Does Obama Skirt the Constitution? Ask This Yale Professor

Does Obama Skirt the Constitution? Ask This Yale Professor
by JBS President John F. McManus

Americans across the country are finally awakening to the fact that the federal government does indeed operate outside of its limitations. A case in point is Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale University. Because of President Obama starting a war with ISIS, he finally understands that the President has violated the U.S. Constitution.

“Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, and the author of fifteen books that have had a broad influence in political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy.” (Yale Law School)

The Yale professor rightly complains that the President’s decision to make war against ISIS amounts to a unilateral assumption of power. OK, but the professor then says that the President’s unilateral action “marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition,” adding that “nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.” Does this mean that Ackerman would go along with Mr. Obama’s decision if he had consulted with and received approval – not a declaration of war – from Congress for military action against the Islamist militants?

Curiously, the Obama team claimed that decision to go to war against ISIS was acceptable because Congress had authorized the use of military force against Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attack, and new approval for such action wasn’t needed. In other words, a past congressional stamp of approval for war that was not a formal declaration of war as required by the Constitution can serve as a legitimate go-ahead for whatever action is desired even a decade later.  And the new target of the military doesn’t even have to be the one named in the previous congressional authorization. If that’s the case, then any real or supposed enemy can be targeted by simply citing this past congressional action.

Let us point out to the professor that the Constitution states in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 that Congress has the power to “declare war.” Nowhere else in the document is such authority granted to any other portion of the government. Partisans who want the President to have such power point to the Constitution’s naming the occupier of the White House as “commander in chief of the Army and Navy.” This designation should never be considered the equal of the explicit grant of power solely to Congress to declare war. In other words, the nation’s military arm is not the President’s possession to use as he desires. The sole grant of war-making power to Congress completely outweighs the mere designation of who shall be the commander of forces once a war starts. One would think that a law professor would know this.

The last congressional use of its constitutional authority to declare war occurred immediately after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Formal declarations of war were approved by Congress against Japan, Germany, and Italy. And the U.S. won against each of those struggles. No declarations of war were approved regarding subsequent wars in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more. Can the U.S. claim victory in those contests, especially if we are still undergoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Numerous Presidents have sent small military detachments to rescue Americans in danger, reply swiftly to some outrage perpetrated against our nation, etc.  And few, if any, disapproved of these moves and insisted that formal congressional declarations were needed. But war is something else and, according to the Constitution, if there is to be one, it must be formally declared.

If prominently placed professors of law and political science, who should already understand the Constitution but don’t, are waking up, then we should use this as an opportunity to further engage them and others on obeying the Constitution, returning the federal government to its constitutional limitations, and stop policing the world with authorization supplied by the United Nations or its NATO subsidiary. A return to the Constitution’s easily understood passages regarding war is long overdue.

Use today (Constitution Day) as a good excuse to learn more about the American system of government in Overview of America.

Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

Senator Coburn’s Call for a Constitutional Convention Invites Dangerous Consequences

Senator Coburn’s Call for a Constitutional Convention Invites Dangerous Consequences
by JBS President John F. McManus

Medical doctor Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has always crusaded against federal spending and the inevitable deficits that follow. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, he kept his pledge to serve no more than three terms and went back to doctoring in 2001. But in 2004, he won a Senate seat and pledged to serve no more than two six-year terms. Reelected in 2010, he recently decided he’d had enough and announced his resignation effective at the end of 2014, two years before his second Senate term would have ended.

Still crusading about Washington’s big spending and deficit building, Coburn has now announced that he wants the states to hold a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He would also like to have the Con-Con add an amendment mandating term limits for members of Congress.

Scott Bradley, PhD, Founder and Chairman of The Constitution Commemoration Foundation, Inc., speaks at The John Birch Society Council Dinner, May 4, 2013 in Ohio., regarding opposing a BBA Con-Con.

As much as Dr. Coburn’s numerous efforts to cut spending and deal with the national debt deserve accolades, he seems to have not considered that his new proposals are fraught with dangers. He should consider that term limits for the office of President have been in place since 1951. As a result Bill Clinton served only eight years. He was followed by George W. Bush whose eight years were followed by Barack Obama. There are some Americans who applaud the Clinton to Bush to Obama parade because it brought change. But it surely didn’t lead to less spending and an end to deficits.

The main change when term limits force one President to exit and a new one to enter is the name of the occupant of the White House. Real change would occur if the voting public were better informed and not captive of the phony claim that top Democrats are different from top Republicans. If real change is sought, there’s no alternative to an informed electorate.

