delivered 10 December 2020
Senator Paul: Madam President:
Presiding Officer Hyde-Smith: The Senator from Kentucky.
Senator Paul: The best part of any debate is when you see people
twisting themselves in knots, going into -- going against their own alleged
principles to get their desired results.
How absurd is that? It's exactly the opposite of what both the Constitution and logic would dictate.
When Congress tried to impose time limits on troop engagements during the Iraq War, the neocons squawked that it would be a mistake to have 535 generals. They said the execution of the war was the prerogative of the president -- until a president decided he wanted to leave a war.
During the Bush Administration, Dick Cheney and a team of legal apologists argued for something called the "Unitary Executive Theory." Professor Edelson at American University describes this theory of an all-powerful commander-in-chief concept. This Unitary Executive Theory claimed to justify effectively unchecked presidential power over the use of military force, the detention and interrogation of prisoners, extraordinary rendition, and intelligence gathering.
According to the Unitary Executive Theory, since the Constitution assigns the president all of the "executive power," he can set aside laws that attempt to limit this power over national security. This is an enormous power. Critics say that it effectively puts the president above the law.
But this is the belief of the neocons: They say, "The president is all-powerful," until, they say, "Well, unless the president's trying to stop a war. Then we must shackle the president with rules and regulations, and make sure that he cannot leave a war unless Congress says so." That's what the NDAA will do this year.
Now these same people who advocated for virtually
unlimited commander in chief powers have put forth limits in this bill to
restrain a president from removing troops from a country. Effectively, these neocons put forth a belief that the commander in chief has virtually unlimited
power to initiate war but they are just fine with hamstringing and preventing
the commander in chief from ending a war.
Our Founding Fathers would be appalled. Primary among our Foundersí concerns was that the power to initiate war not be in the hands of one person. As Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers: The executive is the branch of government most prone to war. Therefore, the Constitution, with studied care, vested the war-making powers in the legislature. To our Founders, initiation of war was the sole prerogative of Congress.1,2
But a great deal of discretion was given to the president in Article II to execute the war. The neocons forever believed in this discretion. They said the war shouldn't be fought by 535 generals in Congress. We should give the president the freedom and power to execute the war. And largely they're correct -- until they popped their heads up today and say, "unless the president wants to stop a war. Then we take it all back. What we really want is a president who can't execute a war -- or execute the end of war without the permission of Congress."
Likely, our Founders would have
agreed with the common complaint that we donít need 535 generals in Congress. In other
words, success in war requires most decisions on executing the war to be in the
hands of one person, the president. Even I, who had been opposed to most of the
recent overseas activities and wars, even I believe that once Congress initiates
it, most of the decisions should be made by the president.
But, the execution of the war would largely be left up to the
president. Many, many current and former members of Congress have agreed.
So which is it? I guess she's only for this "unitary power" -- all-powerful commander in chief when they fight war. But if a president wants to end a war, oh, no, Congress has to stop them at all costs from ending a war.
I think what comes out of this is that the neoconservative philosophy isn't so much about a unitary executive, isn't so much about an all-powerful command in chief. The philosophy of these people is about war, substantiating war and making sure that it becomes and is perpetual war.
Senator [Lindsey] Graham said: The one thing he has been consistent on" is that "there is 1 Commander in Chief, not 535" -- this are [sic] his words:
except for this bill which actually created 535 generals in Congress to tell the
president -- not just this president -- and some of his anger is partisan anger
and people don't like President Trump -- but this will bind future presidents.
This isn't just about this president. So when Lindsey Graham says we don't want
535 commanders in chief -- if this is his belief he should vote against this
bill because this bill creates 535 commanders in chief.
Senator [James] Inhofe, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee has said, "We donít need 535 generals in Congress telling our troops how to win this fight"6 -- except for we are going to pass a bill that I assume all of these folks will vote for that actually creates 535 generals in Congress to say to the president, to this one or any president, that he can't leave the theater in Afghanistan without their permission.
