Reining in the President?

Dr. Malcolm Cross

President Trump was right to take out Qasem Soleimani, and the Democrats’ criticisms of his actions are unjustified.  But the Democrats and a growing number of conservative and libertarian Republicans are nonetheless raising good questions about the limits to the President’s war making powers.

President Trump’s action against Soleimani, a known terrorist who masterminded the murder of thousands of Iraqis and over 600 Americans, can be justified as legal self-defense and retribution against a uniformed military commander who ordered numerous attacks on American military installations as well as on the American embassy in Iraq, which is legally American territory.  Moreover it is an action best seen as a defensive measure in a 40-year war Iran has been waging against the United States.  And we can discount the idea, floated by the Democrats, that Soleimani’s killing will provoke revenge from Iran.  Iran, like all bullies, whether of the schoolyard or international type, is perfectly capable of rationalizing its assaults and inventing imaginary provocations if no real ones can be found.

One cannot help but suspect that many Congressional Democrats are motivated mainly by partisanship.  After all, you heard few, if any, Democrats complain about Obama’s take downs of Osama bin Laden or Muammar Gaddafi.  Yet the Democrats, as well as Republican Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul, and congressman Matthew Gaetz, are right to be concerned about growing presidential war making power:  Even if Trump acted legally and correctly this time (as Lee and Gaetz believe), what is to prevent either him or a future president from acting outside the limits imposed by the Constitution on presidential war making power?  

Those concerned with whether the President has too much power (usually Republicans in Democratic administrations, Democrats in Republican administrations) claim that the exercise of excessive presidential power violates the principles of the Constitution of the United States, which allegedly created “three co-equal branches of government.”  Actually, the Constitution did no such thing.  Its framers’ purpose was to design a government in which the Congress would be the first and most powerful branch.  For example, the framers said that:

  • The Congress has the power through the legislative process to design the executive and judicial branches of government, determining what departments the executive branch is to have, how those departments are to be organized, what authority (or lack thereof) the President has over the various divisions in the executive branch, what size the Supreme Court is to be, and what other courts the Judicial Branch may have; 
  • The Congress has the right, through the legislative process, to determine how much money is to be raised with which taxes, and on what may the money be spent on;
  • While the President may participate through the legislative process through his veto, the Congress may always override him if it chooses, and force him to execute whatever laws it wants, regardless of his preferences; and
  • The Congress can impeach and remove the President, members of his administration, and any federal judge it chooses, but no member of the executive or judicial branches may remove a member of Congress.

Concerning the President’s war making powers, the President is the constitutionally-designated commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but the Congress determines:

  • What armed forces we’re to have;
  • How each branch of each of the armed services is to be organized; and
  • How much money each branch is to get and how the money is to be spent

Moreover, the Senate must advise and consent to the appointment and promotion of military officers, and the Congress as a whole has the sole power to declare war.  The President may request a war declaration, but no request he makes is legally binding.  

The bottom line is that the writers of our Constitution intended to impose more limits on presidential war making than have been exercised in decades.  Alexander Hamilton, the strongest proponent of a strong presidency, wrote, in The Federalist, that the President could order the armed forces into battle under only two circumstances:  Within the framework of a congressional war declaration, or to repel a direct attack on the United States.  Yet the Congress has issued no war declarations since 1942, when it voted several against Eastern European Nazi puppet states.  All military actions since then have been fought either in accordance with vague and ambiguous congressional measures falling far short of war declarations, or in accordance with no congressional approval at all.

And this is what concerns thoughtful Democrats and Republicans alike.  They argue that for too long Congress has failed to exercise the war making powers the Constitution granted it, rather than the President, and that if Congress refuses to act, the President can continue to push the limits on war making, thereby increasing the chances of miring us in disasters such as Vietnam or forever wars such as what President Trump inherited, and which he has pledged himself to end.  

