Donald Trump Is No More Presidential Today Than He Was Yesterday


Come on, Fareed:

God almighty no. When will we ever get over the idea that bombing people is inherently presidential because it shows you’re not afraid to bomb people? This is doubly true in this case, since Trump apparently pulled a barely thought-out policy U-turn and ordered the airstrike because he saw some footage of dying children on Fox News. That’s horrible, and Assad is a butcher, but it’s not a good reason to abruptly upend your own foreign policy and start lobbing cruise missiles.

Instead, allow me to sign on with my conservative buddy David French:

The commander-in-chief has broad, inherent authority to order the military to defend the national security and vital national interests of the United States, but every provision of the Constitution has meaning, and the Constitution gives to Congress the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

….The existence of a legal and moral justification for war does not always render war wise or just. Nor does it remove the need for congressional approval. There is no reason to forego congressional debate now, just as there was no reason to forego congressional debate when Obama considered taking the nation to war against Syria in 2013.

Congressional approval is not only constitutional, it serves the public purpose of requiring a president to clearly outline the justifications for war and his goals for the conflict. It also helps secure public support for war.

The pretextual argument against this view is that a single airstrike isn’t “war,” and anyway, the War Powers Act gives the president the authority to do this kind of thing. The real argument is simpler: presidents have done this stuff forever, and Congress has never worked up the gumption to stop them.

Actually, it’s worse than that: as near as I can tell, Congress actively doesn’t want to exercise its warmaking authority. It’s too politically risky. They’d rather have the president do it unilaterally, and then kibitz from the sideline. This is why I don’t really blame presidents for authorizing attacks like this. Congress could stop it anytime they want via the power of the purse, and they never have.

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