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Thomas Woods on Boot

Boot then writes that I am “particularly upset about the 14th Amendment (he claims it was never lawfully ratified) because it barred former Confederates from holding political office.” Read my Reconstruction chapter for yourself and consider the effort it must have taken Boot to misrepresent it this extent. My concern about the Fourteenth Amendment has nothing to do with its disqualification of former Confederates; I raise that issue in a single paragraph in order to show that a variety of reasons existed for Southern opposition to the amendment.

The book’s point about the Fourteenth Amendment is that it gave the federal government an opening through which it could trample on the states’ rights of self-government. The 1990s were filled with state ballot initiatives that were imperiously overturned by federal judges on Fourteenth Amendment grounds. As for my “claim” that it was unlawfully ratified, Forrest McDonald—you know, that big extremist—in the Georgia Journal of Southern Legal History (Spring/Summer 1991) most recently laid out the scholarly argument for this position, which is about as ironclad as you could ask for. Boot appears never to have heard of it.

Later in his review, Boot defends Harry Truman against my charge that in committing American troops to South Korea in 1950, he disregarded his constitutional duty to ask Congress for a declaration of war. That happens to have been the view of Sen. Robert A. Taft, who was known in his day as “Mr. Republican.” (We can only imagine Boot’s opinion of Taft.) I don’t seem to realize, according to Boot, that “previous presidents had sent U.S. troops into battle hundreds of times without any declaration of war.”

This is a classic example of neoconservative obfuscation. The examples Boot is speaking of do not involve the president deploying troops in offensive operations against foreign governments. The first time that happened was in 1900, when William McKinley sent 5,000 American troops to China to suppress the Boxer Rebellion, a revolt of Chinese nationalists connected to the Chinese government. (Historian Walter LaFeber notes that few people at the time appreciated the precedent that McKinley was setting in that relatively minor affair.) The book’s discussion of presidential war powers makes perfectly clear just how limited the Framers of the Constitution intended them to be. There is no room for debate here: I am right and Boot is spectacularly and outrageously wrong. ~Thomas Woods, The American Conservative

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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