Joe Biden Was Ready to "Impeach" Bush If He Attacked Iran Without Congressional Approval

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 23 2011 10:30 AM

Joe Biden Was Ready to "Impeach" Bush If He Attacked Iran Without Congressional Approval

Good scoop from Jason Linkins here, catching a 2007 vintage Joe Biden telling Democratic voters that he'd

I have written an extensive legal memorandum with the help of a group of legal scholars who are sort of a stable of people, the best-known constitutional scholars in America, because for 17 years I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee."I asked them to put together [for] me a draft, which I'm now literally riding between towns editing, that I want to make clear and submit to the Untied States Senate pointing out the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran. And I want to make it clear, I want it on the record, and I want to make it clear, if he does, as chairman of the foreign relations committee and former chair of the judiciary committee, I will move to impeach him.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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The Senate, of course, can't impeach anyone -- the House has to. But let's write this off as loose talk to voters, and assume Biden meant he was ready to broach impeachment if there was an attack on Iran. And what would have an attack on Iran meant in 2008? It would have meant, most likely, an air assault on Iran's nuclear facilities.

This isn't totally hypocritical, because Biden said "unilaterally," and in the 2007-2008 context that meant both "without Congress" and "without international support." The Libya NFZ began after U.N. approval. Oh, it's still fairly hypocritical. But Democrats don't have to make promises to an anti-war left anymore.

So is any 2012 Republican falling into a trap like this? I don't see it. Look at what Tim Pawlenty said about Libya yesterday.

I think we need to make sure we don't tie the executive or the commander in chief's hands so tightly that he or she can't respond in an emergency quickly or in a situation that deserves and needs a quick response.

Outside of the libertarian/paleconservative Ron Paul/Gary Johnson bloc, there's not much taste for foreign policy restraint among the GOP's base.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.