Thursday, May 26, 2011

the war powers act is dead

i don't think there is any serious question that president obama has violated the war powers act. the act requires the president to withdraw u.s. forces from an armed conflict within 60 days unless congress passes an authorization to use force or a formal declaration of war, though the president can get an additional 30 days to give time to withdraw the troops. the 60 days have passed since american involvement in libya commenced and congress has not given any approval. (this is why he is ignoring the act, by the way. the M.O. of most presidents is to say the act is unconstitutional but then hedge their bets by quietly complying with it)

the act was passed over president nixon's veto and ever since there have been serious questions whether it is constitutional, with every president since it was enacted claiming that it is not. but the bottom line is this is the kind of issue that the courts will never touch, which means the only penalty for violating the act is the potential political cost of public outrage.

for almost four decades no one has had any idea how great of of a cost that would be. that is, until now. the cost is zero. because obama will pay no political price for this, future presidents are sure to completely ignore the act. the act might remain on the books but it is effectively dead.