This issue will not go away soon, and cannot be covered in a single column.  But for the time being, we should heed the words of Congressman Gaetz.  He likes to bill himself as “the Trumpiest” member of Congress, i. e., the President’s staunchest supporter.  He certainly proved himself to be so  when he led a posse of angry Republican congressmen demanding entry into the secret impeachment hearings held by Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee.  But while enthusiastically supporting the President’s actions against Soleimani, he shocked his Republican colleagues by voting to Support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s resolution attempting to limit President Trump’s future actions, saying:

I represent more troops than any other member of this body. I buried one of them earlier today at Arlington. If our service members have the courage to fight and die in these wars, Congress ought to have the courage to vote for or against them. I’m voting for this resolution.

– Congressman Gaetz

Gaetz gets it.  

So should the Congress.  

So should we.


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

3 Comments

  1. Say Dr. Cross what do you think about this Inspector General beginning this investigation of The Treasury Department? I had talked with a guy a couple of weeks ago and he told me he that that The Kushner company was it trouble again. This may be what he meant. Oh well…

    https://www.alternet.org/2020/01/treasury-department-inspector-general-opens-probe-into-abuse-of-the-trump-tax-cut-law/?utm_source=push_notifications

    Treasury Department inspector general opens probe into abuse of the Trump tax cut law
    Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin speaks to reporters Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
    Written by Justin Elliott / ProPublica January 16, 2020
    ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

    The Treasury Department’s inspector general is looking into the opportunity zone program following stories by ProPublica and The New York Times about how the tax break meant to help the poor had been manipulated by billionaires.

    The development, which was first reported by NBC News, comes after three congressional Democrats wrote to Treasury’s inspector general in October asking for the probe and citing the ProPublica and Times stories.

    “We are conducting an inquiry, and expect to complete our work and respond to the Congressional requesters in early spring,” Deputy Inspector General Richard Delmar said in a statement.

    The opportunity zone program, passed as part of the 2017 Trump tax overhaul, offers tax breaks to investors who put money into specially designated areas. While it was pitched as a way to help struggling neighborhoods, ProPublica and others have documented how the process has appeared to benefit billionaires with investments in areas that should not have qualified. In other cases, governors have granted the tax break to their political donors and, in some cases, themselves or their families.

    Sen. Cory Booker, an architect of the program, along with Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and Ron Kind, asked the inspector general to do a “complete review” of areas picked for the opportunity zone tax break to see if they were truly eligible. The October letter also asked the inspector general to collect all correspondence between Treasury, White House officials and outside interests about the process.

    The inspector general said that once the inquiry is complete it plans to publicly post its response to the congressional Democrats.

    Do you have access to information about opportunity zones that should be public? Email justin@propublica.org. Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.

  2. Dr. Cross here is some news for on the Trump Administration that might delight Republicans since Republicans of the day and time Social Security was labeled communistic and socialist.

    ACT NOW: PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY. OPPOSE THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S CRUEL POLICY.
    The last time this policy was implemented, 21,176 people died.

    In the 1980s, the Reagan administration implemented a policy resulting in 200,000 Americans losing their earned Social Security disability benefits with thousands losing their lives. At the time, thanks to a massive public outcry, they were forced to reverse this attack on Social Security.

    But now, without regard for history or human life, the Trump administration has proposed a similar rule that’s designed to rip benefits away from hundreds of thousands of Americans with disabilities.

    While Social Security is best known as a retirement program, disability and survivors benefits are equally essential. That’s why we’re rallying our allies across the country to fight back against this proposed rule change and save the lives of thousands of Americans.

  3. What about these grifter’s Dr. Cross? It seems Trump only added meaner aligators to the swamp but I believe Stephenville citizens have had enough of the “deep state” conspiracy theories Dr. Cross. And as well how swampy is it down in Florida at Marjorie Merriweather Posts old place name Mar-a Lago. Ms Post dad started Post, Texas. He was the Post Toasties guy. She first married E.F. Hutton and they formed General Goods. She has a lot of story after that and she left a museum in Washington, D.C. She was big friends with r. Milton D. Ratner tht I worked for in 1975 for 7 months.

    https://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/

    https://www.alternet.org/2020/01/all-the-presidents-grifters/?utm_source=push_notifications

    All the president’s grifters

    One of Donald Trump’s great gifts is an instinct for surrounding himself with people who are so sleazy and lacking in credibility that when they’re indicted for some scam or flip on him and reveal his abuses of power they’re easy to discredit.

