Obama on the Authority of the President

I thought this was a very interesting quote from December 2007 as then-Senator Obama’s campaign was kicking into gear during an interview


2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

President Obama’s Answer:

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.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.” The recent NIE tells us that Iran in 2003 halted its effort to design a nuclear weapon. While this does not mean that Iran is no longer a threat to the United States or its allies, it does give us time to conduct aggressive and principled personal diplomacy aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

I haven’t modified that, in any way, from the way I found it on the Boston Globe’s website except to add bold and italics to some of the text. The stuff in italics is for the full context, but not necessarily relevant to the current situation in Libya.

The Arab League approved of US Involvement in the Libyan No Fly Zone. So did the United Nations. The United States Congress, however, did not. No one in the White House asked Christopher T. Mason what he thought, either.

I think it would be great if congressmen on both sides of the aisle grew some cojones and claimed back some of the authority granted to them by the United States Constitution.

Obama on the Authority of the President

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