These were not misstatements or Freudian slips on the part of the Defense Secretary. In his hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. Panetta declined several opportunities to clarify or revise his position. Consequently, one can only conclude that Team Obama has embraced the sort of diminution of U.S. sovereignty that helped scupper John Kerry’s presidential bid in 2004, when he pledged to seek UN permission before engaging in military action.
Many years ago, I had the privilege of working for the late, truly great Democratic Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson. It is simply inconceivable to me that such anti-constitutional misconduct – by a president of either party – would be tolerated were he still in the U.S. Senate.
Scoop Jackson would have been affronted by the dire implications of such behavior for the system of checks-and-balances that are enshrined in the Constitution and that are supposed to limit the scope and potential for abuse of the government it charters. He would never have stood for relegating our national security decisions to the say-so of others, or having our military be, as President Obama once put it, “volunteered” by them.
Ever the level-headed politician, Senator Jackson would also have recognized the validity in such cases of the old adage, “what goes around comes around.” President Obama is creating precedents today that a future Republican president could exploit to the detriment of his partisan rivals. Some of them may turn out to be the very legislators who are today largely turning a blind eye to what this chief executive is doing, evidently on the grounds that the ends justify the means.
It is striking that few, if any, Democrats in Congress appear to recognize the peril to our country posed by President Obama’s anti-constitutional behavior. Even more amazing is the fact that none of them seem to appreciate that they have a vested interest in shoring up the Constitution, not allowing it to be eviscerated, piece by piece. If they allow this to continue, they will surely rue the day at some point in the future when another Commander-in-Chief is running roughshod over their institutional duties, prerogatives and policy preferences.
Naturally, in the course of a national election, Democratic politicians are reluctant to part company from the man at the top of their ticket, especially in ways that might be seen to align them with his critics. Still, violating the Constitution is the sort of thing that should compel them to do so. After all, they also took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution.” I feel sure Scoop Jackson would do so, were he alive today. The country urgently needs his successors on Capitol Hill – on both sides of the aisle – to channel his character and fidelity to the oath of office that they have all sworn.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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