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Mark Levin’s Constitution

When Obama decided to go to war with Libya some Capitol Hill leaders in both parties decided to question whether the President had the authority to do so. When George W. Bush was president Obama once posed the same question, stating in 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

The Constitution clearly states that only Congress can declare war and it falls upon the Executive branch to direct that war once declared. The notion that the Commander in Chief, a title designated to the President by the Constitution, can command military action freely without any checks on his power negates not only the letter of our nation’s founding charter but betrays the very nature of American government. In fact, the Founders thought it particularly dangerous to give the President such power, a point James Madison reiterated in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1798: “The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the legislature.”

Nationally syndicated radio host and best-selling author Mark Levin disagrees with Madison. When members of Congress began to question the President’s authority to wage war without their consent in the wake of Libya bombings, Levin said on his radio program: “I don’t believe in politicizing the Constitution. I believe the Constitution is the rock of this society. So all this talk about the attacks on Libya are unconstitutional because we don’t have a declaration of war, that’s ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Levin defended his position by saying that not every military action is necessarily full-blown war and said that there are numerous examples of American presidents operating outside of the Constitutional provisions concerning warfare. In his recent column “The Phony Arguments for Presidential War Powers” bestselling author Thomas Woods answers Levin’s latter justification:

This argument, like so much propaganda, originated with the U.S. government itself. At the time of the Korean War, a number of congressmen contended that ‘history will show that on more than 100 occasions in the life of this Republic the President as Commander in Chief has ordered the fleet or the troops to do certain things which involved the risk of war’ without the consent of Congress. In 1966, in defense of the Vietnam War, the State Department adopted a similar line… the great presidential scholar Edward S. Corwin pointed out that (with the exception of John Adams’ quasi war with France in which he did indeed consult Congress, despite portrayals to the contrary) this lengthy list of alleged precedents consisted mainly of ‘fights with pirates, landings of small naval contingents on barbarous or semi-barbarous coasts, the dispatch of small bodies of troops to chase bandits or cattle rustlers across the Mexican border, and the like.’ To support their position, therefore, the neoconservatives and their left-liberal clones are counting chases of cattle rustlers as examples of presidential warmaking, and as precedents for sending millions of Americans into war with foreign governments on the other side of the globe.

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Obama’s Libyan War

On March 19, 2011, the eighth anniversary of the Iraq War, Barack Obama started the Libyan War. Those who might claim that it was not the President, but Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi who started this war, ignore that it only became our fight the moment Obama decided to intervene. Those who support our bombing of Libya to enforce a no-fly zone claim that these actions will not lead to a larger or more entrenched conflict. This claim not only contradicts most of America’s foreign policy history, but proves that our political establishment has learned virtually nothing from the lessons of Iraq.

Syndicated columnist George Will is an exception to the Washington rule. When he was asked by ABC’s This Week host Christiane Amanpour if he believed Obama’s bombing of Libya was the “right thing to do,” Will replied: “I do not. We have intervened in a tribal society, in a civil war. And we have taken sides in that civil war on behalf of a people we do not know or understand, for the purpose—not a vow, but inexorably our purpose—of creating a political vacuum by decapitating the government. Into that vacuum, what will flow we do not know and cannot know.”

Will is right, and it is typically unforeseen circumstances that perpetuate the excuses for perpetual war. US forces remain in Iraq today precisely because we fear what kind of regime might arise in our absence—yet there was very little discussion of this important issue before the invasion. After taking the fight to the Taliban in 2001 as payback for 9/11, we remain in that country a decade later out of fear of a resurgent Taliban. Much of the discussion concerning Afghanistan today is whether we can ever leave due to this eternal concern. Similarly, instead of benefitting in the long term from Obama’s shortsighted military action in Libya, there is far more potential that America will now be involved in yet another prolonged Middle Eastern war. Read More…

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The Real Conservative Movement

The following speech was delivered by Jack Hunter at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC, Friday Feb. 11, 2011. The event was sponsored by Young Americans for Liberty.

