Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with CNN legal analyst and New Yorker contributor Jeffery Toobin and the Heritage Foundation’s Steven Groves about whether President Obama needs to ask Congress for authorization to strike Syria.
Jeff, let me start with you. Does the president, in your opinion, have the legal authority to essentially wage war against another country without consulting with Congress?
Toobin: Not in these circumstances. I think he's required to go to Congress or the United Nations or NATO or some sort of legal – acquire some sort of legal justification for what he's doing other than he thinks it's a good idea.
There is no direct threat to American nationals or national security. And I think he needs some sort of authorization as, it seems to me, every president has had since World War II, which is the last time we actually had a formal Congressional declaration of war.
But expand on that, Jeff, for a second, because I mean I can think of so many strikes – when Clinton ordered strikes against al Qaeda, against Saddam Hussein. He didn't get Congressional approval when Reagan invaded Grenada, he didn't even notify Congress until it happened.
Well, I think you can draw distinctions among all of those situations. With Clinton, it was self-defense. It was al Qaeda, which had attacked American embassies and American ships. With Grenada, it was immediate self-defense of American civilians who were in Grenada. And if you look at the other circumstances, where war was planned in advance, I think there was authorization.
Whether it was through Congress in the two Iraq Wars, or through NATO as in Bosnia, or through the United Nations, as in Libya just a few months ago. I think presidents, both for the legitimacy of their own tenure and also for their own political good, there has to be some sort of justification other than they think that it's just a good idea.
Steven, what do you think?
Groves: I fall on other side of the spectrum. The commander-in-chief power is in our executive. And putting aside for a moment whether or not strikes on Syria would be a prudent thing to do, I believe that the president does have the authority to have such strikes without going to Congress, going to the United Nations without going to anyone else. The could be political and diplomatic and military ramifications for him doing so, but the authority is there. And it must rest there.
Now Congress has checks on that ability. They can decide not to declare war. They can decide not to fund a war. But the ability for the executive to have the power to act quickly to secure our national interests, to defend ourselves and, in the case of Syria, if strikes are done, to eradicate the ability to fire off chemical weapons, is something that the executive power has to have without seeking authority from some other source.