Like a Keebler elf who knows cookies are really bad for you, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, net worth $17,000) has once again made his party sad by telling the truth. The former presidential candidate and lifetime buzzkill pointed out yesterday that President Obama had authorized the use of military force in Libya without the approval of Congress and thus violated the constitution. “President Obama moved forward without Congress approving,” Kucinich told Raw Story. “He didn’t have Congressional authorization, he has gone against the Constitution, and that’s got to be said.” He has a point—although it is of course the same point he made about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars under George W. Bush, plus various interventions under Clinton. The President cannot order military attacks without the approval of Congress, except in cases of imminent threat to the United States. Recognizing along with the world community that Muammar Gaddafi is a dickhole is not imminent threat. For that reason, Kucinich said, ordering air strikes against Libya without congressional approval was an impeachable offense. Cue awkward silence throughout Democratic strategy conference call.
Representative Kucinich is not saying that President Obama should be impeached. “I’m raising the question as to whether or not it’s an impeachable offense. It would appear on its face to be an impeachable offense,” he told Raw Story. “Now, it doesn’t necessarily follow that simply because a president has committed an impeachable offense, that the process should start to impeach and remove him. That’s a whole separate question. But we have to clearly understand what this Constitution is about.”
The Constitution is about how middle-aged white people don’t have to pay for Pell grants, as any Tea Party representative will tell you, but there’s also a whole thing in there about separation of powers. Again, no one wants to hear this, and we’ve been letting modern Presidents exert military force without congressional approval since the Korean War. Kucinich is not advocating any deviation from business as usual in this case, but in a political discourse where “the Constitution” threatens to join “freedom” and “terrorism” on the list of words that you can use pretty much whenever, he reminds us that we should probably know what the actual document actually says. Don’t impeach the President, you guys, but don’t treat the Constitution like a sign listing the hot tub rules, either.
This nuance seems to have been entirely lost on Politico, who led their story with the sentence, “President Barack Obama should be impeached for approving air strikes against Libya, Rep. Dennis Kucinich said in an interview Monday.” It’s an odd choice, considering that they link to the original Raw Story report, and their own version of the article contains the quote in which Kucinich says we should not impeach the President.
This sort of treatment captures both why Dennis Kucinich will never be President and why we need him. As a genuinely liberal Democrat who is also a stickler for Constitutional government and the letter of the law, he’s hard to situate on the simplistic Tea Party–finance lobby–SEIU spectrum that has become the depressingly inclusive model for American politics. Those of you who clicked on the Open Secrets link in the first paragraph may have noticed that Kucinich’s net worth makes him the 402nd-richest member of the House. If he’s in politics to work some sort of angle, he’s hiding it remarkably well. It seems possible that he conducts himself according to a set of principles by which he genuinely hopes to improve the country. He also resembles a melted child.
In other words, John Boehner could buy his testicles tomorrow. And yet Kucinich has remained, the nagging voice of a national conscience emanating from just below your left shoulder, telling you that you can’t bomb Libya just because that would feel really good. This country needs a Dennis Kucinich. Presumably, he will spend the rest of the week on Fox News answering questions about how he plans to impeach the President, but that is our fault, not his. Like all elves, he is simply too good for the world of men.