The Spectacle Blog

Constitutional Questions Have to Be Answered By Referring to theConstitution

By on 4.7.11 | 2:31PM

With all due respect John, I think it is you who is interpreting the Constitution like a liberal. When you argue that defending U.S. territory against Indian tribes is equivalent to invading and occupying countries halfway around the world, it reminds me of the liberal wive's tale that President John Adams imposed the first individual mandate. When you cite jet travel and instantaneous communications as reasons to "update" the Constitution to cover the international frontier, I see shades of the "living Constitution" and "evolving standards of decency."

The Constitution lists the enumerated powers of all three branches of the federal government. The federal government has no power that is not delegated to it by the states and the people, and ratification is the process by which those powers are delegated. The people of the Founding era who come closest to this expansive view of presidential war powers were not the Federalists. It was the Anti-Federalists who opposed ratification and feared the Constitution created too powerful a central government. Quite frankly, the Constitution probably would not have been ratified if the Federalists argued it authorized the presidential war powers John is claiming. Where is the evidence the people who wrote and ratified the Constitution intended to give the president such sweeping war powers?

What we have instead of this evidence is an attempt to minimize an enumerated power -- Congress' power to declare war -- and read unenumerated powers into the commander-in-chief title. Where have I seen this method of constitutional interpretation before? "The president has express constitutional authority to initiate or wage war," John writes, without referencing the Constitution's text, the Constitutional Convention or the ratification debates. So where's this constitutional authority expressed?

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