Considering that we’re at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference it might be worth reflecting on what it means to be a conservative, at least in the popular sense. After all, the term is not static and let’s face it, throughout most of the last decade being a mainstream conservative pretty much meant one thing—support for the War on Terror. There was little outrage from conservatives when a Republican president doubled the size of government and the national debt, gave us the largest entitlement expansion since Lyndon Johnson in the form of Medicare Plan D, and through “No Child Left Behind” doubled the size of the Department of Education, something Ronald Reagan once pledged to abolish. Under the so-called “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush, a Republican administration that controlled all three branches of government for a significant period of that time delivered virtually nothing recognizably conservative, socially, fiscally or otherwise.

It was always easy for conservatives to say, mostly implicitly but sometimes explicitly, that in a time of war none of this big government stuff matters, but sadly for most of the last decade the only thing that mattered to conservatives was war—the promotion of it and complete devotion to a president willing to wage it. It was a strange dynamic considering that conservatives, by the very nature of their philosophy, are supposed to question government, and yet just a few short years ago the Right would lash out most viciously at anyone who dared question President Bush and his foreign policy. Just ask Ron Paul.

Yes, while a strict constitutionalist like Congressman Paul wasn’t even allowed in the door at the 2008 Republican National Convention, Al Gore’s former running mate Joe Lieberman was given a prime time speaking role. Talk host Sean Hannity would constantly call Lieberman his “favorite Democrat,” and when Hannity wasn’t campaigning for socially liberal Republicans like Rudy Giuliani for president, the former New York mayor could always count on conservative cover from men like evangelical leader Pat Robertson, who endorsed Giuliani for president. So why was there so much conservative love for fairly liberal guys like Lieberman and Giuliani? Because they agreed with Bush’s foreign policy. Why was there so much vitriol for a genuine conservative like Ron Paul? Because he dared to dissent. Read More…

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Peter King’s Radical Ignorance

Last week, Representative Peter King (R-NY) held congressional hearings to determine whether there has been an increase in American Muslim radicalization. Given our ongoing War on Terror it’s not surprising that recent headlines have revealed that some have indeed become radicalized. It’s also not unreasonable to assume that more will follow.

But why is this relatively new phenomenon happening? Recognizing this problem is simply a first step. Solving it necessarily requires determining and addressing a cause. Imagine if hearings were held to examine America’s illegal immigration problem without discussing the obvious economic factors that foster it? Imagine if Congress held hearings to figure out why air travelers are frustrated with airport security without considering the recent TSA policies that have been the primary cause of the frustration? Imagine Congress trying to determine why so many Americans are now fed up with their government without considering the massive spending and debt that animates today’s Tea Party?

Terrorism of any sort is typically a tactic of the weak, where individuals or a collection of individuals target innocent civilians as an act of revenge or to advance a cause. In the United States Islamic terrorism is often portrayed as the work of illogical fanatics who seek to advance their religious cause, even when the terrorists themselves explain, as they often do, that their actions are in fact retaliation for US military aggression in the Muslim world. Yet, such explanations are typically dismissed by most Americans as the ramblings of madmen, as if considering the motive for terrorists’ murderous actions—as we would in any conventional murder case—is somehow unconscionable. Read More…

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The Tea Party vs. GOP Hypocrisy

As the Tea Party continues to set its sights on astronomical and unsustainable government growth, Republicans have been eager to sing the movement’s tune. Promising to slash spending and balance budgets, the GOP’s newfound right-wing fiscal rhetoric has been characterized by mainstream pundits as a once “respectable” Republican Party kowtowing to conservative “extremists” for whom the debt crisis continues to represent the one and only crisis.

But mainstream defenders of America’s economic status quo (aka broke) can rest easy. Washington’s political establishment has nothing to fear from the Republican Party. Though good at talking the conservative talk, when it comes down to actually walking the walk—the GOP remains handicapped as ever.

Just ask the man The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart recently described as the “walkiest” of Tea Party Republicans, Senator Rand Paul. Paul rejected the budget proposals of both parties this week, pointing out that the GOP countering a Democratic plan which features a $1.6 trillion deficit with a Republican plan which features a $1.5. trillion deficit, is no counter at all. Said Paul on the Senate floor: “The president’s plan will add $13 trillion to the debt, and the Republicans say ‘oh, well ours is a lot better.’ Theirs will add $12 trillion to the debt. I think it’s out of control, and neither plan will do anything to significantly alter things… they also pale in comparison to the problem.”

