Mona Charen
How many times have we heard awestruck references to Barack Obama's history as a law professor? Many came from the man himself, as when he told a crowd at a 2007 fundraiser, "I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president, I actually respect the Constitution."

Does he? At his press conference on June 29, the president was asked whether he thought the War Powers Act -- which he has flamboyantly flouted in the case of our armed conflict with Libya -- was constitutional. His reply, during which he managed to inject yet another reference to his credential as a law "professor" (he was actually not a professor but a senior lecturer, but never mind), expressed the most flippant disregard for law that we've heard from an American president since Richard Nixon jousted with David Frost.

"Let me focus on, initially, the issue of Libya. I want to talk about the substance of Libya because there's been all kinds of noise about process and congressional consultation and so forth."

What the president dismisses as "noise" are the words of a valid U.S. law, the War Powers Resolution. Some presidents have thought it unwise. Some believed it to be unconstitutional. That is the case with many laws. It doesn't permit presidents, or anyone else, to disregard them.

Under the terms of the law, the president was required to seek congressional authorization within 48 hours of commencing a military conflict, and/or to withdraw American forces within 90 days if such authorization was not forthcoming. Both deadlines have passed.

The president's contempt for the law should have been evident since early March, when his administration tortured the English language to avoid using terms that might be a) commonsensical, or b) mentioned in the War Powers Resolution. Thus, deploying bombers and long-range missiles was "kinetic activity."

A White House letter to congressional leaders, issued close to the 60-day mark, argued that the action in Libya did not amount to "hostilities" as envisioned in the WPR. "U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition's efforts."


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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