Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Romney: The first thing we do, let's call all the lawyers

You didn't need to be a pundit extraordinaire to know what the sound bite was going to be from tonight's GOP debate.

The collective "Whaaaat?" of millions of Republicans could be heard when Mitt Romney, not just once but twice, said that he would have to ask "the lawyers" whether it was within his power as President to do a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear capabilities without Congressional authorization.

There were two answers possible. One was Ron Paul's correct response -- namely that only Congress has the power to declare war, and that we've never had a situation in our nation's history where we knew about an impending attack and didn't have time to consult Congress. He was ridiculed for this by Rudy 9/11 Giuliani -- on whom the Paul's argument was lost, and who tried to turn Paul's statement into one where he said that America had never been attacked.

The other possible answer was some variation on the theme that other candidates used: yes, you get Congressional authorization if there's time, but not if there isn't.

Fred Thompson had a solid response, saying that there would always be time at least to consult with Congressional leadership, pointing out that no matter how urgent something might be -- eventually you need the support of the American people in any armed conflict, and without the help of Congress, you aren't likely to get that support.

While Romney otherwise turned in a solid performance in the debate, somehow he managed with this particular (and predictable) question to come up with an inexplicable third way -- it was one of those moments when his corporate experience was a real liability, since his answer conjured up teams of corporate handler/lawyers instructing the President on what to do in a potential national security emergency.

How exactly would Romney think that he would have time to call in his attorneys but not leaders of Congress? Good question. We imagine that Romney and his handlers will be up late tonight formulating answers to that and other questions.


Dan said...

It would be well for you to read the question carefully, and understand what the question was asking. It was asking about the president seeking authorization from Congress. Further, Romney gave a qualifier or support statement that he would do what’s best for the interest of the United States.

Now, despite the partial vagueness and ambiguity of the question, one thing remains clear - it’s not an emergency case, rather it’s an attack - likely a PREVENTIVE and/or PREEMPTIVE attack - in which case deliberations (legal, military and otherwise) ought to be done first, and foremost. Therefore, in that case, Romney was technically right, at the very least. The consulting of the lawyers part was a DIRECT response - at least procedurally - to seeking authorization from the Congress on an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In principle, Romney was right! If anything, it also shows Romney’s respect for the rule of law and proper government protocols. Consulting is a good and prudent thing to do, as opposed to unilateral action on the part of the president, which has OBVIOUSLY been proven to be unwise, and was advocated by other candidates at the debate. Romney proves again that he is a competent and intelligent individual.

Montana Headlines said...

So let's get this straight.

Romney was clearly talking about a non-emergent, preemptive military attack to be carried out against facilities on the soil of a sovereign nation. One that is certain to draw some sort of retaliatory response. In other words, an act of war.

There is furthermore time to discuss it with attorneys -- but Romney is in doubt about whether Congress should be involved in authorizing an act of war against another nation?

If Romney is that unclear about what the Constitution says, then he may be intelligent, but he is clearly incompetent.

Shane C. Mason said...

There is no question that exactly one candidate got the answer to that question right: Ron Paul.

Congressman Paul, do you believe the president needs authorization of Congress to attack strategic targets in Iran, nuclear facilities?
Mr. Paul: Absolutely. This idea of going and talking to attorneys totally baffles me. Why don’t we just open up the Constitution and read it? You’re not allowed to go to war without a declaration of war.

That is simple, the constitution applies.

Montana Headlines said...

Shane, I think this is one of any number of areas where you and I unquestionably agree.

The problem is this: no Democratic President since FDR has asked for a declaration of war, either -- and we can chalk up Korea and Vietnam in the "D" column, and throw in a Bay of Pigs for good measure.

The point is that all Presidents, regardless of party, jealously protect and expand executive power and privilege.

Democrats protest when Republican Presidents expand executive power and Republicans complain when Democratic Presidents expand executive power.

What hasn't happened and may never happen is for the majority of voters and Congressmen in both parties to protest it at the same time -- regardless of which party holds the White House.

And thus, the executive branch will continue to extend its reach. Perhaps our only hope is to have a independent win the White House, resulting in someone whom Congressmen of both parties would be happy to strip of excess power.

Shane C. Mason said...

You have said a mouthfull there. The really sad part is that it is 100% correct.