"Foreign policy is the one area the President does not have to rely on Congress."
I could not disagree more, Erick.
Comments like this are part of the reason I was never able to relate to modern American Conservatism as a political ideology. The idea that the President shouldn’t need to consult Congress on foreign policy matters strikes me as a subplot of the “Strong Leader” paradigm that many Conservative opinion leaders talk about. And this obsession with the President being a “Strong Leader” is toxic. It is even more toxic when a “Strong Leader” is defined as a person who dictates U.S. foreign policy unilaterally. It’s an idea that is as scary as it is incoherent from a legal standpoint.
What is strange about Erickson’s comment is that he criticized Obama elsewhere for exceeding the Constitutional limits of Executive Power. He has railed against the Obama administration taking unilateral action under the Affordable Care Act. But apparently Erickson has no concern about the President unilaterally sending American troops to other countries without Congressional authorization.
It’s possible that Erickson was using “foreign policy” to refer strictly to diplomatic relations with other countries. But that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The term “foreign policy” encompasses military action. That necessarily includes things like dropping bombs on countries the U.S. government doesn’t like. And given that Erickson made this statement in the same paragraph that he mentions ISIS, it sure seems like he’s not just talking about diplomacy here. To wit, here is the whole paragraph I took the above quote from:
The past six years have seen the undoing of almost seventy years of gains abroad. Foreign policy is the one area the President does not have to rely on Congress. The inter-party fighting should not matter. But China is rattling its sabers, Russia has crossed into Ukraine, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, ISIS is cutting off American heads, commercial airliners are missing in Libya, and the list goes on.
What exactly is the U.S. President supposed to do about all this? The President realistically only has three coercive foreign policy tools at his disposal: the bully pulpit, economic sanctions, and war. The Obama administration has already declared economic sanctions against Russia. What else should it do? The Ukraine is an independent state where many of the residents are sympathetic to Russia and welcome Russia’s involvement in the region. There is little the Obama Administration can realistically do here unless they want to start a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine—a war in which a number of Ukrainians would probably fight against the U.S.
The Obama administrations options with China are also few in number. There is basically nothing that can be done against China because (a) they have a large, capable military, (b) the U.S. economy benefits handsomely from Chinese commerce, and (c) the Chinese government is a sizable creditor of the U.S. treasury. Any drastic measures taken against the Chinese government would inevitably double back and bite the U.S. in the ass, because both countries are, at this point, heavily invested in one another’s future.
Here is the bottom line: the President cannot Constitutionally declare a war. Only Congress can. It is unfortunately true that Congress has not actually declared war on another country for a long time. It is also true that numerous Presidents of both parties have deployed U.S. military forces into war zones without Congressional approval. But that does not change the fact that under Article I, § 8, cl. 11 of the U.S. Constitution, not a single American soldier ought to be anywhere near the middle east without Congressional authorization. Erick Erickson’s fear of ISIS does not change the wording of the Constitution he claims to revere. Nor does it make his tacit approval of the atrocious piece of legislation known as the AUMF any more coherent when measured against Article I of that same Constitution.
Erick Erickson wants a President who will “keep him safe and get out of his way.” Fair enough. But from where I stand, the “Strong Leader” Erick Erickson wants in the White House is someone who will ignore Congress on foreign policy, and isn’t afraid to start wars—and not just with powerless third-world nations and isolated dictators—but wars with countries that are large and powerful enough that a large-scale armed conflict would be a catastrophic event (e.g. China, Russia).
That makes me feel less safe. I want a leader who is extraordinarily hesitant to go to war. I’m tired of the U.S. leaking blood and treasure from its pores to bomb other countries. I’m also tired of the boondoggles and unintended consequences that seem to accompany every recent attempt by the U.S. to militarily intervene in other countries’ affairs. And none of this is to suggest that I think the Democratic party or the Obama administration are angels. But if Erick Erickson’s version of the President is any indication of what the modern American Conservative movement deems to be a competent leader, I want no part of it.