    This week, for example, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham described Lev Parnas, the grifty GOP operative who released a tranche of damning documents this week, as “a man who is under indictment and who’s actually out on bail. This is a man who owns a company called Fraud Inc. We’re not too concerned about [his revelations].” All of that is true, but Parnas worked closely with Trump’s personal attorney to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, says he asked Trump to remove the US ambassador and has released dozens of photos of himself mugging with Trump, both of his sons, Mike Pence and a who’s-who of Republican bigwigs close to White House.

    Christina Wilkie

    @christinawilkie
    Telling detail of the Lev Parnas/Robert Hyde/Anthony de Caluwe triangle: Each of them tells reporters he’d been warned the other guy was a scumbag.

    De Caluwe was warned about Hyde, Hyde was cautioned about Parnas, and Parnas was told to avoid Hyde.

    And yet here we are.

    975
    10:54 PM – Jan 17, 2020

    336 people are talking about this

    As soon as Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time lawyer and business partner, turned on his former boss he became “a felon, a disbarred lawyer and a convicted perjurer who lied to both Congress and the Special Counsel in a ‘deliberate and premeditated’ fashion,” according to campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany.

    “The Trump campaign is distancing itself from one of its highest-profile supporters, David Bossie, two days after the president’s longtime friend was accused of using his political group to scam elderly Republican voters for his own financial gain,” reported Politico last year.

    Despite visiting the White House 13 times and being described in media reports as “a lobbyist known for his ties to the inner circle of President Donald Trump,” the White House claimed that nobody in the building knew George Nader after he cooperated with the Mueller probe. He was later arrested on child porn charges.

    When Trump announced that he was tapping George Papadopoulos as a foreign policy advisor, he called the unheralded and inexperienced “energy consultant” an “excellent guy,” but when Papadopoulos was busted for lying to the FBI and then cooperated in the Mueller probe, he became “just a coffee boy.”

    After Sam Nunberg blasted the White House in a series of bizarre (and perhaps drunken) press hits, then-White House spox Sarah Huckabee Jones described him as someone who “hasn’t worked at the White House” and didn’t know what he was talking about.

    “The Trump campaign is distancing itself from one of its highest-profile supporters, David Bossie, two days after the president’s longtime friend was accused of using his political group to scam elderly Republican voters for his own financial gain,” reported Politico last year.

    Despite visiting the White House 13 times and being described in media reports as “a lobbyist known for his ties to the inner circle of President Donald Trump,” the White House claimed that nobody in the building knew George Nader after he cooperated with the Mueller probe. He was later arrested on child porn charges.

    When Trump announced that he was tapping George Papadopoulos as a foreign policy advisor, he called the unheralded and inexperienced “energy consultant” an “excellent guy,” but when Papadopoulos was busted for lying to the FBI and then cooperated in the Mueller probe, he became “just a coffee boy.”

    After Sam Nunberg blasted the White House in a series of bizarre (and perhaps drunken) press hits, then-White House spox Sarah Huckabee Jones described him as someone who “hasn’t worked at the White House” and didn’t know what he was talking about.

    A small number of people at a few federal agencies have vast power over the protection of American air and water,” reports The New York Times. “Under the Trump administration, the people appointed to those positions overwhelmingly used to work in the fossil fuel, chemical and agriculture industries. During their time in government they have been responsible for loosening or undoing nearly 100 environmental protections from pollution and pesticides, as well as weakening preservations of natural resources and efforts to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.”

    *****

    In related news, “a lobbyist turned senior Agriculture Department official repeatedly shared information with her former industry on policy and enforcement, according to ProPublica. Before being tapped by Trump to serve as a senior Agriculture Department official, Rebeckah Adcock “was the chief lobbyist for the herbicide industry’s trade group.”

    Adcock had helped her former industry colleagues in a variety of ways. At Dow’s request, for example, she had arranged a meeting between a top company official and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue….

