Among the facts we learned from the GOP candidates’ debate in Michigan last week is that attorneys would have more power than ever if Mitt Romney is elected president. (And no, we don’t have enough already. What kind of a question is that?) Asked by Chris Matthews whether, if he were president, he would feel the need to get authorization from Congress before attacking Iran, Romney said his course was clear: First, "you sit down with your attorneys."
MATTHEWS: Governor Romney, that raises the question, if you were president of the United States, would you need to go to Congress to get authorization to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities?
ROMNEY: You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do, but obviously the president of the United States has to do what’s in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat. The president did that as he was planning on moving into Iraq and received the authorization of Congress…
MATTHEWS: Did he need it?
ROMNEY: You know, we’re going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn’t need to do.
Other candidates had different views, and none of them wanted a research memo, though for different reasons. Congressman Ron Paul, who sort of reminds me of a sane Ross Perot, threw out the wacky idea that maybe he would just read the Constitution himself:
MATTHEWS: Congressman Paul, do you believe the president needs authorization of Congress to attack strategic targets in Iran, nuclear facilities?
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.
I think he’s right on this one, but you can click on the tiny Constitution below and make up your own mind. Article I, section 8:
The Congress shall have power … To define and
punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences
against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies . . .;
To provide and maintain a Navy; [and]
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces . . . .
The capitalization needs a lot of work, but the basic idea seems pretty clear.
Then there’s Mike Huckabee:
HUCKABEE: I would do it in a heartbeat.
MATTHEWS: Without going to Congress?
HUCKABEE: Well, if it’s necessary to get it done because it’s actionable right now, yes. If you have the time and the luxury of going to Congress, that’s always better.
The Congress shall have power . . . to declare War, should there be the Time and the Luxury for the executive to ask it to do so. Oh, well. On a lighter note, Huckabee was committed to making America energy-independent within a decade, which he said would require a dramatic change in management style:
HUCKABEE: We can’t wait . . . another generation. Instead of running [the project] like Nascar, we’ve been running it like taking the family station wagon in for letting Goober and Gomer take a look at it when they get time, under the shade tree.
(UNKNOWN): Senator Thompson, let me ask you to respond on ethanol. Should the government determine whether ethanol makes sense… or should the market?
THOMPSON: First of all, I want to explain for my friends here who Goober and Gomer are.
His best line of the night.