Camels, Tents, and our Democracy.
Bottom line, I submitted the below letter to the NYTimes. Of course, they won't print it, but it makes me feel better to have written it and sent it off.
To the Editor:
I am a so-called Liberal, who believes our Constitution is vital to our Democracy. So I double checked: Yes, the Constitution says Congress has the power to declare war, and yes, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. But it does not say "Congress is the only body that has the power to declare war," and it does not inform as to what are the limits of the President's powers as Commander-in-Chief. So I went back to the Federalist Papers. No better "originalist" source exists. In Federalist Paper # 69, Hamilton made it elegantly clear. He compared the powers of the President, in what was then the draft constitution, to the power of the King of Great Britain. He wrote,
"The President is to be Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect, his authority would be nominally the same with that of the King of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. and It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and Admiral of the Confederacy: while that of the British King extends to the declaring of war to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the Legislature." [Emphasis mine]
To argue that the President has the power to institute even a little bit of wartime hostilities, is to argue that our Commanding General of the Army or the highest ranking Admiral in our Navy could choose to bomb Syria because he or she was of the opinion that "it was the right thing to do in the circumstances." That is downright subversive. It may well have been "the right thing to do in the circumstances," but it was for Congress to make that call, not some General or Admiral. The defense that "Well, Clinton did it, Bush did it, Obama did it," doesn't fly. Prior constitutional violations do not justify new assaults on our Democracy.
Where are the impeachment petitions coming out of the conservative House of Representatives, the outcries from the conservative Senate that just confirmed an "originalist" Supreme Court Justice, the outraged editorials and reports from the national media?
Citizens! The alarm bell is ringing. It's time to wake up! Write your Congressperson, light up your Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Bazinger, Whatever, accounts! Our Constitution is a carefully designed tent that has sheltered our Democracy for 230 years. Our current Camel-in-Chief may have small hands, but he has a big nose, and if we let him push it into our shelter-tent, we will soon be out in the cold. Do something please. I'm busy.