Cornell West: 'Autocratic, Dictatorial, Unconstitutional ... Grounds for Impeachment'

By Melanie Arter | September 9, 2013 | 10:49 AM EDT

Liberal activist and scholar Dr. Cornel West (AP Photo)

( – Liberal activist and scholar Dr. Cornel West said if President Barack Obama moves ahead with military action against Syria without congressional approval, it would be grounds for impeachment.

“You would think in some ways grounds for impeachment,” West said about what would happen if the president went to war with Syria without congressional approval.

“And so we got to war crimes, and the last thing you said, and I think you’re absolutely right about this, and I hope that if the president doesn’t get the vote that he wants – to use your phrase and I totally concur – that I hope he has more sense than to not go ahead anyway, but you used the phrase dictatorial. That’s exactly what it would be. Yes?” Tavis Smiley asked West on the “Smiley & West” show last week.

“Absolutely! Autocratic, dictatorial, unconstitutional. You would think in some ways grounds for impeachment,” said West, who is co-host of the “Smiley & West” show.

He said going to war without approval from Congress would not only be a “flagrant violation” of the Constitution, “you begin to sound like Richard Nixon.

“Impeachment means a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution, and though that has been already at work, this becomes so undeniable in terms of looking Congress in the face and saying ‘I’m going to do something that you have not authorized me to do because I want to do it. I have my own internal authority,’” he said.

“You begin to sound like Richard Nixon. It’s legal because the president said so. It’s legal because I choose to do so. No, that’s not how constitutional democracies are supposed to work, but I mean the question is whether we even have a constitutional democracy functioning right now,” West added.

“So there’s been talk already about impeaching the president, and those grounds are very, very shaky. I mean you and I have said all along that we will respect the president, we will correct the president, we will also protect the president, and the talk so far – to my mind at least – about impeaching the president has been a bunch of nonsense, but you believe that if the president did do this then there might be some serious, legitimate grounds for impeachment conversation?” Smiley said.

West said even if the president was impeached, Vice President Joe Biden would replace him, which would be “just as bad.”

“The problem is Biden’s just as bad, so he would move right in, so you’d probably have to renew the whole process again as soon as he moved in,” West said.

West, a professor at Union Theological Seminary, also taught at Harvard University and Princeton University. In 1960, he became the first African-American to graduate from Princeton with PhD in philosophy. He is author of numerous books, including one written with Smiley called, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.”