Barack Obama in Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power


On Foreign Policy: President must abide by international human rights treaties

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, is the president, when operating overseas as commander-in-chief, free to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified?

A: It is illegal and unwise for the President to disregard international human rights treaties that have been ratified by the United States Senate, including and especially the Geneva Conventions. The Commander-in-Chief power does not allow the President to defy those treaties.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

On Government Reform: Bad idea to over-classify information

Q: Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional?

A: I believe the Administration’s use of executive authority to over-classify information is a bad idea. We need to restore the balance between the necessarily secret and the necessity of openness in our democracy--which is why I have called for a National Declassification Center.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

On Government Reform: Bush’s signing statements are a clear abuse of prerogative

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

A: Signing statements have been used by presidents of both parties, dating back to Andrew Jackson. While it is legitimate for a president to issue a signing statement to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions of statutes and to explain his view of how he intends to faithfully execute the law, it is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end-run around provisions designed to foster accountability. I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law. The fact that President Bush has issued signing statements to challenge over 1100 laws--more than any president in history--is a clear abuse of this prerogative.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

On Homeland Security: No presidential power for secret surveillance

Q: Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?

A: The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

On Homeland Security: No holding US citizens as unlawful enemy combatants

Q: Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

A: No. I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

On Homeland Security: Congress decides what constitutes torture, not president

Q: If Congress prohibits a specific interrogation technique, can the president instruct his subordinates to employ that technique despite the statute?

A: No. The President is not above the law, and not entitled to use techniques that Congress has specifically banned as torture. We must send a message to the world that America is a nation of laws, and a nation that stands against torture. As President I will abide by statutory prohibitions for all US Government personnel and contractors.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

On Homeland Security: No torture; defiance of FISA; no military commissions

Q: Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional?

A: I reject the view that the President may do whatever he deems necessary to protect national security, and that he may torture people in defiance of congressional enactments. I reject the use of signing statements to make extreme and implausible claims of presidential authority. Some further points:

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

On War & Peace: Congress decides deployment level & duration, not president

Q: Can the president disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops--either by capping the number of troops, or by setting minimum home-stays between deployments?

A: No, the President does not have that power. To date, several Congresses have imposed limitations on the number of US troops deployed in a given situation. As President, I will not assert a constitutional authority to deploy troops in a manner contrary to an express limit imposed by Congress and adopted into law.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

On War & Peace: No action against Iran without Congressional authorization

Q: In what circumstances would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress?

A: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action. As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J.Res.23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.”

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

The above quotations are from Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power: sent to all major candidates and published in Dec. 20-22, 2007.
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