Thursday, March 24, 2011

Obama, Congress and Libya

I'm a little bit down on the president in this week's Scripps column:
Barack Obama was an attractive candidate to liberals in 2008 in part because he offered the promise of reining in the "imperial presidency" that had flourished under President George W. Bush, particularly when it came to military action abroad.

"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," then-candidate Obama told the Boston Globe in 2007. He added: "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."

Obama's actions in the last week -- committing the United States to military action in Libya with only the most-meager attempt to inform and involve Congress beforehand -- mean he has broken the promise of 2007. Libya was not and is not "an actual or imminent threat to the nation." That's not to say there aren't good reasons for intervening there; Congress should have had the opportunity to consider those reasons.

Despite Obama's protests otherwise, there was time. Discussion of the no-fly zone percolated in Washington D.C. and internationally for several weeks before action was finally taken; that was the time the president could have used to secure the support of Congress. He used it to get the support of the U.N. instead. He should have done both; a president should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Presidents have been going to war for decades without Congress' permission. It is plainly un-Constitutional. If liberals don't object, loudly, when a Democratic president crosses the line, they'll have no standing when a Republican president does the same thing. Perhaps the president did the right thing by intervening in Libya, but he certainly did it the wrong way.

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