One thing I strive for in my politics is consistency and principle. Unlike much of official Washington, I don’t judge the rightness of a policy by who is in office. I didn’t oppose Afghanistan and Iraq because I was anti-Bush. I opposed them because I was anti- military intervention, especially unilateral, extra-constitutional intervention without sufficient thought to how these conflicts would end. Same now.
I don’t know about you, but bombing Libya (the fourth Arab nation in which we are currently engaged in military operations) without congressional authorization is not what I expect from Obama. Escalating the war in Afghanistan is not what I expect from Obama. Maintaining 50,000 troops in Iraq is not what I expect from Obama. The inhumane treatment of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Bradley Manning (regardless of their guilt) is not what I expect from Obama.
If we don’t say so now, if we are not as vocal in our principles when a Democrat is in office, can we rightly criticize the next George W. Bush?
These principles are important. They were among the principles we endorsed in 2008. In 2007 Barack Obama told Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe:
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.
Candidate Hillary Clinton spoke similarly:
If the country is under truly imminent threat of attack, of course the President must take appropriate action to defend us. At the same time, the Constitution requires Congress to authorize war. I do not believe that the President can take military action – including any kind of strategic bombing – against Iran without congressional authorization.
And candidate Joe Biden:
The Constitution is clear: except in response to an attack or the imminent threat of attack, only Congress may authorize war and the use of force.
That’s what they said then. That’s what we argued then, when George W. Bush was President. By our silence now we become hypocrites. Worse, we degrade these principles and consign the right and just goal of peaceful engagement in the world to irrelevance.
I openly wept on election night when it was clear Obama would win the presidency. I’d never been prouder to be an American. Perhaps because of the depth of my feeling, my hope, if you will, that we would chart a new and better course, I cannot now be silent. I voted for change, not the next chapter of the imperial presidency.
I have to say it: I’ve never been more disappointed in my president.
How about you? If you spoke out then, will you speak out now?
Some additional food for thought below: