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"The Congress shall have Power. . .To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water. . ."

--United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

Seems simple enough to me.  But then, I'm just an idiot behind a keyboard.  Thank God there are smart guys like Eric Cantor (R-Delusional) to set me straight with his stunning legal and constitutional analysis.

You see, just now on Hardball, Cantor, after recovering from the awkwardness of his initial assertion that soldiers in the field could determine whether or not the U.S. Army could invade Iran (presumably from their present positions in Iraq), declared that the President, in his position of Commander-in-Chief, had the sole authority to decide whether or not our forces can attack Iran.

Wrap your mind around that.  The C-in-C has the sole authority to "decide" whether we go to war with a sovreign country.  As if all of Article I of the Constitution were a "serving suggestion" like the appetizing pictures on the front of a TV dinner package.

When an incredulous Chris Matthews asked Cantor why then the president went to Congress to get authorization before going into Iraq, Cantor said that Junior only did it on the advice of counsel, implying that it would have been perfectly alright had we committed troops, tanks, planes, ships and all those KBR laundry trucks on Junior's say-so alone.

I grew a pretty significant part of my up in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I have distinct memories of civics classes, where we were taught the concepts of constitutional seperation of powers.  One of the first understandings I retained about our government was the sentence, "Congress shall have the power to declare war."

My question to Rep. Cantor:  did you go to school in Virginia or did you just move there to run for Congress?

Originally posted to Crashing Vor on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Chris Spitball made an ass out of him (7+ / 0-)

    Towards the end he made some comment along the lines of congress not beeing needed at all.

    If Cantor and McHenry are the best these Republicans have, they're in for a loooong period of minority status.

  •  Please, if you saw this (9+ / 0-)

    and I misheard what Rep. Cantor said, set me straight.  I just can't believe a member of Congress knows so little of the instruction manual he swore to defend.

    Nanotechnology can take atmospheric CO2 and make diamonds and fresh air.

    by Crashing Vor on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:26:48 PM PST

  •  Time to use "Strict Constructionist" language (7+ / 0-)

    to point out that the Constitution can't be interpreted to mean the opposite of what it says.

  •  I hate to say it... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crashing Vor

    ...but those two things you cite are not the same.

    A very interesting constitutional argument can be made as to whether "attacking a sovereign nation" is the same as declaring war.

    •  Okay, I'll bite. (0+ / 0-)

      Under what conditions would an attack on Iran not be either a new "war" or "Captures on Land and Water?"

      Nanotechnology can take atmospheric CO2 and make diamonds and fresh air.

      by Crashing Vor on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:37:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MGK, Crashing Vor

        I'm not saying that I have all the details.

        What I am saying is that a strong constitutional argument can be made that the Congressional power to declare war consists entirely of debating and voting on a resolution declaring the United States to be officially at war with another nation.

        There doesn't appear to be a constitutional limitation on the President's use of the military in the absence of such an authorization. Congress tried to legislate such a limitation with the War Powers Resolution (back in 1973, I believe). However, the constitutionality of that resolution has never been tested and legal scholars on both sides question its constitutionality.

        In summary, though, an attack on Iran or even a series of attacks on Iran in absence of an official declaration may be entirely constitutional.

        •  I could understand them arguing (0+ / 0-)

          that the Afghan AUMF covered it if they found an al-Qaeda link (unlikely as snow in Basra), but the Iraq AUMF?  I don't see any arguable relation.

          Nanotechnology can take atmospheric CO2 and make diamonds and fresh air.

          by Crashing Vor on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:45:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're missing the point (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Crashing Vor

            The contention that will be made (or, at least, can be made) is that it doesn't matter whether either AUMF covered a future conflict. The strict Constitutional interpretation is that the President needs no authorization from Congress to do anything with the military. He's commander-in-chief and, as part of that position, can direct the military as he pleases.

            According to that interpretation, the only way for Congress to stop is it to wait until the next budget cycle and refuse to fund the military or put stipulations on funds allocated for the military.

            •  I see the argument. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              rockhound, dennisl, Bronx59

              So, in theory, a prez could start lobbing nukes over the border into Mexico, then turn around and say, "I never said we were at war with them.  I just wanted to command-in-chief."

              A novel idea, but I tend to agree with RandomSequence below that using the war machinery is tantamount to making war.