It's a tragedy. It's hypocrisy. And it's a terrible bill.
Of course there's also former Vice President Dick Cheney,
who was adamant that the
Resolution, which requires the president to simply report to Congress on matters of
war, was unconstitutional and "an infringement on the presidentís authority as
[the] commander in chief."7
It seems as if the only thing you can conclude is they really don't care about their theory about al all powerful commander in chief. They care more about perpetuating the Afghan war.
Until recently, this chorus of voices sang of nothing but the almighty, endless
powers that presidents have as commander in chief. That is, until a president
arrived on the scene who wanted to reduce overseas troop levels and end
Americaís longest war in Afghanistan.
Which is it? Are you for this unlimited power of the president to execute war or are you only for it when they're initiating war -- when they are continuing war and against presidential prerogative if the president chooses to end a war.
Shouldnít we call out this hypocrisy? Shouldnít someone stand up and express -- and expose expose this rank demagoguery? Shouldnít someone cry foul that the advocates of unlimited presidential power want it only to apply when that president advocates for war? But the moment a president advocates to end war or lessen overseas troops, and [their] deployments, he or she must be shackled by 535 generals.
This Defense Authorization bill could more aptly be
called, "A Bill to Prevent
the President from Ending the Afghan War." We never actually give the real
titles to the bill, but that would be an accurate title: "A Bill to Prevent
the President from Ending the Afghan War."
1 From Helvidius Number 4, [14 September] 1793: "...the fundamental doctrine of the constitution, that the power to declare war including the power of judging of the causes of war is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature: that the executive has no right, in any case to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war: that the right of convening and informing Congress, whenever such a question seems to call for a decision, is all the right which the constitution has deemed requisite or proper: and that for such more than for any other contingency, this right was specially given to the executive." [emphasis added; source: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-15-02-0070]
2 From Letter to Jefferson, 1798: "The constitution supposes, what the History of all [Governments] demonstrates, that the [Executive] is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the [Legislature]." [emphasis added; source: https://history.house.gov/Institution/Origins-Development/War-Powers/]
3 Verbatim. See: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2009/01/what-elizabeth-cheney-s-1988-college-thesis-tells-us-about-the-bush-presidency.html]
4 Verbatim. See: https://justfacts.votesmart.org/public-statement/770165/executive-session-drone-program]
5 Verbatim. See: https://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/john-mccain-syria-plan-096187
6 Verbatim. See: https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/inhofe-again-rejects-democrats-effort-to-micromanage-the-war
7 Broader quotation from Politico's report: ď'The War Powers Act is still in force out there today, that requires him to grant certain notifications to the Congress and give them the authority to supersede those by vote if they want to when it comes to committing troops,' Cheney said. 'No president has ever signed off on the proposition that the War Powers Act is constitutional. I would argue that it is, in fact, a violation of the Constitution; that it's an infringement on the president's authority as the commander in chief. It's never been resolved, but I think it's a very good example of a way in which Congress has tried to limit the president's authority and, frankly, canít.'Ē [emphasis added; source: https://www.politico.com/story/2008/12/cheney-war-powers-act-violates-constitution-016785]
Broader quotation: "Mr.
President, my purpose today is to say I believe it is time for President
Bush to take the Iraq Study Group report down off the shelf and use it
for something other than a bookend. But first let me say something about
the resolution that we are about to consider.
There is a reason
why we don't have 535 commanders in chief or 100 commanding generals
each saying: Charge down this street or over that hill. The
Founders of our country made the President the Commander in Chief and
gave to Congress the power to declare war and pay for it. That is why I
will vote against this resolution and any of the resolutions that seek
to micromanage the war. Once a war is authorized, as this one was by a
bipartisan vote of 77 to 23 in 2002, it is the President's job to manage
the war." [emphasis added; source: https://justfacts.votesmart.org/public-statement/247033/to-revise-united-states-policy-on-iraq-motion-to-proceed/]
Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement
Page Updated: 3/27/21
Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement
Page Updated: 3/27/21
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