Long before our time, the customs of our ancestors molded admirable men, and in turn these eminent men upheld the ways and institutions of their forbearers. Our age, however, inherited the Republic like some beautiful painting of bygone days, its colors already fading through great age; and not only has our time neglected to freshen the colors of the picture, but we have failed to preserve its forms and outlines.–Cicero
Catholic Vote Readers, thank you very much for the several responses to my piece yesterday regarding the possible impeachment (and I still highly encourage it) of the sitting president (though, of course, he’s calling in his war order from Brazil). Please forgive yet another post on this–I’m on the road, and it’s much easier to post as a blog than as separate responses to the various comments. We’re on the fourth day of spring break, two hours from our final destination (Cedar Creek, Texas) as I type this. Additionally, my oldest child, Nathaniel has turned 12 today. A great day for this young man who wants, at least at this point, to be a Marine and a priest. Please pray for him.
But, again, please know how much I appreciate the responses, whether they agree or disagree, gently or not, with my own position. Such spiritedness moves me greatly.
First, and I’m not sure how this could be argued in any other way: the president is guilty of violating the constitution in the most grievous way. A blockade of any kind–air or water–has been regarded as an act of war by the Law of Nations and by International Law for centuries. Whether the sitting president has the support of allies or not, matters not in the least. President Obama, as the chief executive of the United States, has brought us into conflict with a foreign people, itself torn by its own civil war. Congress did not authorize this, nor has the president sought its recognition. A president has absolutely no constitutional authority or right to bring us into war with a foreign people without a declaration of war from the U.S. Congress.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states quite explicitly that the power to declare war is reserved to the Congress and the Congress alone. This was not a decision made on whim by the Founders. Only a sovereign legislature represents the people, and only the people have the right to declare war. They should never do so for light reasons, but only for the greatest of causes. Our president has been elected not by the people but by the electoral college. He does not–nor can he without the consent of Congress–speak for the people as a whole. Is our sitting president the first to violate the Constitution on this matter? Of course not. He’s no more or less guilty than the others. But, he’s just as guilty. The difference at this moment in time is this: the American people have elected a Congress with the specific intent of having it reign in the powers of the federal government. The right to declare war, again, is reserved exclusively to the Congress.
If Congress is to be worthy of the American people, it should impeach the sitting president for violating the Constitution. It matters not in the least whether a president is right, left, conservative, squishy, Republican, or Democrat. All that matters is that he (or, someday, I assume, she) upholds his oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. The current president has betrayed his oath and violated the founding document of this republic.
Second, the comments labeled me, variously, a shill for the Republican party, an ally of the left, an ally of whackos, and heated. While I might very well be all of these things, I stand by my position. And, if quoting the Constitution takes away from our arguments against abortion. . . . (no, wait, I have no reply to this comment, as I’m at a complete loss as to what the connection is.)
As an additional comment, when I was asked to contribute to CatholicVote, I was never told to conform to anything; that is, conform to nothing beyond giving my views on whatever subject as a Roman Catholic. While I would never claim to be an expert on foreign policy, I can say with some confidence that I’m not only a straight-down-the-line JPII/B16 Catholic, I’m also a historian with an expertise of the American Founding and the first 100 years of the American republic. I hope this doesn’t come across as arrogant–but it is factual, and I’ve been teaching courses on the western and American traditions for nearly two decades.
Should Josh Mercer, the editor, restrain me and my opinions, I will certainly acquiesce. But, that I both praise Tom Crowe for his views and disagree with some of his specifics should not be seen as inconsistent. I respect Tom immensely; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have commented on him at all; I would have simply ignored him.
There is no litmus test–beyond being Catholic and being humane–for blogging at Catholic Vote. I would think readers would appreciate that the several contributors are not always in agreement and that we’re not presenting some conformist, ideological viewpoint. Should conformity ever happen, we’ll probably each go our separate ways.
Third, it should be remembered that impeachment is nothing more (as well as nothing less) than the House of Representatives giving a vote of “no confidence” on the sitting president. It has no legal implications. Up to this point in American history, Congress has acted in a very restrained manner when it comes to employing this right. Presidents Johnson and Clinton were impeached for crimes much, much less serious than unilaterally declaring war against a foreign power.
Fourth, I agree–Gaddafi is a murderer, and I’ve despised him since I was in my first year in high school in 1983. My comments in the previous blog or this blog have nothing to do with the rightness of war (or not) against Gaddafi. It should be remembered that the U.S. allied itself with the second greatest mass murderer of all time during World War II. We’ve butchered Mexicans as well as Indians. We annihilated the one pro-western, Catholic city in Japan in 1945. It would be nice if we always fought for the humane and the just. We clearly have not. My point is that war–which will involve the killing of American citizens and other persons, each made in the image of God–should not be decided by one person or one person and his cabinet. It MUST be decided by a people as a body, and this can only be done by a sovereign legislature.
So, as an American, a republican (yes, that’s a small “r” republican), and a Roman Catholic, I willingly call our current president unconstitutional, arrogant, and corrupt. He does not–nor can he by the powers of the U.S. Constitution–speak for the American people on matters of war without the consent of the U.S. Congress.
If the members of the House have any backbone, they will begin impeachment proceedings as quickly as possible. While President Obama is not the first to abuse his role as chief executive. . . it would be good to stop his power before it does becomes a permanent tradition. The republic is greater than one man or one generation or many generations. What we do here and now might very well affect thousands of years of republican virtue, liberty, and order.
[image above from: http://www.richgibson.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/obama_war.jpg