The Campaign Spot

Giuliani Vs. Romney on Iran and Lawyers, Part Two

Romney’s people are firing back at Giuliani’s attacks on his answer on the Iran question:

The Mayor’s Response:
MODERATOR: “Just to bring it up to date on this, the political context — you know, Mayor, that Hillary Clinton has proposed — she’s co-sponsored legislation to do just this: require the president to come to Congress for any decision to go to attack a nuclear facility in Iran.
GIULIANI: “It really depends on exigency of the circumstances and how legitimate it is, that it really is an exigent circumstance. It’s desirable, it’s safer to go to Congress, get approval from Congress.
If you’re really dealing with an exigent circumstance, then the president has to act in the best interests of the country.”

Governor Romney Answers Directly:
“Governor Romney gave the strongest and most direct answer about the need to act against any threat to the American people.
“Governor Romney moved quickly past a legal hypothetical and made it clear that the President’s duty to act in the best interests of protecting the American people from any threat is the most important consideration. Governor Romney made it clear that other questions surrounding any action to protect America’s interests serve as a secondary concern.”
-Kevin Madden, Romney for President campaign spokesman

I would note that as the discussion wore on, the answers from the candidates grew more and more similar: that it depended if there was a limited window to strike the target, and that ideally, the president should consult Congress.#more#
The answers, trimmed a bit for brevity:

Mr. Hunter: Answer, Chris, it depends on one thing. First, I think the president does not need that if the target is fleeting. We live in this age of terrorists with high technology. And, if you have a very narrow window to hit a target, the president’s going to have to take that on his shoulders…

Mr. Paul: Absolutely. This idea of going and talking to attorneys totally baffles me. Why don’t we just open up the Constitution and read it? You’re not allowed to go to war without a declaration of war. Now, as far as fleeting enemies go, yes. If there’s an imminent attack on us. We’ve never had that happen in 220 years. The thought that the Iranians could pose an imminent attack on the United States is preposterous. There’s no way. This is just…

Mr. Huckabee: Well, if it’s necessary to get it done because it’s actionable right now, yes. If you have the time and the luxury of going to Congress, that’s always better. But,

Mr. McCain: We’re dealing, of course, with hypotheticals. If the situation is that it requires immediate action to ensure the security of the United States of America, that’s what you take your oath to do, when you’re inaugurated as president of the United States.

If it’s a long series of build-ups, where the threat becomes greater and greater, of course you want to go to Congress; of course you want to get approval, if this is an imminent threat to the security of the United States of America.

So it obviously depends on the scenario.

But I would, at minimum — I would, at minimum, consult with the leaders of Congress because there may come a time when you need the approval of Congress. And I believe that this is a possibility that is, maybe, closer to reality than we are discussing tonight.

Mr. Thompson: On this question? Yes, I think John has it right. I would add that under the War Powers Act, there’s always a conflict between the Congress and the president as to the exact applicability of that when an engagement lasts for a particular period of time and when they must come before Congress.

I don’t think anybody running for president should diminish the power of the office before he gets there and take side in a hypothetical dispute. But I would say that in any close call, you should go to Congress, whether it’s legally required or not. Because you’re going to need the American people and Congress will help you if they’re voting for it or if they support it, or leaders, especially in the opposite party, are convinced and looking at the evidence that this is the right thing to do, that will help you with the American people.

Mr. Giuliani: It really depends on exigency of the circumstances and how legitimate it is, that it really is an exigent circumstance. It’s desirable, it’s safer to go to Congress, get approval from Congress.

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