              But thanks for refining the argument.  I thought at first you were saying that the earlier AUMFs were carte blanche for an Persian adventure.

              Nanotechnology can take atmospheric CO2 and make diamonds and fresh air.

              by Crashing Vor on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:57:20 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  From what I've gathered--IANAL-- (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Crashing Vor

                the president acts as commander in chief only in time of war, and Congress declares war, giving him that opportunity. Whether an "authorization" is tantamount to a "declaration", and whether "war" only applies to conflict with another nation's military forces, I don't know. Maybe someone here can comment more knowledgeably on this.

        •  Sorry, then Bush is right... (6+ / 0-)

          the constitution ain't worth the paper it's written on. There's a significant discussion about this in the Federalist papers. If congress is simply a debating society for rubber stamping the action of the presidency, then what was that little revolution we had about?

          Now, I understand that over the centuries the constitution has been abraded to the point of indecipherability, but if the power to declare war is entirely independent of the power to wage war, all we have is word games without any substance.  Whatever the concensus is today, that particular power was meant to have substance. I don't have my Federalist papers handy, but despite my other disagreement with Madison and Hamilton, I think we agree on this point.

          •  On this point, I disagree (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            marina, Crashing Vor

            Congress still has budgetary power over the military, hence, can (eventually) stop a military conflict.

            I can imagine a few stronger Congressional responses, as well, to an unjustified war.

            However, to a certain extent, the strict constitutional reading advocated above makes sense. In the event of an attack on US interests that required an immediate response, coupled with Congress being out of session or unavailable (due to a catastrophe that rendered many congresspersons dead, for example), the President should logically have the authority to respond without needed prior approval.

            The War Powers Resolution attempted to provide a framework for these scenarios. However, any reading of the constitution seems to either provide for one of two scenarios: either the use of military force requires Congressional approval, or it doesn't. The Constitution doesn't directly allow Congress to set other rules for warfare, other than to say "We're at war," or, under some interpretations, to say "We're not at war." Hence, the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution is questioned by many.

            These middle-ground areas are another sticky point, even assuming the Constitution requires Congressional approval.

            •  Emergency responses are pre-constitutional. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              zeke L, Crashing Vor

              If Osama shows up at my door, carrying a bomb, of course I have the right to shoot him in the head. Any emergency response without a pre-formed formal mechanism has to be handled as best can be, and let the justifications be after the facts.

              However, any interpretation of the context that the constitution was produced under make it obvious that the intention of  a large part of the involved parties was not to create temporary dictatorships. Because that's what you have in effect if congress has the limited ability to simply to restate the fact "We're at war."

              Let see what powers congress has under Article I:

              To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

              To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

              To provide and maintain a navy;

              To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

              To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

              To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

              Seems pretty clear to me. If regulation doesn't include who soldier are allowed to kill, if "calling forth the militia ot execute the laws of the union" doesn't include controlling the rules of warfare, the general targets, the beginning and ending of war, we're just living in a lawyer-ly parallel universe, where everything is just a "term of art," with no substance except in the esotoric jargon of laywer-ese. Somehow, I doubt that's what the colonies voted for.

            •  And let me expand... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              phriendlyjaime, Crashing Vor

              On the other hand, the powers of the president are, according to 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

              He's commander-in-chief, or in other words, top general. That's it. Six to one, with congresses six forming about a hundred words, compared to the Presidents 30, with half of those limiting his powers, not expanding them.

              Comparing the list of powers, its clear that the bulk of war-making powers lies with Congress. Congress legislates, the president executes. They give him orders, he implements them. And you can't argue that expansive war-waging ability is executing a legislated policy; that's creating policy.

        •  Sorta (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dennisl, Crashing Vor

          The authors of the Constitution generally learned their trade opposing King George (the one in England circa the 1770s, not the one in Crawford, circa 2001-2006) and his warmaking powers.  It's pretty clear what was meant by this requirement.  Incidentally, the English Parliament did the same thing to King George by controlling his access to funding to fight the Revolutionary War -- the American Revolution had many supporters in England, some in high places.  The War Powers Act's constitutionality seems pretty solid.

