The Obama Administration is trying to avoid the inevitable fallout from their decision to intervene in the civil insurrection in Libya without so much as a by-your-leave to Congress. While the Administration has taken time to consult with the UN and the Arab League, apparently similar consultations with the Legislative Branch are just déclassé and an affront to the dignity of our demigod at 1600 Pennsylvania. Now they are trying to obscure their record.
On March 27, Hillary Clinton first mentioned the idea that all was cool because the Senate had approved of a no-fly zone.
CLINTON: You know, Jake, I would just add two points to what Secretary Gates said. The United States Senate called for a no-fly zone in the resolution that it passed I think on March 1th. And that mission is on the brink of having been accomplished. And there was a lot of congressional support to do something.
Robert Gates, shamefully, echoed the same nonsense at his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“In its own way, the Congress consulted with the president and particularly with this body that unanimously in a resolution called for the imposition of a no-fly zone.”
The Washington Examiner’ Conn Carroll has portrayed this as the administration pulling a fast on over on the Senate going so far as to put an argument in Senator Rand Paul’s mouth that he never made in order to forward his story line.
Writing under the title “How the Senate was bait and switched into war” Carroll weaves the following tortured narrative:
Last week, minutes after President Barack Obama explained to the nation why he took the country to war, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) posted a statement on YouTube first noting Obama’s 2007 claim that “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” and then adding: “Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to heed his own advice. He has ignored our constitution and engaged us in a military conflict without congressional debate and approval.” [Emphasis mine.]
But the day before on This Week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News’ Jake Tapper: “The United States Senate called for a no-fly zone in the resolution that it passed on March 1st.”
So who is right? Did the president go to war without any approval from the Senate, as Sen. Paul says? [Emphasis mine.] Or did the Senate approve the president’s use of military force, as Secretary Clinton claims?
Obviously, “congressional debate and approval” are a far cry from “slipping it through the Senate in a misnamed resolution.” Congress, at least according to the current version of the Constitution –though it appears Carroll is working from a different version — consists of two chambers. The fact that one chamber approved of something is hardly binding on the other. So regardless of what happened in the Senate, none of that has the tiniest impact on the concept of “congressional debate and approval.”
Lest I be accused of deceiving those who have favorably tweeted my posts on Libya and this administration’s Monty-Pythonesque actions, I’m not in the group that believes the president has to have Congressional approval or authority to take military action short of a declaration of war. There is nothing in our political history that indicates any president needed more than and army or navy and funding to pursue military action. It may not be wise to do so but wisdom, as we are learning the hard way, is not a prerequisite for the job.
What I do believe is that the president should act in an aboveboard fashion when he deems it necessary to use the military force of the United States. He has any number of options available to him in this regard. What he cannot do is have his bootlicks claim that one body passing a very nebulous resolution, a resolution that was not only not debated but one that was deliberately masqueraded as a similarly named resolution, means anything. If Obama truly believes that he can continue to participate in this rather ill conceived intervention without Congressional support he should simply tell Congress that he doesn’t think their imprimatur is needed.
In the case of our involvement in Libya we are witness to the actions of a very weak and very duplicitous man. Those of us who opposed Obama in 2008 — and I contrast that with the idea of supporting John McCain which is very different — knew that. We looked at his track record of voting “present” on tough issues and the absence of footprints any where he trod and we saw then what the rest of the nation is seeing now. A man devoid of principles and bereft of values beyond self-aggrandizement and receiving the adulation of the basest sort of mob.