Dr. Coburn doesn’t seem to realize that a Con-Con could cancel the entire Constitution, as happened in 1787 when the only Con-Con in our nation’s history exceeded its mandate to revise the Articles of Confederation, scrapped them, and produced the U.S. Constitution. A Con-Con can’t be limited. It could abolish the Bill of Rights, cancel term limits on the presidential office, destroy numerous limitations of federal power, etc.

But the other Coburn proposal for a balanced budget amendment (BBA) invites the question: Why should anyone expect current leaders to obey an amendment when they already cavalierly disobey or ignore many of the provisions already present in the existing Constitution? Even beyond that never-answered question, there are several proposed BBAs that are full of loopholes.

Some BBA proposals would allow a 60 percent vote in Congress to override budget restrictions. Other partisans for a BBA say that the way to balance the budget is to increase taxes. There are some who claim that the budget need not be balanced if there’s a war or a national security threat proclaimed by the President. More state that balancing the budget would not have to be accomplished for five years, meaning more deficits. And the most slippery of all these proposals is the one that would allow some federal expenditures to be declared “off budget.”

Beyond the loopholes in a BBA, creating a Con-Con for any reason should be blocked. One year after he participated in the Con-Con that abolished the Articles of Confederation, James Madison stated his opinion in 1788 that consideration of another would cause him to “tremble.” Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger pointed to the unlimited power of a Con-Con and advised against one. The late Justice Robert Bork insisted that “a federal constitutional convention could not be limited to a single issue.” These voices from the past and the present warn against convening a Con-Con.

So while we applaud Dr. Coburn for his praiseworthy years of service in Congress, we have to disagree with his call for a Con-Con. Term limits don’t bring about real change. A balanced budget amendment would be so full of loopholes that it would be worthless. And a Con-Con would be enormously dangerous.

The path for real change wanted by many Americans begins with an educated electorate. There is no other way. And the only organization doing this since 1958 is The John Birch Society. Join today!

Learn more about a Con-Con at our “Choose Freedom — Stop a Constitutional Convention” action page.

Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

Jimmy Carter Shills for a Questionable Islamic Society

Jimmy Carter Shills for a Questionable Islamic Society
by JBS President John F. McManus

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held a national convention over the Labor Day weekend at Detroit’s Cobi Center. Formed in 1982, ISNA functions as an umbrella organization for several other Muslim groups, and is the largest Islamist organization in the United States with a sizable multi-million dollar headquarters in Plainfield, Indiana, an Indianapolis suburb.

ISNA has been the subject of several U.S. government investigations. In 2009, Federal District Judge Jorge Solis stated that, in a trial of various Muslim entities, the U.S. government had “produced ample evidence to establish ties between ISNA and other Muslim organizations with the terror group Hamas.

Imam Mohamed Magid (left), President of the Islamic Society of North America, shakes hands with former President Jimmy Carter at a conference in July 2013.

Even though the largest concentration of Muslims in America resides in the Detroit area, ISNA’s annual convention met this year for the first time ever in Michigan. As its custom calls for, the group’s officials invited the governor of the host state to address the gathering. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, accepted the invite and did appear. Even though he heaped praise on the group and on Muslims generally, he managed to cause a furor by simply affirming Israel’s right to exist. ISNA leaders immediately requested its members to send messages of protest to Governor Snyder. Their insistence that theirs is a mainstream association worthy of respect becomes a bit ludicrous once its reaction to a single sentence in the governor’s speech is noted.

The convention’s keynote speaker this year was former President Jimmy Carter. He began the first of his two presentations by urging all to “give generously to ISNA.” Stating that he was “proud to be with you,” Carter spoke mostly of the work of his own Georgia-based Carter Center but closed with praise for the “this great organization” and added that “the principles of Allah will benefit the whole world.” Over 800 convention attendees warmly applauded our nation’s 39th President who seems to have not yet heard of the escalating and very bloody Muslim-led terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, India and elsewhere.

Critics of ISNA claim that the organization is allied to Egypt’s radical Muslim Brotherhood and also to the equally radical Wahhabi strain of Islam emanating from Saudi Arabia. Investigative journalist and Islam watcher Steven Emerson has accused ISNA of links to terrorism. In 2013, Canadian authorities took action against the group known as ISNA-Canada after uncovering evidence of its links to terrorism.

Credible reports note that radical Muslims from the West (from England, France, elsewhere, and even some from the United States) have sped to Iraq and Syria to join the forces of ISIS. Shouldn’t heaping praise and supplying dignity to a Muslim organization whose claims to be peace loving lose credibility when one factors in its history and its severe reaction to Governor Snyder’s single remark about Israel?

