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Glenn Greenwald: Obama's new view of his own war powers

One's views on the desirability of the Libya war have absolutely nothing to do with whether Obama has acted legally and/or whether his theories of presidential power are valid. This, too, should have been decisively settled during the Bush years, when Bush followers invariably argued that Bush was justified in eavesdropping without warrants or torturing because of the good outcomes it produced (Keeping Us Safe) -- as though Presidents have the power to violate laws or transgress Constitutional limits provided they can prove that doing so produces good results. The one and only safeguard against tyranny is that political leaders are subjected to the constraints of the Constitution and law (we're a nation of laws or a nation of men, said Adams: you must choose). To argue that you're supportive of or indifferent to lawless acts because of the good results they produce is simply another way of yearning for a benevolent tyrant (and is another way of replicating the mindset of the Bush follower). Matt Yglesias is absolutely right when he points out that, in reality, Congress is happy to have the President usurp its powers in these cases because it alleviates them of responsibility to act. But the same was true of the Democratic Congress under Bush, and that didn't justify anything Bush did; it just meant that Congress shared the blame for acquiescing to it. It may be common, and it may produce good outcomes, and it may be a longstanding problem, but there's no question that Obama's commencement of this war without Congressional approval, and especially Hillary Clinton's announcement that Congress has no power to restrict the President in any way, are acts of pure imperial lawlessness. Daniel Larison put it best: This is an outrageous statement, but it’s entirely consistent with what the administration has been illegally doing for the last 12 days. They seem to believe quite seriously that, as long as they don’t call it a war, it doesn’t fall under any laws regulating war powers or the Constitution.

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