Is Obama setting himself up as 3rd-term commander-in-chief?

Thursday, February 19, 2015
Michael F. Haverluck (

Apparently apprehensive about packing his bags to exit the White House in less than two years, President Barack Obama is at it again trying to lock his successor into carrying out his policies.

A Closer LookAmerican Center for Law and Justice senior counsel David French has seen this pattern demonstrated by the Obama administration before, recognizing it as a testimony of the president's distrust of anyone other than himself.

"Trusting his own wisdom, President Obama resists oversight, goes to legal war against leakers and whistleblowers (at least those who make it look bad), and launches or proposes military offensives against sovereign nations without seeking congressional approval," French asserts. "At the same time, however, he works diligently to undermine the autonomy of the next commander-in-chief, working to create legal structures that will bind presidents after President Obama leaves Washington."

French argues that Obama's past and present actions demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that he doesn't trust leaving decisions to the American people — let alone the next commander-in-chief. The ACLJ attorney uses the president's 2012 drone policy to shine some light on what he means.

"Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the [2012] election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials," French pointed out.

One of the White House staffers expressed the administration's fear of losing control that led to its decision to implement Obama's drone policy. "There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands," that WH official admitted, speaking on condition of anonymity for obvious reasons.

French, David (ACLJ)French speaks to the urgency the administration employed to make sure that its legacy was carried out by the next presidency — if he lost.

"With a continuing debate about the proper limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave an 'amorphous' program to his successor, the official said," French recounted. "The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said."

The ACLJ attorney, who also serves as a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, insists that he is more than familiar with the motivation behind Obama's policies, arguing that Obama's rush to implement his signature initiatives is little more than an eagerness to etch his name on the White House threshold.

"Leisurely indeed … After all, there's no rush now," French contends. "The moral god-kings of the drone war won't be vacating their cubicles until January 2017."

Not coincidentally, this operation won't take off until the very month Obama vacates his office, thus allowing him to see his presidential pen at work while a civilian outside the White House gates.

From drones to ISIS … the problem thickens

Three years after putting his drone policy to work, Obama is at it again — this time by trying to get authorization to use military force against terrorists (AUMF) … a matter that has much more serious ramifications when enacted under the president's constraints.

"But as bad-faith as it is to try to impose drone regulations on a new president — regulations the next president could revise (though no doubt in the face of fierce and vitriolic opposition) — that action pales in comparison to the problematic aspects of the AUMF," French explains. "John Yoo and Mario Loyola have ably outlined [on National Review Online] the legal and strategic flaws in President Obama's request for congressional authorization to use military force against ISIS and allied groups."

French extrapolates on the "hidden" dangers behind the president taking such action, and what this move would really mean.

"To take their argument just a bit further, President Obama's AUMF tries to enlist Congress in a resolution that would essentially codify his military strategy and his foreign policy, regardless of the facts on the ground," French attests. "As Mr. Loyola notes, this is effectively a 'de-authorization' of force."

By Obama moving forward with his plans for his signature AUMF, he is not only jeopardizing America's national security, says French — he is putting the next president in a precarious situation that could drive him or her out of office.

"The intrusion on the next commander-in-chief's authority is unprecedented," French continues. "With a limitation of three years and a prohibition against 'enduring offensive ground combat operations' (whatever that means) just imagine the outcry if a future Republican president deviated materially from President Obama's current course of action. Would the introduction on the ground of a Brigade Combat Team lead to calls for impeachment?"

French is fully cognizant of the problems America faces if it moves forward with Obama's prescribed course of action, hinting not only on his lack of discernment as president of the United States, but as the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces — a dangerous combination that could prove disastrous for America and fatal for its citizens and military.

"If ISIS proves resilient in the face of mandated limited war (as would be likely), would we face a national debate over mandatory withdrawal and retreat?" French ventures. "As Mr. Loyola points out, the AUMF is laden with 'poison pills.'"

Obama's war strategy is argued as being nothing less than a straitjacket that can't be shed as the face of war changes — a dangerous policy to which former presidents did not shackle their successors out of concern for America's safety.

"The Iraq War resolution and the post 9/11 AUMF didn't limit future presidents — they empowered them to defend the nation against known threats and prosecute military conflicts to a successful resolution," French argues. "These authorizations did not require any particular strategy, nor did they require President Obama to continue hostilities (in fact, he's tried his darndest to end wars while the enemy is still fighting)."

Three-term commander-in-chief?

French contests that by Obama pressing forward with his unprecedented rigid call to action, he is essentially declaring himself commander-in-chief into the next presidency — as if he were Franklin Delano Roosevelt leading America through the midst of World War II — but while sitting in his private study in civilian clothes instead of the Oval Office.

"This president's authorization, however, implements the basics of a third term of Obama foreign policy," French argues. "And that's the last thing this nation needs."

French makes it clear that fighting ISIS is in the United States' best interest. However, he maintains that putting forth a tight-knit and inalterable strategy that debilitates the military — by handcuffing it from using its intelligence to mobilize troops as needed when the terrorist enemy changes its face — is disastrous war policy.

"I'm in favor of an [authorization to use military force] against ISIS, but it should empower our commander-in-chief to fight and defeat our enemy according to a strategy determined in cooperation with his or her military commanders, based on the facts on the ground," French concludes. "An AUMF that ties our hands, extends President Obama's military doctrine, and provides a deadline for retreat and defeat is worse than no AUMF at all."


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