Jimmy Carter should know better than to try to seem important by consorting with ISNA. So should Governor Rick Snyder.

Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

The Mushrooming Trend to Skirt the Constitution

The Mushrooming Trend to Skirt the Constitution
by JBS President John F. McManus

Claims about global warming have been countered so effectively by a growing number of scientific skeptics that promoters of the flawed theory have abandoned use of the global warming term. They now refer only to climate change. But their goal remains the same: propagandize the public with predictions of calamites, and force a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions which they insist are heating the globe, melting polar icecaps, raising sea levels, causing weather-related catastrophes, creating droughts, and even impacting food production.

Above: William Jasper (right), from The New American, interviews Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition, on climate change realism.

Carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from coal-fired power plants and automobiles, were targeted by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations agreement that the United States wisely refused to endorse. At Copenhagen in 2009, environmentalists hoped that the U.S. and other nations would sign on to a similar pact, but that gathering likewise produced nothing. Now, another UN-led try to force drastic cutbacks in carbon emissions will be held in Paris in mid-2015.

Not waiting for the Paris meeting, the Obama administration plans to add new requirements to an already existing 1992 treaty as a way to counter climate change. These will greatly stifle coal-fired energy production. Also, the Obama team will employ what is known as “reflexive law,” which is not a law in the full sense of the term but the use of pressure to force acceptance of some attitude or requirement that could not be gained legally.

Environmentalists have the ear of most journalists. Their impact on the public’s attitude regarding something as questionable as climate change can be considerable. It can lead to achievement of the desired goals by “naming and shaming” opponents, essentially browbeating them into compliance. The result would not be a law in the traditional sense but something called “soft law,” a combination of pressure and inevitability directed at opponents. If resistance persists, far more onerous government-imposed regulations – also unconstitutional – would be forthcoming.

Obama administration personnel plan to add their “soft law” gains to an existing 1992 treaty. Changes in a treaty, of course, should require approval by two-thirds of the Senate. A New York Times article entitled “Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of a Treaty” quoted Jake Schmidt, a National Resources Council expert, who noted that promoters of new regulations “are trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the two-thirds threshold” required by the Senate. Will the senators allow this?

President Obama has already boldly indicated that he will unconstitutionally use his pen to create law by Executive Order. Now, his administration intends to skirt the Constitution via “reflexive law” or “soft law.” He obviously doesn’t like the constitutional restrictions placed on a President. Will Congress allow such conduct to continue? Will the American people continue to elect members of Congress who won’t stop the drive toward total government?

Mr. Obama and his merry band of dictatorship builders have to be stopped. Blocking the plans noted above would be a good way to begin.

Contact your Senators and let them know you’re opposed to reflexive law.

Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

Remembering the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis

Remembering the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis
by JBS President John F. McManus

The death a few weeks ago of former Congressman George Hansen (R-Idaho) brought back memories of Iran’s seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It also stirred reminders of the power of large U.S. banks.

Early in 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini seized control of Iran. Former Iranian leader Shah Reza Pahlevi had already fled the country and eventually made his way to the United States. Khomeini demanded that he be sent back to stand trial. The Carter administration refused and, on November 4th, Khomeini unleashed a mob that took control of the American embassy. The Iranians kept 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Washington’s customarily weak response to this kind of indignity included denying Iranian Americans a parade permit!

Iranians capturing the American embassy in Tehran, Nov. 4, 1979. Photo from 444 Days: Memoirs of an Iran Hostage.

On November14th, fully ten days after the seizure of the embassy and the virtual imprisonment of the Americans, President Carter declared a “national emergency” and froze all Iranian assets within the U.S. Why wait ten days and not act immediately when an embassy is seized? What happened to trigger the kind of response that should have been forthcoming within hours of the raid on the embassy? The answer is that Khomeini had just announced his intention to withdraw $12 billion in Iranian assets from American banks. Sudden withdrawal of billions would have left 12 American mega-banks in a very shaky condition. Embassies can be overrun; American citizens who held diplomatic immunity can be made prisoners; and a pitifully weak protest can be issued. But when mega-banks face a threat, the U.S. government took meaningful action.

Sudden withdrawal of $12 billion would have left most of those 12 mega-banks in a very shaky position. Hence, the prompt declaration of a “national emergency.” Shouldn’t it have been labeled a “banking emergency?” In mid-1980, Congressman Hansen went to Iran seeking justice for the hostages. He got nowhere. I met him not long after his return to America and asked him if the Carter administration’s ten-days-after-the-fact decision to get tough, declare an emergency, and freeze Iranian assets might have had more to do with protecting the banks than obtaining freedom for the hostages. With no hesitation, he said, “That’s it exactly.”

