current President not only poses a clear and present danger to our democracy but paves the way for further erosions of our birthright by future residents of the White House. Our predecessors had the unique wisdom to construct a government based on the mistrust of accumulated power. Let us not trade this gem for the illusion of security.

No comments: