Obama’s imperial transformation is now complete

Obama’s imperial transformation is now complete

In foreign affairs, too, President Obama has almost entirely reversed himself. In 2007, he told the Boston Globe that presidents have “no 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.” That President Bush had abused his position, meanwhile, was a mainstay of Obama’s campaign. But, in the last three years, Obama has scoffed derisively at anybody who reminds him of this stance, insisting at each juncture that he is possessed of the “authority” to do exactly as he wishes as commander-in-chief. Since 2011, our anti-war, pro-Congress president has launched two major military endeavors without congressional approval, and has only avoided adding a third thanks to Vladimir Putin’s last-gasp intervention in the Syrian crisis; his attitude toward drones and his capacity to use them in anger would make even Dick Cheney raise an eyebrow; and he has become sanguine even toward the “open-ended war” mandates that he once viciously denounced. This, Jack Goldsmith noted recently in Time magazine, is little short of “breathtaking” — representing such an egregious volte face that historians will likely “puzzle over how Barack Obama the prudent war-powers constitutionalist transformed into a matchless war-powers unilateralist” and left “an astonishing legacy of expanding presidential war powers.” Indeed, so utterly determined has this president been to adopt the emperor’s mantle, the New York Times records, that he went so far as to change his lawyers when the first collection told him that he was breaking the law. Richard Nixon, call your office.

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