    Before the May 2017 meeting, a Dow lobbyist emailed Adcock: “Do you know who will staff the secretary?”

    Adcock wrote back, playfully, “Yes and u do too.”

    “Roger,” the lobbyist, Hunt Shipman, replied. Then he joked about the potential conflict of a public servant helping former colleagues: “Maybe you can have a chair on both sides of the table…maybe you can staff them both? :)”

    *****

    Art of the deal…

    Citizens for Ethics

    @CREWcrew
    1. Trump applied for trademarks in Argentina

    2. The Trump administration rescinded tariffs on Argentina

    3. Trump got the trademarks

    4. The Trump administration replaced the tariffs https://www.citizensforethics.org/trump-argentina-trademarks/

    US Held Off on Tariffs while Argentina Reviewed Trump Trademarks – CREW
    Trump’s Argentina trademarks are not the first time that the Trump family’s trademarks ran up against American foreign policy.

    citizensforethics.org
    1,032
    1:30 PM – Jan 12, 2020
    867 people are talking about this
    *****
    Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) want to know whether any Mar-a-Lago members had advanced knowledge that the Trump administration would kill a top Iranian general — and whether they used that knowledge to game the stock market.

    *****

    A couple of stories about trying to manage under an unhinged president*…

    Politico reports that Intelligence officials are trying to convince Congress to skip the public portion of an annual threat report after last year’s presentation “provoked an angry outburst from President Donald Trump.”

    At the last such threats briefing a year ago, the chiefs presented findings that diverged from the president’s statements on the longevity of Islamic State terror group, as well as Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. He blistered them on Twitter the following day, labeling them “passive” and “naive” while writing that “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

    This week, the regime also “abruptly canceled four classified congressional briefings related to the ongoing Iran crisis, in some cases providing little or no explanation for doing so,” according to CNN. The briefings were scheduled to be conducted by officials from the State Department, the FBI and the Pentagon.

    *****

    Imagine actually believing that Trump was bothered by corruption in Ukraine….

    President Trump wanted to strike down a law that prohibits companies from bribing foreign officials, calling the ban “so unfair” to American companies, two Washington Post reporters recount in a new book.

    In the spring of 2017, Mr. Trump was at a briefing with Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, and aides in the Oval Office. At the mention of a bribery allegation, Mr. Trump “perked up” and told Mr. Tillerson that he wanted his help in scrapping the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the authors write.

    That law, enacted in 1977 and heavily enforced since around 2005, prohibits companies that operate in the United States from bribing foreign officials to obtain or retain business. It has become a major factor in corporate decision-making about operations abroad.

    Mr. Trump said that it was “just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas…”

    *****

    Denver this week became the national target of the Trump administration’s escalated crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement subpoenaed information on four foreign nationals wanted for deportation.

    ICE usually sends the administrative subpoenas to employers or landlords as they track down immigrants who are in the country illegally. The agency confirmed to The Associated Press, which first reported the Denver subpoenas, that it was the first time they had been directed to a law enforcement agency. ICE indicated that it could expand the unusual practice to other cities.

    According to The Denver Post, one city officials said, “This is not a legal document. It’s not signed by a judge.”

    *****

    “Trump is preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget, according to internal planning figures obtained by The Washington Post.”
    Just a reminder that Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 and Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution give Congress the exclusive power of the purse.
    *****
    The story that we believe should have been plastered all over the front pages this week…

    James Hohmann

    @jameshohmann
    A new study shows that the oceans are warming at the same rate as if FIVE Hiroshima bombs were dropped in EVERY second.https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/13/world/climate-change-oceans-heat-intl/index.html

    Oceans are warming at the same rate as if five Hiroshima bombs were dropped in every second
    The world’s oceans are now heating at the same rate as if five Hiroshima atomic bombs were dropped into the water every second, scientists have said.

    cnn.com
    20
    4:45 PM – Jan 13, 2020

    19 people are talking about this
    *****

    And we’ll leave you with two pieces of good news.

    Texas Tribune: “A federal judge temporarily blocked a Trump administration policy that would have allowed governors, like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and other local leaders to prevent refugees from resettling in those areas.”

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