I’ve spent way too much of the last 24 hours arguing with fervent defenders of Barack Obama. They’re incensed that Dennis Kucinich says the President has violated the Constitution and it might be in impeachable offense.
Their basic narrative is this: We’re signatories to the U.N. Charter, which was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The U.N. Charter requires us to place our military at the disposal of the U.N. Security Council. Treaties are the supreme law of the land. Therefore, Dennis Kucinich is an ignoramus who doesn’t know what he should have learned in eighth-grade civics. One person says it’s “dereliction of duty” for Kucinich to be so ignorant.
Of course, Kucinich is right and they’re wrong. Neither the President nor the Senate nor the two working together have the authority to contravene the U.S. Constitution — by treaty or otherwise. No treaty can remove the powers and responsibilities of the legislature from Congress and hand them to the President. Any treaty must be construed in a manner that does not contravene the Constitution. If it can’t be so construed, the treaty itself is unconstitutional.
Nor does any rational interpretation of the U.N. Charter require the U.S. to bomb Libya in this instance. If it did, every single member nation that isn’t taking part in the operation would be in violation of the Charter.
Nor is there any reason the President couldn’t have gone about bombing Libya in a constitutional manner. Bombing didn’t commence for two days after the Security Council adopted Resolution 1973, and Obama would have to have been completely clueless not to understand that it was coming before that. After all, his administration was working very hard to get the Security Council (and the Arab League) to sign off on the deal. It wasn’t a surprise; it was the desired outcome of the talks. There was plenty of time to seek the approval of Congress. Obama just couldn’t be bothered with a little thing like the Constitution he swore to “preserve, protect, and defend.”
None of that has anything to do with the merits of this operation. Kucinich thinks it’s a bad idea. He may be right or wrong about that. On the constitutional question, he’s right.
However, there’s virtually no chance that the Republican-dominated House would decide to impeach on these grounds, and even less of a chance that the Democratic-dominated Senate would convict Obama even if he were impeached. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than you have of seeing Obama removed from office over the bombing of Libya. It’s not going to happen.
That’s why I’m so surprised at how vehement the Obamabots are, how vicious toward Kucinich, how overwrought in their reactions. They remind me Glenn Beck fans or Sarah Palin disciples: irrational, hysterical, uninformed, and utterly disconnected from the reality of the situation. It’s not just that they don’t understand the Constitution or the U.N. Charter. They don’t seem to understand what country this is, or how our government really works, at all. They just leap in there waving whatever bullshit partisan propaganda flag they’ve been handed. It’s sad. It’s a little disturbing.
Wonkette is more realistic, but not without being even more cynical than I am: “Should presidents just bomb things whenever they want to? Probably not! But how often do presidents commit impeachable offenses? Probably two or three times a day.” No big deal.
What everybody seems to be missing here is the political reality on the ground. Nothing is going to come of all this impeachment talk, except that the Obamabots will now regard Kucinich with the same hatred Sarah Palin’s disciples feel for Katie Couric. Obama isn’t going to be impeached over it. The Imperial Presidency will not be handing back any of its unconstitutionally-acquired power — not any time soon, anyway. This isn’t going to to hurt Obama. On the contrary, it helps Obama. When an angry man whose own party doesn’t take him seriously criticizes Obama on television to the shocked disbelief of corporate newsmodels, that’s not exactly a public relations disaster for Obama.
More importantly, Kucinich has derailed the opposition, at least momentarily. The Republicans were just gearing up to lambaste Obama for doing too little, too late. They want more bombs, sooner. They were already starting to sputter and spit that Obama was an incompetent fool who could have been bombing Libya a month ago if he hadn’t been screwing around seeking the approval of foreigners, and then here comes a member of Obama’s own party taking him to task over trivial bullshit like the separation of powers in the United States Constitution.
It caught them off guard. The bemused Republican leadership hesitated, and stepped back a minute to see how this was going to play out. It had never even occurred to them that anybody in the United States — anybody at all — might actually still give a damn about the United States Constitution, a document Republicans have been wiping their asses with for so long now that they don’t even think about it anymore. “The Constitution? Did he really just bring up the fucking Constitution?” To the Republicans, the Constitution is supposed to be like the weather: Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.
Kucinich threw them off balance, and made them miss their moment. I’d say it was a masterful demonstration of partisan political skill, if I thought he’d done it on purpose. Obama should thank him — privately, of course.
As for the Obamabots, I’ve been caught off guard myself. They’re even more deranged than I thought they were.