Earlier in the morning, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, told Chis Wallace on Fox that she had a “titanium spine.” Here’s the brief exchange I had with her after she left CBS:
Bachmann: Hi, I’m Michele Bachmann and we’re excited about going to Iowa and I hope you all join us.
Sam Husseini: Wonderful. As chair of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus that proclaims a strong fidelity to the United States Constitution, do you believe President Obama should be impeached for going to war against Libya with no authorization from Congress?
Bachmann: I voted against the Libyan action. I’ve been against it from the very beginning. I think this was a foolish decision on the part of the president. I’m sorry he has put us in this situation. I believe he’s taken his eye off the central issue in the Middle East, which is to make sure we do not have a nuclear Iran, and I think this has created instability in the region.
Husseini: But if you really believe in the Constitution –
Bachmann’s handler [pointing to another reporter]: One more question over here —
I sent Bachmann’s comments to two constitutional scholars:
“Get Serious About the Constitution”
Francis A. Boyle, professor of law at the University of Illinois and author of Protesting Power: War, Resistance and Law, said: “The Tea Party Movement has shaken up American domestic politics in significant part because of its professed commitment to the United States Constitution. President Obama has been waging an unconstitutional war against Libya from the very moment of its inception in violation of the War Powers Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Congress’s own War Powers Resolution. Members of the Tea Party in the U.S. House of Representatives now have no constitutional alternative but to submit a Bill of Impeachment against President Obama over his Libyan War. I would be happy to offer my services free of charge on this matter to Congresswoman Bachman or any other Member of the U.S. House irrespective of political party. We have all taken an Oath to uphold the Constitution and Laws of the United States. Let’s get serious about it!”
“Bachmann Has Divorced the Constitution”
Former associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan and author of American Empire Before The Fall, Bruce Fein responded to Bachmann’s comments thus: “Congresswoman Michele Bachmann vocally vowed to embrace the Constitution. She crowned herself a ‘constitutional conservative,’ and inaugurated constitutional tutorials for the Tea Party Caucus in the manner of a schoolmarm. But she soon divorced the Constitution over irreconcilable differences.
“She earnestly argued that the Founding Fathers emancipated slaves. The Constitution retorted that slavery did not end until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865 as a codicil to the Civil War.
“Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution endows Congress exclusively with authority to commence war. Delegates to the constitutional convention worried about fighting too many wars, not too few. Wars impoverish with taxes and non-productive spending. They tarnish due process with military commissions and detentions without trial. They destroy the right to be left alone from government snooping. They fuel foreign resentments. They expose brave American soldiers to death.
“The Executive, the Founding Fathers understood, was inclined to concoct excuses for war from trifles light as air to aggrandize power. During wartime, the President enjoys secrecy, spending, appointments, and the thrill of global transformation. James Madison, father of the Constitution, wrote to Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence: ‘The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature.’
“But Congresswoman Bachmann stubbornly refuses to condemn President Obama’s unilateral war against Libya as unconstitutional, and insinuates the President should unilaterally invade Iran in hopes of destroying its alleged weapons of mass destruction. Her constitutional betrayal is stunning because Obama himself, Vice President Joseph Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can be summoned to denounce presidential wars as illegal.
“On December 20, 2007, Clinton sermonized as a Senator: ‘[T]he Constitution requires Congress to authorize war. I do not believe that the President can take military action — including any kind of strategic bombing — against Iran without congressional authorization.’
“Vice President Joseph Biden, speaking as a Senator at the Iowa City Public Library in 2007, maintained that presidential wars were impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution:
“It is precisely because the consequences of war – intended or otherwise — can be so profound and complicated that our Founding Fathers vested in Congress, not the President, the power to initiate war, except to repel an imminent attack on the United States or its citizens.
“On December 20, 2007, then Senator Barack Obama insisted to the Boston Globe: ‘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.’
“Bachmann rejects impeachment for presidential usurpations of the war power, although the remedy was specifically fashioned to answer attempts to subvert the Constitution.
“Her ill-informed divorce from the Constitution disqualifies her as a presidential candidate. Nothing is as dangerous as constitutional ignorance in action.”
The Corruption of Impeachment
I think alot of people think of the Bill Clinton impeachment over perjury regarding sexual conduct when the subject is brought up. It’s rather similar to what Anthony Weiner being forced to resign recently. And that perhaps is the Clinton impeachment’s worst legacy, to tarnish the primary method the Congress has to address unconstitutional acts by a sitting president.
Impeachment for substantial policy reasons can and must be part of the discourse. Noted individuals like Howard Zinn argued at the time for impeaching Clinton for the right reasons.
Boyle was actually counsel to Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Texas) in his Impeachment Resolution against President George H. W. Bush over Gulf War I in 1991.
And Bush Sr. feared impeachment, writing in his diary on 20 December 1990 about the then-impending war against Iraq: “But if it [the war] drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.” (See Bush’s book, with Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed.)