Syria, the NSA, Obamacare, and Impeachment

In every one of these situations: the push to attack Syria, the NSA spying on citizens, funding and implementation of Obamacare; proponents want to allow the government to do something it should not do, but claim we will be able to stop it if it goes any further. That thinking is backwards. The way to stop the NSA from gathering citizens’ data, to keep the attack on Syria from escalating, and to stop Obamacare, is not to allow them to get started (funded) in the first place.  

Before the Obama Administration began discussions on a possible attack on Syria, there was talk of impeaching the President over his selective enforcement and alteration of Obamacare. Such talk was going nowhere, of course, because while the House of Representatives can impeach a President, that is only the equivalent of charging him with a crime. The Senate must convict with a two-thirds vote before he can be removed from office.

Since the Senate has been two-thirds controlled by one party for only six two-year terms in a century and a half, that almost always means that impeachment and conviction can only occur when the President’s allies in Congress turn on him.  Not only must they shun allegiance to their leader, they must also be convinced that removing him from office serves both the interests of the nation and their own narrow political fortunes. That has never happened

Instead of pushing for an impeachment, which is a virtual impossibility, many, rightly so are focusing on the devastating effects of ObamaCare and how to defund it.

Over a million people have signed the online petition to cut funding from Obamacare. They know that the way to defeat this law is first not to let it go into effect. Rather than simply delaying portions of it, defunding stops the whole thing in its tracks, before the train wrecks. Delaying portions of the law and assuming the system it creates will fall apart, runs counter to the history of government programs.

When it comes to the intrusion on our civil liberties, what we know of the NSA data collection is shrowded in secrecy and talk of national security. But in general, the agency has obtained warrants through the FISA court to collect a record of almost every phone call, text message, and email sent or received in the United States. They gather this information, which includes at least phone numbers, time, and duration of call, as well as similar information about email, and store it on their servers. 

When an NSA employee wants to access some part of that data, they can often bypass internal procedures they are supposed to follow to gain access to it. Having given up our Fourth Amendment protection against having our data collected by the government, we now find that the promised internal controls don’t work.

Much like ObamaCare, that had to be passed in order to “find out what is in it”, and again like the revelations coming out about the NSA – we shouldn’t go to war to find out what we’re being dragged into.

We can be fairly sure that some kind of chemical weapons attack was carried out on civilians in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. We don’t know who did it. We do know that the Syrian rebels were housed in civilian areas, using civilians as human shields, a war crime. While that doesn’t excuse the use of chemical weapons, it does mean they lose any claim to moral superiority over the Assad regime.

The Obama administration contends it does not to want to get rid of President Assad. But while the public rhetoric calls just for a slap on the wrist, the language of the suggested war resolution is virtually open-ended:

(a) AUTHORIZATION-The President is authorized, subject to subsection (b), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, only to: (1) respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian government in the conflict in Syria; (2) deter Syria’s use of such weapons in order to protect the national security interests of the United States and to protect our allies and partners against the use of such weapons; and (3) degrade Syria’s capacity to use such weapons in the future.

None of the limiting language means anything, especially with a President who doesn’t believe he needs that authorization in the first place. 

Now comes Senator McCain, an advocate of intervening in the Syrian civil war, to say:

“The Russians are all in, the Iranians are all in, and it’s an unfair fight. And no one wants American boots on the ground,” the senator explained. “Nor will there be American boots on the ground because there will be a impeachment of the President if they did that. But I understand the incredible cynicism.”

Impeachment is an iffy business, and Senator McCain knows it. It would especially be true if the war in Syria were to escalate. History shows the President usually gets a short-term bump in approval, as Americans, whether they favored a war or not, rally behind the Commander in Chief

The time to stop an expansion of government power is before it occurs. Afterward, not only does the government have more power to secure its authority, but the tendency is to accept the status quo.

Congress should pass no continuing budget resolution that funds any part of Obamacare. The NSA should stop collecting data on Americans who are not criminal suspects. Congress should not give President Obama the authority he seeks to attack Syria.  If he ignores the Constitution and does so anyway, they at least will not have given him their blessing.