by Kagro XThis isn't meant to be a criticism of Hillary Clinton in particular. But it's going to end up that way, because she's the only one of the sitting Democratic Senators running for president who voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment the other day.
But I say that this isn't about her in particular because I think there are a lot of Democrats in Congress who make one of the component errors that I think she made in making her decision, even if they eventually come down in opposition to resolutions and amendments like this one.
What do I mean? Well, I just got a look at Senator Clinton's statement on her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that passed the Senate the other day, and this part grabbed me:
In February, after troubling reports about the possibility of military action against Iran, I took to the Senate Floor to warn that President Bush needs Congressional Authorization before attacking Iran. Specifically, I said it would be a mistake of historical proportion if the Administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further and explicit Congressional authorization. Nor should the President think that the 2001 resolution authorizing force after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in any way, authorizes force against Iran. If the Administration believes that any use of force against Iran is necessary, the President must come to Congress to seek that authority. Nothing in this resolution changes that.
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;Last time, the fix was the insertion of some new language, specifically this:
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;
(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of Armed Forces against Iran.So in both instances, the changes involved altering an attempt by Senate hawks (and both times Lieberman attached his name to the amendments) to at least darkly hint that the Senate contemplated the use of force against Iran. In the first attempt, Lieberman was talked into adding language saying he didn't really mean it, and in the second, he and Kyl were talked into removing language that said they did.
But both amendments got votes from Democratic Senators, and both prompted those Democrats to issue statements explaining why they'd vote for such a thing. In the first instance, I looked at Senator Feingold's reasoning. Today it's Clinton's. And here's the thing: in each case, we have a Democratic Senator who feels sure that the resolution does not authorize the use of force against Iran.
But in both cases, we've still got an "administration" that simply doesn't believe it needs Congressional authorization at all.
Once again, John Yoo, for the "administration"
The President has broad constitutional power to take military action in response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Congress has acknowledged this inherent executive power in both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution passed by Congress on September 14, 2001.Again, "acknowledged," not "authorized."
The President has constitutional power not only to retaliate against any person, organization, or State suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks on the United States, but also against foreign States suspected of harboring or supporting such organizations.
The President may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.
The thing to keep in mind here is that Yoo studiously avoided the use of the word "authorization," even going so far as to refuse to call the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) by that designation, referring to it only as "the Joint Resolution." This is because this "administration" still firmly believes that the president has the "inherent power" to strike any enemy on his own say-so, and that Congress, no matter how it styles its resolutions, can say no different.
Now, I said at the outset that this wasn't necessarily meant as a criticism of Hillary Clinton in particular, and I meant that. This is a complex bit of legalism here, and the truth is that most Senators -- presidential candidates or not -- are just not going to make their decisions on a vote like this based on something as deep in the weeds as what I've just described to you. Nor are they going to spend time in their statements, which they're trying to keep pithy and readable, explaining in detail that the language right in the resolution (or in the second case, which came right out of the resolution) doesn't really mean exactly what it says (or did say), all because of something that was written in a totally separate document several years ago by a guy who no longer works for the White House, anyway.
But it's true.
And sometimes it's hard to tell whether the need for punchier, more digestible statements by the Senators who vote on these things actually mask a deeper, but unstated understanding of these sorts of legalistic undercurrents. But guess what? I think they don't.
So thank God for the blogs. Because I don't know any other place that would allow somebody to spend so much time on something that's at the same time such a minor detail, and yet which bears so directly on one of the biggest, broadest constitutional questions imaginable.
And hey, if a Senator reads this -- a distinct possibility (though perhaps moreso at Daily Kos than in our quiet corner) that's yet another thing I'm immensely grateful to the blogosphere for -- and is moved to vote against the next such attempt to "authorize" war with Iran, then so much the better.