Liberals, progressives, and Democrats complained about many Bush era policies. They assailed “warrantless” wiretaps, aggressive interrogations, and the Iraq War. Many have been strangely silent with one of their own in the White House. President Barack Obama has exceeded any and all Bush policies and continued to push the boundaries of legality. His policies have set up a potential impeachment showdown for the president or one of his successors. In particular, he waged war without congressional approval, changed laws with a stroke of the pen, and targeted Americans for execution without due process.
Presidents have the right to use military force to protect the nation. Legally, they are entitled to use force without congressional approval to ward off “imminent” threats or for short term missions. President Obama ignored both of these preconditions when he attacked Libya. Senator John McCain and others offered a resolution to give Obama legal and constitutional authority to fight, but the president declined. Instead, he engaged Libyan forces without approval. In response, several members of congress sued. House Speaker John Boehner warned that if the action lasted more than 90 days, it violated the law. Obama ignored Boehner and the intervention lasted seven months. The lack of congressional approval and oversight represents a dangerous escalation of executive power and a clear violation of American law.
Military adventurism is not the only arena the president has violated the law. President Obama has exceeded his authority in domestic areas as well. In February 2011, he unilaterally decided the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. The Constitution is clear that the president executes laws and the courts decide on constitutionality. Likewise, in June 2012, Obama enacted his own “Dream Act” without congress. He decided to not only violate the law, but change it by ordering immigration agents to ignore statute and stop deportation hearings. As the New York Post reported, Obama went as far as blocking the deportation of individuals responsible for “low-level” criminal activities. Earlier, Obama said he did not have the authority to make this change and stated the power rested with congress. The fairness or legality of DOMA and immigration law is not the question. Instead, the proper constitutional role of government branches and excessive executive power is at the center of these examples. For example, Obama’s actions have made it possible for a pro-life president to invalidate Roe v. Wade.
While changing laws without congress is monarchical, Obama’s use of drones is tyrannical. In 2011, the president intentionally targeted American citizens for execution. Obama killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan on September 30 and al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, weeks later. Khan lived in New York and North Carolina while al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico. They had been engaged in anti-American terrorist activities.
Not all American targets have been clearly plotting against the U.S. Abdulrahman was only 16 years old when Obama targeted him for death and may not have been involved in his father’s activities. He might have been killed for sharing his father’s name. The Justice Department attempted to assuage fears over the program by producing guidelines. The key element seems to be the ability to bring people to justice. If capturing a renegade American is too dangerous or difficult, then Obama reserves the right to kill them. However, the Constitution is clear about their right to due process, which makes Obama’s policy illegal and calls to question his legal culpability.
President Obama’s actions in Libya, changing DOMA and immigration law, and with drone strikes are disturbing and might be impeachable offenses should the president’s approval rating plummet. Even if he serves out his second term, Obama has set dangerous precedents. Presidents can now kill Americans without due process, change and make laws, and wage war without congressional approval. He has set up an inevitable Constitutional crisis. In the 1960s, the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations made widespread use of illegal wiretapping to keep tabs on their political enemies. The Nixon Administration simply followed precedent.