          However, the War Powers Act gives him 120 days to run his war against Iran, and practically, quite a bit of time to "reasonably disengage" -- in practice, it would take a long time for Congress to reel him in.  For example, the court order upholding the War Powers Act would probably be stayed until the case gets to the Supreme Court, and after that, if he ignores it, it takes another round of court action to get an injunction, and yet another to decide on equity relief, and so on.  He'll be out of office before definitive injunctive relief is in place -- and King George of Crawford, like his Revolutionary War namesake, has shown that he doesn't care about the long term consequences of his actions.

  •  Cantor's a shill and a Rovebot (4+ / 0-)

    Best friends with Jack Abramoff (Jack named a sandwich after him) and champion of poor, persecuted Tom Delay.

    Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

    by bumblebums on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:35:32 PM PST

  •  I saw some of that. (4+ / 0-)

    I don't even know who the other guest was, but he was all but rolling his eyes and laughing.

    Matthews should have Cantor on more often.  The people of VA need to know what an idiot they sent to Washington.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:35:49 PM PST

  •  Cantor (6+ / 0-)

    Cantor needs to resign, since he as much as declared Congress has no purpose. Why pay the idiot?

  •  No No No you don't understand... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zeke L, Crashing Vor, Bronx59 that the Republicans no longer control the House of Representatives, they have no use for that part of the legislative branch. Therefore...the President does not need the consent of Congress for anything. If he wakes up one morning and decides to declare war on a country that has pissed him off, then he just gets on with showing the rest of the world Who Is In Charge. Simple really.
    Of course, that means that Rep. Cantor is surplus to requirements maybe somebody should tell him to STFU, or at the very least STFU until he can remember some small part of the U.S. Constitution.
    Some of the Republican congresscritters sure are a bunch of duplicitous, obsequious blowhards...

  •  We are full of those educated VA Congress people (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crashing Vor

    Welcome to our state - just full of idiot REPuBS.

    Unleash the potential to make a difference

    by totallynext on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:52:11 PM PST

  •  Ok - all Salary, stuff and $$$ (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    liberaldregs, Crashing Vor

    Budgeted for Republican Congress members gets to go back into the pot for Universal Heathcare.  TAlk about a welfare program.

    These people are idiots.  If they do not see the value of Congress - the ax them all and keep the money.

    Unleash the potential to make a difference

    by totallynext on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:55:55 PM PST

  •  Dumbya made a smart move when he (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crashing Vor

    Got the IWR to cover his ass.

    Had he gone to Iraq the way BC went to Bosnia he wouldnt have the political cover he now has.
    To make matters worse he still claims he has the SOLE authority to go to war.

  •  Cantor is Just Prepping the Goobers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, Crashing Vor

    He doesn't care if he is correct or not, the goobers need to hear this if Bush does decide to go in alone. My guess is that on one contradicted him on the show either. Hence, millions of people now take this as fact.

    It's the same thing ad the WMD finds that Fox Reported after the Iraqi war started. The Fox/Hannity/Libaugh audience now remembers hearing someplace that WMD were found .... sometime back around the start of the war.

    About 20 years both parties made a deliberate choice with respect to the media. The Republicans thought it was important in national elections and the Democrats didn't. The Republicans spent the next 20 years building an information system and the Democrats didn't bother.

    This is why the GOP can now pull this kind of crap. This is why they could impeach Cinton, smear his wife, blow Kerry off the map, start the Iraqi war, etc.

  •  Madame President - "You cant do that." (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zeke L, marina, xanthippe2, Crashing Vor

    This is what these fascist lying f-tards will be saying when Hillary is pres and she floats a similar military adventure balloon.  It isnt a matter of Cantor and his ilk having a Constitutional argument or any Constitutional convictions.  When the dems take the WH his perspective, opinions and convictions will suddenly change.  what was black will now be white.  The good thing is the number of fascist lying f-tards was diminished in November last.

  •  I haven't read this closely or seen the video (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crashing Vor

    but it seems like a misunderstanding.  If Iranian troops were to shoot across the border at U.S. troops, the U.S. troops could shoot back and there could probably be an incursion.  But it would not create a state of war between the countries.  The imperative would be to end fighting quickly or else get authorization to do otherwise.

    My apologies to students who took my U.S. Government class in the 90s: evidently the Constitution doesn't limit Presidential power after all. Who knew?

    by Major Danby on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 08:34:30 PM PST

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