Steve Chapman

In some ways, though, the president has been perfectly transparent. Note his transparent disregard for both the Constitution and federal law in launching a military attack against Libya.

The Constitution explicitly places the power to authorize war with Congress, not the president. But Obama refused to ask Congress to grant its approval beforehand -- something even George W. Bush did as he prepared to invade Iraq.

Obama also defied the War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to get congressional authorization within 60 days or withdraw. His preposterous position was that the law didn't apply because we were not engaged in "hostilities."

All this was particularly novel coming from someone who, as a candidate, suggested that emperors are for other countries. "The president," he insisted, "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."

Libya, however, had neither attacked us nor posed any discernible threat. President Obama exercised a presidential power that Candidate Obama said he doesn't have.

The candidate also denounced the Bush-Cheney administration for unauthorized surveillance of Americans in the United States. But when an Islamic charity sued after being illegally wiretapped in 2004, Obama's Justice Department took the side of the wiretappers.

It argued in court that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it involved state secrets and refused to turn over evidence that the presiding judge demanded. He ruled that the wiretaps violated federal law and accused the administration of advocating "unfettered executive branch discretion" that invites "governmental abuse and overreaching."

The judge is only one of those who have vigorously faulted Obama's handling of executive power and civil liberties. If the president needs to hear a more sympathetic view, he might call Dick Cheney.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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