Pale indeed. While Democrats, predictably and laughably, could only come up with $4 billion in budget cuts, Republicans—who’s “Pledge to America” during the midterm election promised to slash spending by $100 billion—could only come up with $57 billion in cuts. To put this in perspective, recently deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak received over $60 billion from the United States during his reign. To further put this in perspective, when Sen. Paul proposed we cut foreign aid last month, critics—including most Republicans—dismissed his proposal immediately and pointed out that what America spends on foreign aid is too small to substantively address our debt. Now many of these same Republicans expect grassroots conservatives to be satisfied with a paltry $57 billion in cuts. Read More…

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“Extremism” Comes to Wisconsin

There are many problems with American politics but “extremism” is not one of them. For all the mainstream media’s criticism of the Tea Party being too “extreme” or the GOP supposedly adopting the movement’s “radical” rhetoric and actions, Republicans couldn’t even muster the votes to pass $100 billion in budget cuts recently, a proposal so modest as to essentially mean nothing. In fact, the worst extremists continue to be Democrats and their Republican allies who continue to spend money at breakneck speed. Indeed, if basic math and common sense have any bearing on the definition, it is our economic status quo that is truly extreme, and the brave few who dare to seriously challenge it who are the most sober.

The same has been true in Wisconsin, where citizens now march in the streets protesting Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to rein in spending. And things are getting nasty. Writes Rich Noyes and Scott Whitlock at the Wall Street Journal:

“Over the past several days, the liberal demonstrations in Wisconsin (bolstered by the national Democratic Party and President Obama’s Organizing for America group) have included signs just as inflammatory as the ones that bothered the networks during the health care debate, including several showing Governor Scott Walker as Adolph Hitler. Others have likened Walker to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (‘Scott Stalin’) and recently deposed Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak (‘Walker = Mubarak’). Another protest sign drew a cross-hairs over a picture of Governor Walker’s head, with the caption ‘Don’t Retreat, Reload; Repeal Walker’ — an obvious parallel to a Facebook map posted by Sarah Palin last year, although that much-criticized graphic placed the target sights on maps of congressional districts, not any politician’s face.”

Of course the same Left that tried to say that the tragic shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was somehow inspired by Palin’s fairly innocent PAC ads is now curiously silent concerning similar behavior exhibited by the protesters in Wisconsin. Criticizing the Left’s attacks on Palin in the wake of the Giffords shooting, I wrote in January:

In attacking Palin’s midterm election television commercials in which a bull’s-eye graphic was placed over vulnerable swing-state districts, her critics ignored the fact that ‘targeting’ politicians for electoral defeat has never been considered controversial nor has it been viewed as being beyond the pale. This is conventional political speech used by both parties for ages.

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David Letterman’s Willful Ignorance

When Rand Paul was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman last week the Wall Street Journal called the Senator’s appearance “A Painful 12 Minutes,” and it was. It was painful to watch as the calmand measured Paul tried to explain to a somewhat antagonistic Letterman that our current economic woes had more to do with an unaccountable and overly expensive public sector than an under-taxed private sector. It was painful to watch a seasoned talk show host get schooled by a rookie senator on how the beleaguered “rich” actually do pay most of the taxes, how education remains dismal despite abundant funding, and how market place competition is stymied by continuous government subsidization of complacency and incompetence.

Yes, it was painful to watch a legendary television star loved by millions say to his audience concerning Paul: “You know, I think he’s wrong about some of these things. I just can’t tell you why.”

At Campaign for Liberty, author Thomas Woods said of Letterman’s confession of ignorance:

“I am still speechless at David Letterman’s interview with Rand Paul last night… Practically everything he said was wrong. Rand correctly noted that the top 1% of income tax earners pay one-third of all the income taxes, with the top 50% paying 96%… Letterman wonders why we can’t just loot the ‘rich’ some more. Well, if we’d like to make still more firms leave the U.S., that’d be a good start. Want to strangle the growth on which everyone’s welfare depends? Rand explains, again correctly, that spending more money on education has not improved educational outcomes. Letterman’s response? There must be something wrong with those numbers, he said to applause from the audience.” Read More…

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