Top House Dem: If Congress opposes Syria intervention, Obama must stand down

posted at 6:41 pm on September 3, 2013 by Allahpundit

The whole clip’s worth watching but skip to the last minute or so to see see Chris Van Hollen, former chair of the DCCC and current ranking member of the Budget Committee, lay down his own little red line for O. Remember, according to the White House, the big vote in Congress isn’t necessarily binding on Obama. If the House torpedoes a Syria AUMF, the Supreme Leader may decide for the good of the country and the world to proceed with an attack on Assad anyway. How he plans to sell that to an already skeptical public, I have no idea. The normal M.O. for presidents who want to attack and don’t want to be bothered by congressional approval is to go ahead and do it and then seek retroactive authorization under the War Powers Resolution. It is, as the saying goes, easier to seek forgiveness than permission. The only reason he’d go to Congress first, I assume, is because he does plan to abide by their decision. If they greenlight the attack, great — they’re on the hook with him for whatever happens after that. If they redlight it, great — then he can back off from his stupid “red line” pronouncements and blame Congress for any new WMD insanity that happens in Syria. This is, then, mostly empty rhetoric by Van Hollen, designed to make it sound like Congress is asserting its prerogatives even though O’s using them as a political hedge.

But there’s a tiny bit more to it than that.

Right. The big worry for Pelosi, Van Hollen, and the rest of the Democratic leadership is that some Dems will vote no on the assumption that O will ignore whatever happens in Congress and attack Syria anyway. It’s a costless vote in theory: Appease the anti-war elements in the lefty base by opposing the AUMF and then trust Obama to play the heroic C-in-C by bombing the monster Assad anyway. Hard to believe any professional pol could be so stupid as not to see political trouble for O looming by forcing him to ignore the will of Congress in intervening in Syria, but here’s Van Hollen trying to signal to his caucus that, yes indeed, dropping bombs after the legislature has voted against it would put Obama in, shall we say, a bit of a spot. A vote against an attack is a vote against Obama. That’s the Democratic message, and that’s how they keep their caucus in line. When in doubt on a difficult matter of foreign policy, stick with mindless partisan loyalty.

That also explains why Van Hollen’s taking the lead on writing a narrow AUMF that would grant Obama power to conduct only very limited strikes — again, in theory. In return for liberals sparing The One from a searing humiliation by his own party, House Democrats are going to try to make the vote more salable to doves by circumscribing the president’s power. (Van Hollen told Greg Sargent explicitly that the closer Obama veers towards McCain/Graham super-hawkishness, the more Democrats he’ll lose.) But as I say, watch the clip below. Van Hollen explicitly leaves open the possibility of more strikes later if Assad uses chemical weapons again. And why wouldn’t he? He knows how difficult a predicament Obama’s been placed in here; if he was willing to dare him to enforce the red line once, a few cruise missiles and airstrikes shouldn’t deter him from trying again. And even if Assad’s personally deterred, Iran and Hezbollah might not be: They care about projecting Shiite power, not about Assad’s individual fate. They could launch their own chemical weapons attacks in Syria to humiliate the U.S., not caring particularly how the White House responds against the Syrian military. There’s no such thing as a truly narrow AUMF. But then, if you’ve been paying attention to Afghanistan for the past 12 years, you already know that.

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Which time?

Resist We Much on September 3, 2013 at 9:48 PM

When he said “they” scribbed and then re scrubbed the evidence?

You gotta scroll up.

/Tired, weary.

Key West Reader on September 3, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Question for you libfreeordie. Saw this article on Drudge. Would like to hear a few thoughts from you if you have the chance. You don’t have to make it too long. Just your basic reaction.

Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Sorry libfreeordie, in particular this point.

Jurors Rejected Argument That N-Word Can Be Term Of Endearment

Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 10:19 PM

Which time?

Resist We Much on September 3, 2013 at 9:48 PM

He admitted, in Congressional Hearings, as the Secretary of State, that the CIA scrubbed evidence.

… Damn, I sure wish the hell that Obama would MAN UP on his own and stop putting circus clowns …

Oh freaking whatevah.. I’m tired. We’ve been saying this for over 5 years. Admit it. We’re all racists. As a consolation prize, I’d like to see Oprah come out in support of Obama in her Penis Dress.

Key West Reader on September 3, 2013 at 10:22 PM

He knows how difficult a predicament Obama’s been placed in here

Let’s be clear: Obama dithered for a year, then ad-libbed the red line BS, then dithered for another year. He then made almost no effort to gather an international coalition and simply bailed on the U.N. because it was too hard. This “predicament” is almost entirely of Obama’s own making. He dug the hole, let him figure out how to get out of it.

rcpjr on September 3, 2013 at 11:34 PM

Doesn’t Obama talk to anyone on the Hill before making these huge decisions??

His own party is coming out and condemning him! He’s an ass.

PattyJ on September 4, 2013 at 1:09 AM

I am absolutely anti-war. As rogerb’s quotes of my previous posts indicate if and only if a right wing rethugliKKKan is the president.

brainfreeordie on September 3, 2013 at 8:32 PM

Fixed for you douchebag

cableguy615 on September 4, 2013 at 8:12 AM

Pelosi has to deliver half her caucus. Let her do the heavy lifting.

Boehner and Cantor should not lift a finger BUT they must extract a large budgetary price in exchange for any GOP support – such as continuation of sequester without a White House tantrum.

matthew8787 on September 4, 2013 at 8:20 AM

I think it might be the case that the US Government gave chemical weapons to AQ-aligned rebels to carry out just such an attack as a pretense for kinetic action. While I would normally put this in the Rosie O’Donnell category of stupid, now it seems just as likely as the junta’s official narrative.

antisense on September 4, 2013 at 8:36 AM

So our buddy Vlad Putin is loading up Syria with Ruskie soldiers. Anybody want to venture a guess as to what happens when a cruise missile causes more than a few Ruskies to vaporize?

BigAlSouth on September 4, 2013 at 9:59 AM

. . . and Chris Van Hollen never would have made such a statement if he didn’t know the votes had been counted and the fix was in.

BigAlSouth on September 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM