With Friends Like These: Bush Lawyer John Yoo Backs Obama's Undeclared War on ISIS


Credit: White House / Flickr.com

When President Barack Obama took the United States to war against Libya in 2011 without first seeking congressional authorization as required by the Constitution, he disappointed more than a few of his liberal followers. But Obama did earn the grudging respect of conservative law professor John Yoo, the controversial former George W. Bush administration lawyer, "torture memo" author, and Andrew Jackson apologist. In response to Obama's statement that he did not need congressional approval to launch military action in Libya thanks to his "constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations" and his powers "as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive," Yoo declared: "For once, Mr. Obama has the Constitution about right."

Fast-forward to the present day and Obama is once more planning to wage war without first seeking authorization from Congress. And once again, former Bush lawyer Yoo is standing in Obama's corner. "President Obama's 'strategy' for fighting the Islamic state," Yoo recently wrote at National Review, "is coming under fire from conservatives for lacking legal authority. I worry that they are allowing their short-term political opposition to Obama and his foreign policy to overcome the longer-term interest in preserving the powers of the presidency."

To his credit, Yoo is at least consistent. He wants the president to enjoy virtually unlimited war powers and he maintains that position regardless of which political party happens to occupy the office. But to his discredit, Yoo's stance is at odds with the text of the Constitution, which plainly grants Congress—not the president—the "power…to declare war."

Back in 2008, when Obama was first seeking the White House, he was widely seen as an antiwar candidate of "hope" and "change" whose election would repudiate the foreign policy mistakes of the Bush years. I think it's safe to say that the ongoing Obama-Yoo alliance has finally dispelled that myth.