After 444 days of being imprisoned in the U.S. embassy compound in Tehran, the 52 American diplomats and military personnel posted there by the U.S. government were granted permission to leave the country. It was now January 20, 1981. Jimmy Carter had been defeated for reelection the previous November and was about to leave for home in Georgia. But incoming President Ronald Reagan arranged for the outgoing President to greet the hostages. They, of course, thanked Carter for his efforts to obtain their release. Whether the bankers sent Carter their own thanks for what he did for them remains a mystery.

A Warning to the West From a Catholic Bishop Who Had To Flee Iraq

A Warning to the West From a Catholic Bishop Who Had To Flee Iraq
by JBS President John F. McManus

The Chaldean Catholic Church, one of the approved rites of Catholicism, traces its roots back to the Thomas the Apostle in the First Century A.D. It grew dramatically throughout the Middle East between the 9th and 14th centuries. Until very recently, one of its main churches was St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Iraq city of Mosul.

Armenian Orthodox church in Raqqa, Syria, now an ISIS office. Photo from

“Recently” is the key word in any current discussion of Mosul’s Chaldean Catholics. When the city was overrun by the militants known as ISIS only weeks ago, Catholics became their main target. Many who would not convert to Islam have been killed; many more have left everything and fled. Mosul’s Archbishop Amel Shimoun Nona took refuge with some of his flock in the Kurd-controlled city of Erbil in northeastern Iraq, an area not yet overrun by ISIS. From there, he sent a message to fellow Christians in Europe and the West pointing out that they should beware because all are targets of an “enemy you have welcomed into your home.”

Archbishop Nona’s stark warning stated, “I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. Please try to understand. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You think that all men are equal, but Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become victims.”

Christians in nearby Syria have already experienced this same type of attack. In Africa, the Islamist Boko Haram has kidnapped many hundreds of schoolgirls and killed hundreds more adults and children. Archbishop Nona hopes that no one would have to endure what he and his people have faced. Welcoming more Muslims, he contends, is suicidal. “Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, European and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future,” he claims and adds, “You must take strong and courageous decisions.”

What the Archbishop of Mosul has already experienced does not have to happen elsewhere. But, to avoid such a fate, realization of an actual threat that could be duplicated in other countries will have to take hold.

Iraq Has a New President

Iraq Has a New President
by JBS President John F. McManus

On August 14th, Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki stepped down as the President of Iraq. He had held the post since May 20, 2006. After recent elections had seen his allies win the most seats in the nation’s parliament, he seemed poised to retain the office. But pressure for a change in the nation’s leadership came from influential Ayatollah Ali Sistani and others including neighboring Iran. Maliki originally intended to challenge the refusal to accept him for another four-year term but suddenly cancelled his protest. The post now falls to Haider al-Abadi, a fellow member of Iraq’s Islamic Dawa Party.

Photo from Haider Al-Abadi’s Twitter account.

Both Maliki and Abadi are Shiite Muslims and Iraq’s population is largely Shiite. The two men have long held leadership posts in the Islamic Dawa Party. The Sunni minority held power during the long reign of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim. After being captured by U.S. forces, Hussein was executed in December 2006, a mere seven months after Maliki has emerged as President. Fighting between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims, even while U.S. forces gained control of the nation, continued to plague Iraq and has not ceased. Now, the Sunni-led Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) has gained control of one-quarter of the nation, wreaked havoc wherever its forces seized control, and even threatened the capital city of Baghdad. No one believes that ISIS will simply go away.

Like Maliki, Abadi fled Iraq in the 1970s when Saddam Hussein’s regime outlawed the Dawa Party. His two brothers were not so fortunate and were slain. Abadi went to England where he received a doctorate in electrical engineering. Maliki lived for much of his self-imposed exile in Syria where he edited the Dawa Party’s newspaper. Both men returned to Iraq after U.S. forces ousted Hussein in 2003. The two formed a friendship and their cordial relationship figured in Maliki’s decision to step aside.

Abadi’s emergence as the nation’s leader will undoubtedly lead to more military assistance from the United States. A pleased President Obama immediately began referring to the new Iraq leader as “prime minister designate.” And U.S. fighter planes had already begun their attacks on ISIS in northern Iraq.

Abadi faces huge problems as he enters the office of president. The Shiite-Sunni division isn’t about to disappear and neither will the surging forces of Sunni-led ISIS fade away. Financial and military aid from the United States is absolutely necessary. The question now is how long it will continue in the face of rising opposition to further involvement in Iraq among the American people. Many now believe that the role of policeman for the world should stop and stopping it in Iraq would be a good place to begin.


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